When the NHL introduced the new All-Star Game format in 2011, fans around the League were abuzz. Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal were the captains, and they were set to pick their teams — on live television nonetheless — with alternate captains already chosen.
Questions instantly arose from will Staal select teammates Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner to how early will the first goalie be chosen.
The new thrill led to a 33 percent increase in television ratings (1.2 rating) than the previous All-Star Game. Fans clamoured to see the results of a game that featured brother vs. brother (Henrik vs. Daniel Sedin) and a lineup that pitted Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane on the same roster (Team Lidstrom).
Now in its third attempt (the 2013 lockout and 2014 Olympics have stunted the event each season), the All-Star Game will see Team Nick Foligno face off with Team Jonathan Toews at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The NHL has already done its part to create drama for the draft: Kane was named as an alternate captain to Foligno’s team and not for his Chicago Blackhawks leader, Toews.
Will it be enough? The NHL may have found a diamond in the rough with their player draft, but it may have already moved into a been-there-done-that situation.
It doesn’t need a complete overhaul like before. Maybe just a small tweak to the current setup.
Introducing Ultimate Fantasy Hockey: where you pick your all-star team!
The concept stays the same: two people selecting their teams on national TV. Only this time, those managers aren’t players; they’re your friend and co-worker or your father and local mailman.
Think about it: people love drafting their fantasy teams. Drafting the real deal with players going through the motions of walking down the stage, shaking hands with the manager and his fellow players and sitting behind the drafter would all be part of the show.
This is a completely marketable idea for the NHL. The process leading up to selecting the two managers could start with a contest on the website during the summer and first half of the season (this would generate an exorbitant amount of clicks to nhl.com). Following this, a playoff between a select amount of potential managers, with bios on each person included, will commence and fans can vote on their favorite people until two winners are crowned. Think the EA Sports NHL cover vote process.
[Related: Saving the NHL All Star Game]
Once selected, the fan managers go through the entire process on draft night, and even are allowed on the ice during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition Saturday night and, yes, they even help “coach” on Sunday. It’s the ultimate fan experience (which also opens the door to the NHL making it a bidding process for their wealthier fans, but that is a different story for a different time).
Another possibility would be to make celebrity hockey fans the managers. Obviously, this cuts out a lot of the aforementioned information, but this would pit two people already in the public eye against each other. It would draw in viewers of television programs or movies, who may not normally have watched. If the NHL selected Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, a fan of the Los Angeles Kings, and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, a fan of the St. Louis Blues, viewers would be captivated by the witty banter between the two personalities.
In a professional sports world where leagues are struggling to find a way to keep the fans interested, fresh new ways are being formed to keep the fans entertained. You’d be hard pressed to find an idea that involves the fans more than this.
What do you think? Post your thoughts below or simply tweet me at @jponder94.
I am a former NHL media member and reporter for the St. Louis Blues, working for various media outlets. Currently, I am an NHL News Writer and Editor for The Hockey Writers. I live in St. Louis and work as a freelance copywriter in numerous industries.