The NHL has gone back to the drawing board for its All-Star Game festivities and returned with an event unlike any seen in professional sports.
The NHL announced a new "Shooting Stars" challenge which will take 10 of the league's best players off the ice and put them on a platform in the stands, about 30 feet above the ice to pull off a variety of trick shots.
Think hockey meets Top Golf in a packed stadium. Players will be tasked with hitting a number of targets on the ice below to earn points. The NHL explained further:
"Pucks that don't hit a target will get no points; pucks that bounce, deflect or ricochet onto a target will be counted for the highest scoring value they hit; a puck that hits the center and bounces will be scored the point value of the center; a puck that hits the base of the target will not be awarded any points. Players are allowed to hit the same target more than once, and all scoring will be decided by on-ice officials. If there is a tie at the end of the event, the players who are tied will shoot three pucks each in a sudden death 'score-off.'"
The event will close out the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition on January 24 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
The NHL has been quick to tinker with its All-Star format in recent years when it feels things are getting a bit stale. They were the first league to use a player draft to decide All-Star teams—with the inaugural edition providing plenty of laughs for the players and even more entertainment for fans—but that format went by the wayside a few years later when the league came up with its current format.
Today's All-Star Game isn't as much of a game as it is a 3-on-3 tournament between the league's four divisions. The format takes defense mostly out of the equation and allows the NHL's best players to showcase their offensive talents and breakaway moves.
The Shooting Stars Challenge is one of a few changes to All-Star Weekend this year with the skills competition now including a women's 3-on-3 tournament as well.
"I think one of the things we've learned from doing skills over the years is the best events are the ones our players like doing, because that's when you get to see them relaxed, having fun, showing off their personalities," Patrick Burke, senior director of NHL player safety, said in a league statement. "The day we went to St. Louis to test it, there was a line of people six deep waiting to try it and then every single person who went up and tried it immediately went, 'I'm doing that again,' So it's something we think will add an element of fun for the players doing it, which will hopefully translate to a really entertaining event for the fans and the TV audience watching."
Players will have to adapt to the challenge on the fly. Because of how the league is configuring the rink—rearranging the protective netting to allow fans to stay in their seats during the event—it won't be easy for players to practice their shots beforehand.
Whether or not this event is a one-off or becomes a staple of the skills competition is still to be determined. For now, the league is just looking for new ways to capture the attention of fans and pump up its players.
"It's a matter of making sure it's a fun event that players can show off their skill and their personality," Burke said. "We think this one will be a good one."