For the last few seasons, the NHL All-Star Game has gone through numerous changes, from fantasy drafts, to North America vs. the World and now a 3-on-3 tournament. For each of these past few seasons and even beyond that, the All-Star Game has been … well, boring, uneventful and bland; but there is only one solution to make it better. No, no, not more neon uniforms. Just end it. No more voting in players as a joke, no more voting in players that are in the twilights of their career. Just end it, please.
Instead of having a fake exhibition game or 3-on-3 tournament (that will be putting goalies’ groins at serious risk), how about the All-Star weekend is just an NHL Skills Competition weekend? Do you honestly look forward to watching the actual game more than the skills competitions? Some years back, most NHL teams held skills competitions in their own arenas in front of their own fans. Why not start that again (of course teams and arenas would make $ off of it, but the fans would eat it up), and send the best of the best to the Skills Competition Weekend? Spread the events out over two days on NBC on the weekend before the Super Bowl.
As much as the NHL All-Star Game is about promoting the game and its stars, how often do we hear the casual fan say: ‘I wasn’t really a big hockey fan until I saw that All-Star Game last weekend, now I’m hooked!’? Exactly, never. But the casual fan that is always trying to be marketed to (for some reason) might be more interested in seeing Alexander Ovechkin trying to shoot 100 mph in the Hardest Shot competition or Vladimir Tarasenko going four-for-four in the Accuracy competition or finding out who truly is the NHL’s fastest skater; not just the fastest skater out of the 46 All-Stars that were invited and accepted the invitation to the All-Star Game.
Or maybe the NHL will stop using the same 10 teams in outdoor games and hold the Skills Competition outdoors (maybe New Years Eve/Day) where you will reach an even greater audience. If not, the events could easily be setup over two days — Saturday and Sunday nights in primetime — and it would surely be more entertaining than what NHL fans have been forced to watch for the last 15 or so years.
If the league and fans are dead set on having an actual All-Star Game, how about this — have a team of All-Stars play an exhibition game against the defending Stanley Cup champion. Again, changing up the format like this would perhaps create greater interest from that ever elusive casual fan. Other professional leagues also have irrelevant All-Star Games, yes you too MLB — home field advantage in the World Series …? Seriously? The NFL copied the NHL’s idea with the fantasy draft, but do football fans really care which offensive lineman some Hall-of-Fame player/coach is going to draft … for an exhibition game? For years I’ve wondered how the NBA All-Star Game score isn’t 301-300, because no one ever plays serious defense in those games, which is basically (wait for it) … a skills competition of which large human can do the fanciest dunk.
Here is a version of how it could maybe, but probably not, work:
Stick Handling — which player can stick handle through an obstacle course in the fastest time.
Fastest Skater — who can skate a lap around the rink the fastest (no more two players skating at once, one at a time).
Hardest Shot — who can shoot the puck the hardest/fastest.
Daniel Sedin shows us how it’s done:
Target Accuracy — who can hit all four targets in the fewest amount of attempts.
Super Score-O — which players can shoot the puck through that tiny cut-out hole that fans try to score on to win a car from center ice/the far blue line.
Penalty Shots/Shootout — every player goes until they are all stopped. Last man standing wins MVP, unless a goalie stops all shots, then he can be MVP.
As the defending champions of the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks take on the best of the best in the NHL in an exhibition game to end all exhibition games!
Here is who they will face (yes, we know not every team is represented, tough luck!):
Goalies: Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider
Defense: Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk, PK Subban
Forwards: Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Taylor Hall, Jaromir Jagr, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko, John Tavares, Mats Zuccarello
Of course, none of this will ever happen, but with all of the debate over the current system of voting, the current state of the actual All-Star Game, which isn’t a game anymore anyways, why not right? Most NHL fans, if not all, thought the best part of the past few All-Star weekends was watching the players get drunk on live tv while captains (and then captains and alternate captains) selected their teams.
How would you fix the NHL All-Star Game or weekend? Let us know in the comments below.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.