We all know the NHL All-Star Game is designed for two things and two things only. Firstly, it’s for children. Secondly, it’s for the rest of us to complain about.
We’ll complain about who got selected, or more importantly, who didn’t, we’ll complain about how boring the game is, how ugly the uniforms are, and how loud the cannons are (Columbus only edition).
When there is this much complaining being done, we have to ask our panelists, how they would fix the NHL All-Star Game?
Kyle (@kyleroussel) – I used to adore All-Star weekend as a teen. It was hard to catch stars from the Western Conference on a regular basis, and I’d salivate over the thought of seeing all of the greats from across the league doing what they do best. The hardest shot and accuracy shooting were the two things I’d wait days to see and we’d talk endlessly over who would top Al Iafrate, if he could be topped.
Over time, as the format was tampered with and players seemingly cared less, I cared less too. It’s now at the point where I don’t know if I’ll even watch, and if I do, it’s on as background filler, like Sunday’s game.
Is there a fix to an All-Star Game though? MLB’s is the only one with anything at stake, and it’s the only one worth setting aside the time to watch, in my opinion. The NFL held their pro-bowl Sunday? Did anybody know? The NBA’s all-star game is tolerable even though nothing is at stake there, either. If the NHL wanted the game to matter, the P.A. would of course have to agree…and would they want one more game where injury might occur to a star player? One more game to drain the batteries during an already interminable year? I’m pretty sure individual teams would abhor the idea, if not the players as well.
So if we scrap the idea of putting stakes on the game, I would then submit that the league could use the game as a precursor to the regular season. Have a big weekend to officially launch the new season by having a loosey-goosey game of shinny and talk about how great the upcoming season is going to be. Get fans amped about seeing names and faces before the games truly matter. At that point of the year, fans have been hockey-starved all summer and would probably welcome the all-star game with open arms, wouldn’t they?
Zach (@ZachVanasse) – My fix is rather simple and I believe it would fix many of the problems currently facing the ASG. I’ve been a big fan of the fantasy draft style picking of the teams and I think we saw this year how useful it is as a branding opportunity for the NHL to showcase their players’ personalities a little; even if personality is still a frowned upon character trait in many hockey circles.
Getting the players a beer in their hands wasn’t a bad idea either as we heard a bit of chirping and joking around. So I highly recommend keeping that aspect in place. But I say we take the competitive edge up a notch while also allowing the NHL to market some of their side products in the constant interest of “growing the game.”
Let’s let some random fans select the teams. Instead of Foligno and Toews selecting squads based on teammates, friendships and good natured ribbing, we would have a couple of random individuals choosing the squads with $100,000 on the line. As in, the random individual whose team wins the ASG goes home with $100,000.
Now here is what that is infinitely more interesting to me. For one thing, suddenly the players’ pride is on the line. When the random individuals are picking the teams, they are actually looking to pick the best player available so that they can take home the $100K from American Express or whatever.
This then also makes the players ribbing one another more interesting, as suddenly egos are being pitted against one another, and these guys are nothing, if not competitive (Phil Kessel aside). Plus, we get to comment on every pick the random individuals make like we really care and/or could pick a much better team.
I have to believe meeting an individual and having them stand behind the bench with a coach and $100K riding on it would make the players play a little harder than a nothing game with absolutely zero on the line (not even Conference pride, which I doubt is much of a thing to begin with).
The NHL could further use this in their marketing and ensure that the random individuals picking the two all-star teams aren’t complete idiots, you let the teams be picked by a the two people who lead the official NHL Fantasy league the previous season, or something along those lines.
So there. That’s how I fix the ASG.
Damon (@DTA23) -Just use the universal cure for the NHL of late. Make it an outdoor game. For one, you would have much larger attendance. Players genuinely seem to enjoy the outdoor experience. If you want to get extra gimmicky make the teams based on tossing sticks like you used to do at the outdoor rink. Yes, this could produce unbalanced teams, but then you maybe get Doughty having to play forward or Ovy playing D.
If you want the game to be more competitive then pay the winning team or make it a donation to a charity.
Boom problem solved. You’re welcome NHL.
John (@CJohnCasselman) – I was fortunate enough to attend All-Star events in both Montreal and Ottawa. The fan fest, in both cases, far exceeded the entertainment value of the games. I felt that this was entirely consistent with the event in Columbus. The game was the low point of the weekend. In both cases, for $10 you gained access to the fan event. The event in Ottawa was held at the brand new congress centre, which had five floors of All-Star extravaganza. I brought our oldest son who met players, every single mascot, got to try on equipment, sit on the TSN broadcast set, etc. It was fairly priced, it was interactive and it was all about the fans.
Now, with all due respect, the game itself is not about the children. It’s about money. As a season ticket holder in Montreal I was provided the option of buying tickets to the game. Despite me having tickets in section 206 (Club Desjardins), my option for the All-Star game were tickets in the Whites. And oh, by the way, the price for the pair was over $1,000! That’s a major cash grab.
The consensus following the event in Columbus seemed to conclude that this was the worst All-Star Game in memory. Hockey can’t be played at half speed with no checking. Fortunately, I was at a QMJHL game so I only caught the final few minutes. I can’t imagine paying to watch the game or skills contests. Been there, done that. Never again.
Solutions; Firstly, abandon the game. The players are NOT going to risk injury so it’s only going to become more gimmicky. Replace it with a showcase event(s) that might actually grow the game. A top prospect game similar to the Subway series or Orr vs Cherry event. Secondly, have the All-Stars conduct clinics and meet and greets during the weekend. Children want to connect with the stars. Provide a platform for accessibility. Let the All-Stars help to coach the top prospect game and provide analysis (a pleasant change for the same tired group of sportscasters). I don’t mind the skill based event, but let’s part with the breakaway challenge. Focus on events that encourage the players to showcase skill. The breakaway challenge is so gimmicky now that it’s laughable. Have more players miked up. Can the NHL only afford one microphone? During NASCAR races there are often 10+ drivers connected with the announcers.
Create touch points. Each fan who pays to attend should have the opportunity for a photo and autograph. Again, the connection with the children will help to grow the game. But most importantly, ensure that the stars are in attendance. I have no clue why Crosby can’t show up. He doesn’t have to play if he’s “hurt” but there is no reason he can’t do the meet and greet, shake hands, take pictures, sign autographs, help coach, etc. If you are selected, you attend unless there is a MAJOR injury. Abandon having one player from each team. This isn’t house league hockey where everything needs to be fair and just. It’s an All-Star event, not an everybody participates event. Load up on the stars. If that means five guys from one team and none from another, so be it. Hard to be an All-Star event without Crosby, Malkin, PK and Karlsson.
Pierre-Alain (@PsaintLo) – What if the four major sports joined their all-star teams to make an all-sport contest?
We’ll have the NHL players playing baseball against the NFL. The MLB players playing hockey against the NBA. (7 footers on skates, come on, you know you’re watching!)
I know this would bring us way too close to Baseketball (horrible movie from the ’90s, for the kids out there), but in this era of crossfit, wouldn’t it be fun to see which sport is actually the most athletic?
Plus, as a basketball player in Canada, I’ve always wanted to show those hockey players who the real athletes were!
Ok, I’m done, you folks can discuss your “serious ideas” about how to fix a hockey game that doesn’t matter.
But really, which sport would win? Aren’t you a little curious?