Although there has been tons of hype around the all-star game selection process, the NHL has done nothing to improve the game itself.
Many people, me included, consider the NHL all-star game a joke. It throws a bunch of the leagues “so called” best players on the ice to play a fun game of hockey, if you can even call it hockey. There is no hitting, no puck battles, no defense and no goaltending. Basically no ones tries to do anything but score and even when they do score no one really cares. Players are even starting to agree with this statement as more and more players are pulling out of the game due to personal reasons or injuries. Crosby, Malkin, Hemsky, Iginla and Enstrom have all already pulled out of this year’s event. If the players don’t care how to you expect the fans to care.
Every major professional sports league in North America currently runs their all-star events in different ways. The NFL’s, which happens to be on the same weekend as the NHL’s all-star festivities this year, is held a week before the Super Bowl. The season is already over and players are able to play harder as well as get a free trip to Hawaii. The NBA’s is quite similar to the NHL’s but players are less likely to get injured and events such as the Slam Dunk Contest always seem to draw large crowds. Major League Baseball has what I think is the best All-star game format. The American League faces off against the National League with the winner getting home field advantage in the World Series. With so much at stake players actually want to be at the game and want to win. This makes the game exciting and interesting to watch. It doesn’t matter how many runs get scored because there is so much on the line. Fans love it because it showcases the best players in baseball battling it out with playoff implications involved. I would rather watch a low scoring MLB all-star game then a high scoring NHL all-star game. At least the MLB players are playing the game, giving it their all and playing to win.
The NHL just wants a lot of goals to be scored. They don’t care about defense or if the game is close or not. They just want the fans to be entertained and for some reason they think all that means is offense.
Although I feel that there are a lot of things wrong with the NHL all-star game, I will say that they are slowly starting to improve the event. Picking two captains and allowing those captains to pick their teams is something that fans will find new and interesting. In fact, this is the only event in the all-star weekend that I really wouldn’t mind watching.
In thinking about how the NHL could possibly fix the all-star game, I realized that I don’t really care if the NHL had an all-star game. If you were to put the all-star game at the end of the year players probably wouldn’t show up. They either just participated in a long season and playoffs or didn’t make the playoffs and played in the annual World Hockey Championships. Formatting it like the MLB’s all-star game wouldn’t work as well for the NHL because the game is played at a faster pace and it is easier for players to get injured. If home ice advantage was on the line players would play harder and the game would be more competitive but the risk of injury would be too great. I doubt the NHL GM’s would sign off on a format change such as that.
What about having a team of NHL all-stars faceoff against a team of KHL all-stars. The KHL has been gaining significance over the past few years and has a lot of great ex-NHLer’s. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see just how the NHL would stack up against the KHL? They could establish a trophy and every year the game would swap continents. One year in North America and the next year in Russia. This would allow fans to see some of the best hockey players in the world play a meaningful game of hockey.
One thing the NHL can’t do is let the all-star game stay the way it is. Either change it or eliminate it all together.
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