When I got the news yesterday that Sidney Crosby would not be in the National Hockey League All-Star Game, I can’t say I was particularly upset about it.
In fact, I was actually OK with it.
Now, I am not just saying this because I want to save face. I may be a Pittsburgh Penguins fan and featured columnist, but I don’t think the All-Star Game will gain or lose anything by Crosby not playing.
Here are some reasons why.
Crosby may be the face of the NHL, but does that mean that there are no other players worth marketing? Is there no one else who is just as talented that can be introduced to the NHL’s coveted casual fan?
Of course not.
The NHL can keep up with pushing the Penguins forward by marketing defenseman Kris Letang, who is having the best year of his career with 41 points and a plus-22 rating. He is sixth in the NHL with 34 assists, and his plus/minus rating is ranked third. He is an early favorite for the Norris Trophy.
The Carolina Hurricanes, who will be hosting this year’s festivities, have many players worth featuring front and center. Team captain Eric Staal is also a captain of one of the all-star teams, while goalie Cam Ward is having another solid year with a record of 15-5 to go with a 2.71 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
The all-star weekend will also feature a family affair. Eric’s brother Marc is a part of the game, and we all know that hockey broadcasters love telling us the Staals are brothers (and in case you didn’t know that already, I told you again.).
Finally, the young stars game will feature prominent rookies such as Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers.
While none of the viewers will forget who Crosby is (and how can you when the Versus team will remind us frequently that he is not there?), he is not the only reason to tune into the game. I have a great appreciation for many of the other players who will be in the game and am just as happy to see them showcased.
The ratings for the last few NHL All-Star Games have been nothing to write home about.
In 2007, the first all-star game since 2004 drew an 0.7 overnight rating, which indicated an estimated 76 percent drop in viewers from 2004. It got lower ratings than the long-past-its-prime “American Idol”.
The 2008 festivities rated slightly better, with an 0.76 rating. However, it still did not reach one million viewers.
The most recent All-Star Game, which was held in conjunction with the Montreal Canadiens’ 100th anniversary, earned an 0.8 rating. There was a 12 percent increase in ratings, but it still did not compare to the second annual Winter Classic, which has arguably taken the All-Star Game’s place as the NHL’s marquee event.
There wasn’t a game last season due to the Olympics, and there seems to be limited excitement among fans for this year’s event.
Having Crosby in the game will not bring the increase in ratings the NHL is hoping for. No one seemed to care when he actually played in 2007, so hyping a big-name player does not give fans enough incentive to tune in.
This ties into my point about All-Star Game ratings.
The score of the 2009 NHL All-Star Game was 12-11 in favor of the Eastern Conference.
A game with a score that looks almost like a lacrosse game is not something that the majority of NHL fans want to see. Many would rather see a one or two goal game that is at least somewhat physical.
Considering that any kind of checking or hitting is absent in the All-Star Game, how would Crosby generate anymore excitement? He provides the kind of presence wanted in this game, and although his fans appreciate his talent, they wouldn’t tune in just to see it. They know what he can do, so there would be no surprises.
Most importantly, Crosby can get rest that he wouldn’t get by participating in the All-Star Game.
I’m no medical professional, but when an athlete has a concussion, they should not be back in the lineup until they are 100 percent symptom free and physically able to play.
There is no need for Crosby to play in a game that doesn’t even matter. I’m sure even he would prefer to get some rest and be ready for the second half of the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If he is going to be present, he can sign autographs and take questions from the media. This way, the NHL won't have a lot to complain about.
Although NHL officials are no doubt disappointed that Crosby will be absent, it is a non-issue in my mind.
There are plenty of ways to make the game exciting without him, and no doubt fans who will be tuning in are excited to see some of the NHL’s other talent.
But what do you think? Will Crosby’s absence hurt the NHL All-Star Game, or will it not matter this coming weekend?
Take my poll or let me know in the comments.