NHL All-Stars Skill Competition: The Only Worthwhile Event of the Weekend

Scott AbusoCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2012

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 30:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of New York Rangers and Team Staal attempts to stop a puck shot by Team Lidstrom in the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

All-Star weekend is officially upon us.

The Fantasy Draft was recently finished, and so we move on to the next two events: The Skills Competition and the actual 2012 All-Star Game.

Now, I am a huge fan of hockey, and the idea of the greatest players in the league facing off sounds more than amazing on paper. 

Unfortunately, it just doesn't pan out that way.

Sure, the All-Star game is exciting.  How can it not be?

I only have two problems with it.

One:  No checking

Yeah, I know.  Why would these players risk injury in an exhibition game?

I agree with you. 

That being said, it's tough to watch a hockey game without the physicality.

Also, I just can't get used to how high-scoring these games are. 

I know, what can I expect when the best forwards in the NHL are all on the ice?

It honestly comes down to the lack of physicality. 

Sure, I don't expect the players to play hard and risk injury, but it's tough for me to watch that kind of a game.

That brings me to the real purpose of this article: talking up the All-Star Skills Competition.

Why is this the greatest of the three events?

Think, for a minute, how much time professional hockey players spend on the ice.

Okay, now think about how much of that time they spend doing drills and workouts.

That leaves a substantial amount of free time, yes?

Well, what do you think the players do with this free time?  That, my friends, is what the Skills Competition is for.

In the Skills Competition, we get to see what the best of the best can do with no defenders, no rules, just the ice, a stick and a few pucks.

According to sources on NHL.com, the events include the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition, the Allstate Insurance NHL Breakaway Challenge, the Canadian Tire NHL Accuracy Shooting competition, G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay, the BlackBerry NHL Hardest Shot competition and, lastly, Tim Horton's NHL Elimination Shootout.

In just one day, hockey fans will be able to witness the hardest slapshot in the NHL, the fastest skater, the most accurate shooter, the skaters with the most style in a shootout where official NHL rules are suspended, the players with the best hands and the players who can rise above the pressure in the Elimination Shootout.

In other words, we get to see the best players in the NHL with no rules, not many distractions, and essentially, no limits. 

We can see some of the things they have perfected in their free time, and we can spend a day appreciating the light-hearted, "schoolyard" type hockey.

It's certainly a nice break from the regular intensity of what has been a well-contested, closely matched first half of the season for the NHL's top teams and their fans.