Very recently, the NHL shook up the classic idea of an All-Star game by doing something few fans saw coming:
They brought fantasy hockey into reality.
The NHLPA put out an announcement before the 2011 All-Star game that the teams would no longer be the classic East vs. West.
Instead, two previously selected captains and their two assistants would work together to draft their teams from a pool of the NHL's best players.
Here are a few reasons why I believe this newer format is far superior to the old.
Yeah, tradition is certainly a great part of the NHL.
But let's be honest, some traditions just get old.
MLB has their National League vs. American league All-Star game.
The NFL Pro-Bowl puts the AFC against the NFC.
I can go on.
The point is, the idea of placing two different halves of the same sport against one another in a showcase of talent has very nearly been exhausted.
The recently adopted "Fantasy Draft" format shifts away from the old and repetitive, and gives a breath of fresh air to NHL fans.
This slide is for anyone who has played even one pick-up game of hockey.
There's something really special about waiting in a huddle with your friends, finding out what your "captains" think of you and your friends' playing ability.
It's an awesome experience, and something I think many people can relate to.
Sure, not every hockey fan has played hockey before, but certainly a majority have.
I find the NHL's installation of the Fantasy Draft a nice nod to the fans who support the sport they love.
The original format of East vs. West was exciting.
What's more exciting is the potential of players to not only play with people from other teams in their conference, but other teams in the NHL.
Imagine the goalie tandem of Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard?
Beyond goaltending, the offensive possibilities are endless. Literally the best of the best could have the chance to play on the same lines.
That is an exciting notion, to say the least.
The NHL is a league with some of the strongest rivalries in all of competitive sports.
Those rivalries, however, are more common on the inter-division level than on the inter-conference level.
That being said, the Fantasy Draft allows for players to be placed on teams with players they don't have heated rivalries with.
It also creates the opportunity for people on the same team to play against each other—something that happens in practice, but would be very interesting to see on a televised event.
Also, the whole idea of having a Fantasy Draft just relaxes the atmosphere around the game.
Many professional sports teams have rivalries that face off in their All-Star games.
The NHL's system has turned from a standoff of East vs. West to a fun, carefree game where the best players in the league can show their stuff.
It's more of a showcase of talent than a heated game, and I'm perfectly fine with that.
As fun as it is to be intense, loud and crazy while watching a hockey game, let's take a few hints from the NHL and just sit back, relax and watch the best players in the league do what they do best.
Happy All-Star Weekend, everyone!
Please don't hesitate to offer your input in the comments section.