According to the sporting world it used to be an honour to be named an ‘all-star’, to play in a game with the worlds best. In many sports, being selected to participate in an all-star game would mean you were considered one of the best players in your specific sport. Although the same still technically applies in this day and age, many factors have risen that could argue against the above. The fact that it has become a popularity contest, and that players are only voted for based on merit, appears to make the idea less worthy each year. Shouldn’t the players playing in the most recent all-star game be the athletes that have had the better season, not the better career statistics? Perhaps the fan vote is to blame for this. One sport in particular seems to be at a crossroads with their idea of an ‘all-star weekend’ and that’s the NHL.
This season the NHL announced that they were bringing a new exciting format to the All-Star game, a 3 on 3, division verses division match-up, where fans would vote for a captain to represent each of the NHL’s divisions (Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific) and they would show off their skills in the brand new 3 on 3 overtime style game. Obviously the new format stems from the new overtime format introduced this season that everyone seems to love. But just because it works when there’s two vital points on the line, doesn’t mean it’ll work in a low-key, lacklustre skills competition. But then again, the NHL’s all-star game has never really worked.
Despite that, whether it’s ever ‘worked’ or not, it’s fun. Kids get to see their sporting heroes play in an exhibition game where skill is at the highest level. But that’s really about it. It’s always been a bit of a laughing stock, and no matter how nice the all-star jerseys are each year, tv ratings will continue to drop. It really brings the question of whether the NHL should bother keeping the all-star game. It’s clear that many fans are asking the same thing, should it be scrapped?
In short, yes, the NHL’s all-star game would be better off not existing. Give the players a well earned break. Let them jet off somewhere and spend quality time with the family they rarely see during the season. The Florida Panthers’ own Jaromir Jagr expressed how badly he wanted to enjoy a vacation during the all-star break, despite leading the vote. Yet at the tender age of 43, Europe’s greatest NHL talent (arguably) has to spend his 24th season at Bridgestone Arena, as the captain of the Atlantic division, playing 3 on 3 hockey. You would think the guy could do with some rest, right?
If that isn’t enough to bring up questions on why the hell there’s still an all-star game, then this will. John Scott has been voted as captain of the Pacific division. The 6ft 8in, 270lbs enforcer, who has 10 career NHL points (5 goals, 5 assists) and 517 penalty minutes in 274 games. If this doesn’t slap a huge ‘everybody laugh at the NHL’ sticker on the all-star game, then nothing will. Credit, the Pacific division is a pretty weak division at that, but when the NHL’s biggest goon gets selected to play in a skill related game with the likes of Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin, questions must be asked. Plain and simple, it’s a joke. The way John Scott plays, the guy barely deserves to be in the National Hockey League. Perhaps this is the fans way of highjacking the event, we can only hope it works.
Of course, there’s always a way to make the all-star game worthy of being played, and that’s by making it worth playing for. If there’s one thing to be envious of about baseball and the MLB, it’s the fact that their all-star game holds so much value that players actually want to represent their team and want to win. As you all probably know, the winner of the MLB All-Star game (American League vs National League) gets home-field advantage for the World Series. Now that right there, is worth keeping. The NHL and other sports could really do with this type of style. Instead of it being a popularity/skills event, how about making the players play for something.
In the long-term, the NHL All-Star game is good for the league. It creates revenue, its good for the cities that host the event and it gives the fans an up close and personal view (thanks to the on ice cameras and mic’d up players), something unavailable throughout the regular season. But it really doesn’t do the league any good in terms of reputation. Perhaps taking away the fan vote would actually improve the game. Let the coaches and GM’s vote, maybe then we’ll see the deserved players present at the all-star game, and not the likes of John Scott. If the league thinks it’s going to be ‘funny’ and ‘cool’ to let a guy who has come close to ending multiple players’ careers participate in a game that’s supposed to portray the NHL in the best light possible, then the people running the National Hockey League will be a laughing stock forever more.
Here’s to enduring another wonderful NHL All-Star game.