With just two and a half weeks left before the 2012 NHL All Star Game in Ottawa, the NHL announced today the 36 veterans who will join the six fan-chosen All-Stars for the fun and festive weekend.
But just as hometown pride skewed the fan vote—four of the six fan nominees are Senators—bias towards big markets and East Coast fanbases tainted the NHL Committee-chosen roster.
True to form, the seven clubs that have been chosen to participate in the five Winter Classic games—Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo—dominated the cast of selections.
All of those clubs are from the United States. All of them are featured weekly on national games, online highlights, and NHL-run media stories. And all of them will bring hoards of devoted followers to Canada's capital later this month.
Of the 36 All Stars (not including the 12 rookies) picked this afternoon, a whopping 16 of them—more than 44 percent—are current members of those "Winter Classic" franchises that make up only 23 percent of the NHL as a whole.
Although a great deal of those 16 stars undeniably deserved to be chosen, there are several that can certainly be questioned.
Did bias play a role in the NHL All-Star selection committee's choices?
Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, arguably the biggest promotional face of the league, is just 47th in scoring and sports a miserable minus-eight rating...yet he was surely a shoo-in for the committee. On the defensive side of the All-Star roster, Dan Girardi of the Rangers and Dennis Wideman of the Capitals have only needed slightly-above-average campaigns to qualify as well.
Comparatively, a mere six All-Stars come from the league's seven teams south of the Mason-Dixon line (excluding the Capitals).
Florida's Kris Versteeg, with 39 points and a plus-11 rating in 41 appearances, failed to make the cut, as did Dallas's winger Loui Eriksson (38 points, plus-12) and St. Louis's defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22 points, plus-16). For the Blues and Panthers especially, the blatant rejections come as significant insults considering their respective conference ranks of second and third.
Even Anaheim, not really a Southern market but nonetheless 26th in attendance, lost out big as larger-than-life Teemu Selanne was rejected at age 42.
So if bringing in bigger profits and better TV ratings are the NHL's goals, then they have fully accomplished what they hoped to do. But whether or not that was really the target, there's little doubt that something has gone astray in this once-magical showcase of the NHL's best.
The All Star Game exists to reward all players—and, in truth, all fans—of their excellent performance or outstanding devotion to the wonderful sport of hockey.
In today's money-driven world though, such a purpose has long since been forgotten.
The hockey world saw that first hand today.
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. In his 40 months so far with the site, he has written over 330 articles and received more than 395,000 total reads.