The NHL has announced a format change for this year's All-Star game in Carolina. I must admit I am intrigued to see how it turns out.
Fans still have some say in the voting process—they will be able to vote for three forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender from a ballot of 100 players. Once the starters are chosen, the NHL will then add 36 more players to the game.
This is where it gets interesting. The players will elect two team captains who will then get to conduct a "fantasy draft" to divide up the teams.
Here are six reasons why this gives the game more intrigue.
It’s something different!
This concept stands out against the other league All-Star Games immediately. No one else does anything close to this format.
Being unique is always a strong selling point when trying to market your league against others.
Why is the Winter Classic such a strong success? Because it's different. People love tuning in once a year to see the NHL take its game outside. The ratings reflect this.
In the old format, if you were a fan of a particular team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, you'd be inclined to root for the Eastern Conference.
Under this new format, it is possible that the Penguin's marquee players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang could end up playing against each other.
Imagine Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom split up between the two teams instead of playing with each other.
It makes fans take interest in how both teams are playing, not just one.
In addition it also makes fans take interest in all of the players in the NHL rather than just those in their own conference. You never know who could be on a particular team.
It brings more strategy to an otherwise boring game.
Do you draft the top goaltenders?
Do you go powerhouse offense?
Do you pass over your own teammates to take other stars?
So many possibilities, and of course it gives the fans lots of reasons to discuss all those options.
Let’s be honest, Conference vs. Conference is boring nowadays.
With free agency, players change teams and conferences constantly. This isn’t the old days when you’d be with a team for most, if not all, of your career (barring a trade).
Other league All-Star Games suffer from the same problem. At least the NHL didn't go the MLB route and try to make an exhibition game mean something.
By televising the draft, it could get fans tuning in just to see how their favorite stars rank head-to-head against other stars in the captain’s eyes.
It opens up a lot of debate and discussion, which in the end gets people talking about the NHL.
Isn't that the whole reason for making a format change in the first place?
I've heard a lot of positive fan response to this announcement. It's creating a real buzz about the All-Star Game. To me that shows how strong of an idea this is.
In addition to the fan's interest going up in this game, it also increases player interest as well.
The All-Star roster won't know who they are playing with until after the draft.
Who knows, you might see some playful banter as players "kiss up" to the team captains in hopes of being drafted. You could also see that carry over to the game itself.
Imagine Steven Stamkos looking at Sidney Crosby after scoring a goal and saying, "Should have drafted me for YOUR team."
Overall, I think there is a lot of positive feedback surrounding this announcement, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
Who knows, you might see the other leagues copy this format to try and spice up their own games a bit.