Friday, February 4, 2011

The All Star Game is Fun

Stephen Harris wrote this article about the all star game. I've been meaning to comment on it but only now have the chance. In this article Harris says that, "...certainly people who have any fondness or respect for the NHL, should look upon the All-Star Game with nothing but contempt." How dare he say this. It's one thing to voice your opinion, but to suggest that everyone must agree with it is rather narcissistic. Worse than that, he implies that anyone who does not look upon the game with contempt isn't a fan of "true" hockey.

Harris also makes a case for the all star game causing harm because, "The things that really matter in the NHL has (sic) nothing to do with what takes place in this game."

I could not disagree more. The All-star game is fun. So what if it isn't about real hockey? Call me an idiot if you must but I enjoyed much of it this year. I enjoyed seeing the players have fun during the team selection. I nearly fell off my chair laughing at Ovechkin taking a picture with his phone of Kessel sitting all alone--the last player chosen. The devilish look on his face was hilarious!

There were also a few highlights during the skill competition that made it worth watching. And the game itself... that was actually pretty special. Sure, the first period was like watching paint dry and the second wasn't much better. But I had a feeling that with this new team structure that if the game was close near the end we might see the play pick up. Sure, there was no hitting, yet the final minutes had some real intensity to them. Not a cup final, of course, but far more intensity than I have seen in previous games. It was fun!

I don't know where Harris gets this idea that the all-star game is primarily designed to bring new fans to the sport. I think those days are long over. The Winter Classic is the better forum for that. Give people--even non Hockey fans--some credit. They know that an all-star game isn't a true representation of the sport. It's a chance for people (kids above all!) to see their favorite players have some fun. The NHL expanded in the 1980's not because of the all-star game but because of Wayne Gretzky and a fledgling ESPN that brought the sport to a wider audience of sports fans. Growing the game today is more about bringing great players and championships to non-traditional hockey markets like Dallas, Tampa, or Raleigh.

That doesn't mean that the all-star game can't be better. Personally I think the fan balloting is a joke and I'd like to see it go away. It's really just a marketing ploy to harvest names and addresses for the NHL to send out catalogs to. What I'd like to see is for the selection to be a real honor rather than an online popularity poll. For that to happen it has to be about the players, not the fans. I'd like to see the players choose the all stars. Let each team nominate three players via a player secret ballot. Then let all the players in each conference vote on the 45 players nominated and take the top 9 forwards, top 6 defensemen and top 3 goaltenders for an 18-man talent pool. Finally, use this year's system for picking teams.

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