After a few notable names—such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings—opted out of the events all together, the mandate came down from the NHL offices that anyone skipping the event would be suspended for either the game before or the game after the All-Star weekend.
I, for one, applaud the move.
The uproar, it seems, is that both were injured and are being "unfairly" punished. That's all fine and well if the NHL demanded they play, but that's not the case. The NHL simply wants them to show up, sign some autographs, shake some hands, and just interact with fans. What is so stressful about that?
Not to mention the fact that, if these players were hurt so badly, they probably would have missed a game or two around this point anyway.
It is the duty of the players selected to not only represent their teams, but the league as well. How does it make the NHL and the Red Wings look that Datsyuk and Lidstrom decided the All-Star events weren't important enough to go? How will the sponsors feel when stars fail to show?
The only complaint that I find realistic is the suddenness of the move. It came out of left field and quite swiftly. A warning, starting suspensions next year, would have been more fitting, but the message got across.
It's all very simple: as players, you are paid to represent yourself, your team, and the league. If they can't find the effort and attitude to even attend the events to interact with the fans and give the sponsors the star power they crave, then perhaps these players aren't the All-Stars we make them out to be.
For once, I applaud the NHL brass. It's a rare move in the right direction.