NHL All-Star weekend is in full swing after last night’s Fantasy Draft and will continue on with the Skills Competition Saturday before the climactic game on Sunday. For most fans, it’s become pretty fashionable to bash the All-Star game. But the time has come for NHL fans to take a deep breath and embrace the All-Star game.
The reason fans turn their nose up at it are understandable.
Without a doubt, the game is not a true game. There is little-to-no hitting, even less defense, and the score usually ends up being something like 11-9. Scores like that belong in your Wednesday night drop-in game at the local rink, not in an NHL arena.
One of the reasons it's harder to embrace is that the NHL has struggled to find a palatable format for it’s fans. It has gone from the standard (and bland) Campbell VS Wales, to the genius of Rendezvous '87, and then the horrible North America VS the World formats.
Now they have settled on the fantasy draft, which falls in the middle as far as all the formats go.
Judging from the crowd reaction and Twitter response to Thursday nights draft, it seems that NHL fans are approving of this format, or at least the draft portion of it. It is something we can all relate to.
Most fans have joined a fantasy league at some point in their life and know what Zdeno Chara was going through looking over a list of available players. Granted, he only had to compete with one other team. Let’s see him make a 15th round pick in a league with 12 teams before we get too impressed.
But watching this is fun. Speculating about who goes first and last was entertaining. So how come we don’t like the actual game these guys are going to play?
The Skills Competition is equally popular with the fans because it too is fun. The players let their hair down, or at least go helmetless, and goof off while showing their skills. This is where their personalities come out.
Again, this is more popular than the game. But is the game really that bad?
It isn’t and it’s time you realized it. Yes, the game is high scoring and yes, it lacks many of the things that we love about the game.
The key thing many are missing is this: the All-Star game is not supposed to be a real game. It is an exhibition.
It is supposed to celebrate hockey. It is supposed to be a time to take a break from the tense and grueling regular season. It accomplishes all that and can be entertaining when looked at from the right perspective.
Hockey is played at such an intense pace that we need this. We need to be able to sit back and watch these guys have fun and not worry about that bad clearing pass that hung their goalie out to dry. When that happens in the All-Star game, we are usually treated to a spectacular goal.
When it happens in a regular season game, usually something is thrown across the room, accompanied by a thesaurus' worth of expletives.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from that. It is good for us, and it's good for them.
All the checking and tight defense will be waiting for us all down the stretch and into the playoffs. Our high blood pressure and bags under our eyes will be back as well.
We can take an afternoon off from it.
So grab a big bucket of popcorn and your favorite beverage and sit down in front of your television Sunday afternoon and enjoy the best hockey players in the world scoring, and scoring, and scoring.