NHL All-Star Game: Just Go Ahead and Scrap the Whole Idea

Mike MacDonaldCorrespondent INovember 11, 2010

MONTREAL - JANUARY 25:  L-R Tim Thomas, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Campbell, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Kane of the Western Conference All-Stars stand for the singing of the national anthems during the 2009 NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre on January 25, 2009 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Just go ahead and scrap the whole idea of an All-Star game please.

I admit I like some of these ideas, I don't like the timing or the process. The NHL hockey operations staff wants to take the power away from the fans. The paying customer here—to "improve" the All-Star game experience.

First off, the reason for the All-Star game has changed since it was first introduced as a charity game in 1952, and yes it does need to be improved or even updated to reflect current times and trends. The NHL has always "tinkered" with the game over the years.

Remember "Rendez-vous '87"? The NHL All-Stars vs. USSR All-Stars in Quebec City? Maybe not.

After the last All-Star event in Montreal two years ago it seems the NHL and its hockey operations people would love nothing more than to take any control they can away from the fans.

OK, we can vote for the starters for both teams, but only 100 players are on the ballot. You can write in a player if you'd like...

Big deal!

If you're going to have two players pick each other from a group that basically the NHL selected to be there then at least let the fans have more control over some of the actual game.

In this day and age, let the fans be at least an assistant coach, right there on the bench interacting with the staff. The technology is there.

Start using it, NHL!

I want to vote on line combinations, PP and PK units (that's if they even call any penalties). I want to vote on when a team is to use a time out or pull the goalie.

Now that's the way fans want to be involved...take it a step further and allow the fans some say.

Overall the head coach would make the necessary decisions, but allow the fans to see the pregame work coaches do. Allow them to see the whole process on how lines are formed etc. Allow them to be part of it...know what I mean?

I got ahead of myself a bit...here's what we know so far.

The NHL made an announcement Wednesday afternoon regarding changes to the annual shinny-fest they call the NHL All-Star game.

Brendan Shanahan, vice president of hockey and business development for the NHL made the announcement.

Although the idea of changing the All-Star game format has been rumoured from quite some time, the actual breakdown of the new format has been announced only a mere two months before the game is scheduled to be played in Raleigh, NC—home to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The game will have a new sponsor.

Discover Financial Services becomes an official partner of the NHL and places its logo and name on the annual All-Star game, staring this season. The deal is based only in the United States.

Starting on Friday, January 28, the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft will take place where two captains (not sure how they will be determined) will select their teams from a pool of players chosen by the NHL hockey operations department (oh, boy).

Starting on November 15, fans will be able to vote for the starters and this voting runs through until January 3.

In the end, fans will have selected six players (three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie) through these fan ballots regardless of what conference they play in.

After determining that, the NHL hockey operations pools together another 36 players to have 42 players in total.

At that point the pooled players elect two captains (oh, that's how) and from that point on it's a Fantasy Draft to select the two competing teams...

Fantasy Draft?

Yup, Fantasy Draft...a coin toss to determine first rights.

When the dust settles, each club will comprise of 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies...nothing really new there.

After the two teams are selected they will select from 12 rookies (again selected by the NHL hockey operations department) to fill out both squads for the Skills Competition that will be held on January 29.

Team names and logos have not been announced. They should just grab two more sponsors and cover the jerseys to look similar to the style of your average NASCAR team. Why not? We're in North Carolina.

It's not that I am opposed to changing the All-Star game; it's merely more about the timing and the involvement of the NHL hockey operations department.

In the end it really becomes their All-Star game.

We all realize that there will be about $100 million worth of players skating around the RBC Center in late January and if the NHL hockey operations people think that this will change anything they're crazy.

In the end it will look pretty much the same with no hitting and lack-luster play. Furthermore there is no incentive to win, nor are there any benefits to winning, at least that I'm aware of.

Let's vote to see if any of these players really care about this game!

The original purpose for the All-Star game had changed long ago. It is time to replace the game with something that promotes the game, rewards it star players and creates fun and excitement.

The only way I see that happening is by allowing the fans to have greater access. This is a league built on fan involvement.

I applaud the NHL for their efforts on trying to create more interest, but don't stop halfway.

Find a way to go all in with the fans or it's time for the NHL/NHLPA to end this event.

The likelihood of that happening is nil, as both partners will stand to make significant money and spin off any merchandise they can associating this game and future All-Star games.

The League has done a great job with both the Winter and Heritage Classic franchises and their marketing and merchandise sales support this.

It's time to replace the All-Star game with something more meaningful.

In the end, no matter how you create the buzz, market the game, create the hype—the All-Star game will be lame and uneventful.

It will also cost the league and its players association a lost opportunity.

Too bad the only thing that will be fun about this format will be the fantasy draft. Nothing better than being called out like in your school days for the entire world to see. 

Let the fans in...let them create the atmosphere and let them become more involved.

Let's be honest here...the captains will likely be named Ovechkin for Team Soda Pop and Crosby for Team Candy Bar.

This is really what the NHL wanted all along.


Mike MacDonald is a featured columnist covering the Nashville Predators and the NHL


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