Big Names MIA: Rethinking the NHL All-Star Game

Nick HealeyCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2008

Hockey fans know the NHL All-Star weekend has always been fun to watch and from what most can see on TV, it looks like it’s a pretty fun time for the players too.

This year’s All-Star weekend is set to kick off at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Jan. 26. The only problem is that a number of the All-Stars aren’t going to be in attendance.

This year, in what seems to be becoming a trend, many players who were elected to the All-Star team are unable to take part in the weekend’s festivities.

Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, Paul Stastny, and Sergei Zubov will not take part in the skills competition or the game itself for a whole slew of reasons. Furthermore, Mats Sundin contacted the NHL after he was informed he would be an All-Star to let them know he wanted to take the time off rather than compete.

Why are so many players deciding to do this? Well, the reasons are varied, with some being more understandable than others. Crosby and Stastny are injured and would otherwise most certainly be there. Luongo’s wife is giving birth to their first child. Brodeur has a family engagement, while Zetterberg and Zubov are nursing minor injuries that they would otherwise play with.

Their replacements will be Evgeni Malkin, Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer, Mike Ribeiro, and Tim Thomas. They are all formidable replacements playing solid hockey this year, however they were never intended to be there in the first place.

Does this lack of should-be All-Stars mean there’s something wrong with the All-Star Game itself? Well, it sure looks that way...and what this seems to indicate is that there isn’t enough of an incentive for the players to show up.

How does the NHL fix this? Let's look to some of the other professional sports leagues.

Take the end-of-year style game the NFL uses, being of course the Pro Bowl, at a fixed location in Hawaii. A hockey style Pro Bowl could be interesting. A fixed location would probably go against the NHL’s policy of growing the game in nontraditional hockey markets. On the other hand though, a postseason event could make most players more available and certainly keep the atmosphere light to showcase players' real skills.

What about the MLB version of the All-Star Game where they are playing for a purpose—the ever-so-important home field advantage in the World Series. The NHL All-Star Game could certainly benefit from this, as it would keep players like Zetterberg and Zubov interested, especially considering their teams have a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup this spring.

There are also other possibilities out there that could become unique to hockey. Many have thought that an outdoor game could be a lot of fun for the players involved and it would draw bigger crowds and TV coverage like the regular-season Winter Classic we saw earlier this year.

These are just possible solutions to something that needs fixing, given the number of no-shows. Until something is done to add an impact to the All-Star Game, it is never going to reach its full potential as the spectacle it should be.