Anaheim Ducks Need an All-Star Game Soon

With the 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look towards future years’ festivities. The league has already awarded the Florida Panthers the 2023 All-Star Game, a good-faith gesture by the NHL to honor the franchise originally awarded the 2021 All-Star Game but the league ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the second time the city of Sunrise, Florida, has hosted the mid-season exhibition, the first coming back in 2003. With recent attempts at having some skill competitions held outdoors, Southern Florida is a great place to be for mild weather in January or February. If anything can be taken from Steven Stamkos’ commentary during the outdoor “21 in ’22” event during Saturday night’s All-Star Skills Competition, it’s that even the Vegas desert can be uncomfortably cold in the winter.

Related: 2021-22 Calder Trophy Tracker – January Update

There are, however, a handful of teams from cities in the league that have never hosted an All-Star Weekend. And among those cities is another sunny town with a reliably mild winter, so similar to the Panthers that they are even 1993 NHL Expansion Draft siblings. The city of Anaheim is one of four towns with NHL teams that have never hosted the event. Despite the Ducks being over 20 years older than the Golden Knights franchise, the second-newest team in the NHL jumped the queue, even with the Ducks making a bid back in 2018 to host a future date (from, “With Official Bid Made, Ducks Want NHL All-Star Game in Anaheim,” Orange County Register, March 9, 2018). But with the reliable weather, future developments around the Honda Center, and a rising star on the roster, the NHL should absolutely look to bring All-Star Weekend to Anaheim.

Anaheim Weather Is Uniquely Mild

One of the biggest selling points for Anaheim is obviously the weather. Anaheim, along with Los Angeles, boasts a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and warm summers. To give perspective, both outdoor events in Las Vegas were filmed the day before the actual broadcast, during a time in the evening that would have been below 50°F. It’s not unbearable, but it was clearly affecting the competitors. Claude Giroux has to live in Philadelphia, and even he had something to say about how cold it was near the Bellagio fountain. By comparison, Anaheim didn’t dip below 50°F at all on that same day and didn’t drop below 60°F until after the competitions would have ended.

Martin Gernat, Honda Center, Anaheim Ducks
The Honda Center (Jondoeforty1/Flickr)

Anaheim is one leg of a popular “snowbird” road trip where fans from colder regions follow their teams across the West Coast while escaping colder climates back home. Eastern Conference teams usually have their road games in California, Arizona, and Nevada during the same road trip to avoid racking up miles going back-and-forth across the country. Having All-Star Weekend in Anaheim during the cold January or February months will certainly attract fans looking to get away from the snow and into the sun.

The OC Vibe Will Be Immaculate

Perhaps the biggest selling point for Anaheim to host a future All-Star Game will be what happens around the Honda Center in the next few years. In 2018, team owners Henry and Susan Samueli announced a project — a $3 billion, 95-acre mixed-use community with Honda Center as the main hub. The project, named OC Vibe (stylized as ocV!BE), plans to open in 2024 and be completed by 2028. Plans include over thirty restaurants, two hotels, a concert venue, and acres of space for recreation.

Anaheim’s bid for an All-Star Weekend becomes stronger when they can sell the tourist experience that will be OC Vibe. The project turns the Honda Center from an isolated tourist spot requiring a car to get from the hotel to a restaurant to the arena and back again into a one-stop spot with enough food and recreation to entertain visiting crowds.

Another Chance to Market Trevor Zegras

Even if he wasn’t technically an All-Star, Trevor Zegras stole the show in Vegas. Hockey fans have gotten familiar with the 20-year-old wunderkind, whether he is lobbing pucks to teammates or scoring lacrosse-style goals from behind the net. But his blindfolded, puck-cradling, and ball-dodging attempt during the Breakaway Challenge was his most outrageous display to date. And nobody could be happier about it than ESPN in their first year of a seven-year deal as a television rights holder in the United States.

The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” has to recognize a star blooming in Southern California, in a sport that doesn’t usually produce standout stars in the States. But an All-Star Weekend is the perfect time to play favorites. Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo won the event Zegras competed in without actually putting the puck in the net. The next day, the Pacific Division started the All-Star Game with a trio of Golden Knights, with Pietrangelo joining Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault. It stands to reason that if the league and its broadcast partners want to grow the game, they’ll lean on one of their newest stars and give him a weekend to be a star in his own market.

Anaheim May Have To Wait To Host an All-star Weekend

With All-Star Weekend stopping in nearby Vegas, San Jose, and Los Angeles in recent years, it is fair to suspect it may be a few years before the festivities return to a Pacific Division host. And even if the NHL does decide to return to the west coast in 2024, the Seattle Kraken have a strong case to make with a new building and a developing hockey market. Of course, if the NHL wanted to continue holding some skills competitions outdoors, Seattle’s weather is far less reliable than Anaheim’s. The best-case scenario for Anaheim to host will probably be contingent on how the OC Vibe development progresses and if they can sell the NHL on a weekend-long experience within those grounds.

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