NHL's Bill Daly on Alex Ovechkin: Players Skipping All-Star Game a 'Concern'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 21: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Capital One Arena on December 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is going to "address" the trend of superstars skipping the All-Star Game with the Players' Association.

Daly told Greg Wyshynski on the ESPN On Ice podcast the decision by Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin to sit out the event for a second straight year is a "concern":

"In terms of player participation, is that a concern? Yes, I think it is a concern. I was the first to defend Alex Ovechkin's decision last year to take a year off, because he's been fabulous in terms of helping the league in promoting the sport, including the All-Star event every year. Last year, I was much more willing to look the other way on something like this. But two years in a row is probably something we do need to address with the players' association so it doesn't become a trend."

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has also announced he'll skip the 2020 All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 25 in St. Louis, while Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has sat out the contest on multiple occasions throughout his Hall of Fame career.

The decision to skip the All-Star festivities results in an automatic one-game suspension, but for players on championship-contending teams like Ovechkin's Caps or Crosby's Pens, that has not proved a deterrent to increasing their midseason rest by a few days.

"I have to listen to my body," Ovechkin told reporters last month. "I have to get ready for the second half of the year. I have to be healthy and focus on different things. It's a hard decision, obviously, being the captain and missing the All-Star Game, but I have to do best for me and for my team."

It's a major loss for the NHL for a variety of reasons.

Not only is the 34-year-old sniper one of the league's most exciting, dynamic players, but he brings an extra audience to the All-Star Game given his large following from his native Russia.

Ovechkin's past appearances in the skills competition, which takes place the night before the game, have also been a smash hit since he's one of the NHL's most charismatic personalities.

Add in the fact that the league has a limited number of opportunities to showcase its stars—since it has backed away from participation in the Olympics, and other international tournaments featuring pro players have failed to gain a significant foothold—and skipping the All-Star Game becomes an even bigger issue.

It's unclear how much further the NHL could push punishments, though. Teams won't take kindly to losing their top players for multiple games just because they want to rest instead of playing an exhibition three-on-three tournament that requires more energy and commitment than the traditional five-on-five game.

Individual fines would probably be the next step, but it's unclear whether the Players' Association would allow that to happen. Even if it agrees, the financial setback would likely need to be significant for players like Ovechkin ($113.2 million in career on-ice earnings, per Spotrac) to change their stance.

The Capitals currently lead the NHL with 65 points (30-9-5 record), and Ovi is tied for third with 26 goals, putting a ninth 50-goal campaign within reach during the season's second half.

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