The director had a question for John Tavares: “How do you feel about pineapples?”
The director had an instruction for John Tavares: “Be super-evocative!”
The director had a request for John Tavares: “Do you know any good Canadian jokes?”
Tavares responded to all of it with an assortment of quizzical looks while good-naturedly going with the flow on Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
It was an Islanders off day, part of which their captain spent doing a photo and video shoot for his new endorsement deal with Vita Coco coconut water, doing his best to conform outside his comfort zone.
By his own admission, Tavares is not a natural at this sort of thing, but he mostly held his own, even throwing in some ad-libbed lines and a well-executed wink.
“There’s a talent in acting and doing these things,” he said during a break. “I think I’ve gotten a little better, but I’m not even close.”
Tavares posed for a series of playful photos and video snippets, even if he was not exactly “super-evocative.”
He did confirm positive thoughts about pineapples. He did not offer a joke about his home and native land.
“We had some good banter back and forth,” Tavares said. “With some of the things [the director] said I was like, ‘Really? What exactly do you mean?’
“It’s different, for sure, and it’s maybe not the easiest thing for me. But you try to have fun with it.”
The most unusual thing about the shoot was that it happened at all.
Tavares, 26, is one of the best hockey players in the world, and plays his home games in the biggest media market in North America. But he likes to pick his endorsement spots carefully.
His current roster includes CCM, the Canadian hockey equipment company; Mission Athletecare cooling towels and now Vita Coco. That’s about it, by design.
“I put a lot into playing the game and when I get time away from the rink I’m trying to take advantage of that,” he said. “I am not a guy who really tries to do a whole lot. You partner up with the right people, the right brands that make sense for me, things that I enjoy, things that I believe in, so that’s why this really worked.
“It’s important to me and when we do things that it doesn’t take away from me playing on the ice.”
With many of New York’s biggest sports names, such as Henrik Lundqvist, Carmelo Anthony, Eli Manning, Darrelle Revis and David Wright, on the wrong side of 30, Tavares arguably is better at the moment in his sport than any of his counterparts.
The other contenders include whatever Mets pitching ace is healthy at the moment, and a certain Giants receiver who creates big plays and big headlines in equal measure. But it is highly unlikely Tavares ever will match Odell Beckham Jr. in commercial productivity, because of his nature, because of the sport he plays and by choice.
“I don’t think that’s really my personality, doing commercials or shoots like this every day,” he said. “It’s just not typical . . . It’s selective for me, partnering with the right people, but also I play a team sport and I don’t try to make it all about myself all the time.
“I’m not saying other guys are that personality. But for me it’s nice when you’re able to do things with the team and represent the Islanders and my teammates and the success we have as a group on the ice. It’s not my personality to be kind of doing everything that comes my way.”
Tavares is the only current hockey endorser for Vita Coco and only the second in its history. Why him?
Hailey Tully, a communications manager for the Manhattan-based company, said it was aware Tavares uses the product and also wanted to reach hockey players, hockey fans and New Yorkers.
“We like to talk about athletes that we think are working really hard and embody the outgoing, fun ethos that our brand is,” she said. “We like to work with athletes that maybe don’t take themselves too seriously, the same way we as a brand don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Actually, Tavares does have a reputation as an athlete who takes himself seriously – on the ice and when speaking for the team in the dressing room. Goofing around on set allowed him to show another side of himself.
“[Acting] is not my specialty, that’s for sure, but it’s fun,” he said. “You have to embrace it and do some different things away from the rink. So it’s been a good few hours here having fun and doing something different.”
Tavares dutifully spoke of the importance of hydration to athletic competition, preferably hydration via coconut water. He also sipped pineapple-flavored Vita Coco through a crazy straw and told a pineapple joke about himself upon request.
He called himself “prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside.” He smiled. Then the director asked him to say it again.