Should The NHL Get Rid Of The All Star Game?

Is it finally time to get rid of the All Star game altogether?

The NHL All Star Game is entering it’s 61st edition and it might be time to reconsider the concept all together. For the first 20 years starting in 1947 the NHL introduced the format as a Stanley Cup Champion vs a league wide all-star team before changing the tournament in 1969 to an East versus West format. Ultimately it grew into what most of us who are old enough to remember as the traditional all-star game. Then in 1998 things got weird. The NHL introduced a short-lived North America versus World all-stars before going back to East versus West in 2003.

The inaugural experimentation made the game feel more like a gimmick than an attraction for fans. In 2011 it took another turn with captains picking their own teams and now we’re heading to a 3-on-3 tournament?

The introduction of fan voting creates a great interaction for the audience in which the game is intended. But what do you do when the audience makes a mockery of the voting process and mass votes glorified fringe NHL players like Rory Fitzpatrick and now John Scott?

This isn’t the only time this has happened. Last year Zemgus Girgensons was voted in, a player that finished 245th in league scoring.

The 2015 All Star Game in Columbus was a complete statement in why the game in itself is no longer relevant. The game created a total of 29 goals in a game that is a stretch to say it was even played at half speed and the players had nothing to play for and it barely created any real entertainment.

Where’s The Real Entertainment Value?

For fans buying overpriced tickets for a glorified scrimmage made of “league stars” that don’t even care, they’d be better off paying tickets for a team practice scrimmage. The practice would have a better pace at the very least.

The voting system was a mockery, Alex Ovechkin one of the league’s best players was one of the last players picked. In total eight players withdrew due to injuries with seven of them being replaced. On top of that weren’t we talking a few years ago about how the players don’t even want to be there?

We’ve hit the nail on the head though; if the players don’t care, why should the fans?

Related: All Star Game Voting Is Broken (Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazzette)

Related: Enforcer John Scott Early Leader In NHL All-Star Voting (Canadian Press, Sportsnet)

Numbers Don’t Lie

Need facts? Last year’s game drew a TV rating of 1.47 on CBC, a million view drop off from the 2.54 rating in 2012. Throw in the 2.36 rating in 2011 and viewership is on a steady decline.

“Frankly it’s a little mystifying. Somebody else asked me if I have an explanation and I don’t really. I just think they (the numbers) seem wrong.”Scott Moore, President of Sportsnet & NHL Properties for Rogers

From what I learned in elementary school I remember if you put 1 + 1 together you get 2. Numbers don’t lie, viewership is on  a decline and it’s because no one cares about the game. What does the fan really get in return for watching the game?

The players going have nothing to play for and no real gain to going which has made them reluctant in the past. The argument here is that this is an event for the fans partly as a thank you for watching here’s a over-gimmicked. over-booked carrot on the stick and gigantic cash grab by the league.

If we’re looking for more gimmicks why not pull a page out of Mystery Alaska and have an NHL team play a group of beer-leaguers in a random small town no one has heard of.

Can The All-Star Game Be Fixed?

So how do we fix it? Can it even be fixed? Should the NHL just get rid of it altogether? If they get rid of it what do they replace it with?

One of the more valuable things in sports and a selling point is tradition. Why do fans love the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens uniforms (or any of the original six teams)? There’s a story to be told everytime you look at that uniform. Players and fans become one in the same when they reminisce about the names and former players that they grew up watching those uniforms. The Jeremy Roenick’s, Bobby Hull’s, Patrick Roy’s, Ken Dryden’s and the Guy LaFleur’s are the names that come up.

You’ve got to get back in touch with the selling points of a game that this is a game with all the biggest stars in the game playing against each other.

Is a 3 on 3 tournament really the way to go? We already have a 3 on 3 overtime that has mixed reviews (that’s another story for another day).  I get it, 3 on 3 is this year’s cool hot toy, tune in next year when they bring back the Fox Puck.

Jaromir Jagr has already gone on record asking fans not to vote for him. It was rumored Pavel Datsyuk tried to back out of a game a few years ago and had to be spoken to by league executives to show up. Players generally see the weekend as a break in the schedule to relax.

Related: Jagr Tweets NHL All-Star Game  3-On-3 Format Would Kill Me (Josh Cooper, Yahoo)

Go Back To The All-Star Game Roots?

Why can’t the NHL find a way to reinvigorate the tradition of the All-Star game? Dig out the old Campbell and Wales Conference uniforms, replace them with Western and Eastern if you need to but they’ll be the same jerseys many of us grew up watching. The sell is that new jerseys every year as visually disturbing, odd, cutting-edge or modern they are, they’re a gimmick of a over marketed business model for the game just to create cash revenue.

Give the fans and players something to reminisce about.

Another thing why not play it outdoors? Make it the Winter Classic and play it on January 1st instead of a random weekend in February. The outdoor game gives the league and the hosting city the ability to pack a house with 55,000+ ticket sales.

Really even these suggestions are just putting lipstick on a over roasted pig.

In the end we’re living in a sports landscape where any easy cash grab owner’s can get take precedent over any real value in fan entertainment and if the players don’t care, why should the fans?