It seems like there have been 1000 of these articles written, so I thought I would throw my hat in the ring.
First of all, it’s important to remember that an All-Star Game is primarily for kids. When you’re 6 or 10 or even 14, All-Star Games are a novelty with no equal, the opportunity to see your heroes play together in a best-on-best competition, while learning more about their personalities. When I was younger, I got to go to the game in Montreal, the one where Alex Kovalev scored a hat-trick, the shootout winner, and game MVP. The Bell Centre was going crazy, it was a great environment, and a cool event. Live music (kinda trashy live music, but you take what you can get), different jerseys, all the stars, I loved it.
So before you complain about how the All-Star game sucks, remember the game isn’t really for you. Just relax and maybe log off for a little while.
But anyway, here’s how I would fix that….ordeal.
First of all, the voting process. I was not one of the people who had a big problem with John Scott being in the All-Star game, but I also wasn’t among those championing him. Sure, I like the idea of the underdog write-in, I was all in favor of Rory Fitzpatrick. But Vote Rory was a fan-created push to celebrate a veteran player. Vote John Scott was a media-driven campaign to make fun of the NHL. Yeah, those are simplifications, there’s more overlap than that, but essentially, if it was about celebrating a journeyman, a genuine beloved guy, there were far better candidates than Scott (Guys like Shawn Thornton, Adam Burish, Jason Chimera spring to mind, just based on my interactions with them).
So here’s what I would do. I would have the NHL or NHL GMs select all of the All-Star players, with two exceptions. Every team’s media contingent would nominate a player as an honorary All-Star (in a similar fashion to the Masterton Trophy). They would be instructed to nominate a player who has served the game well over a number of years, and has never before been All-Star. Fans then would have the chance to vote for one of those guys from each conference to make the game (baseball has a similar voting process for the last two All-Stars).
Here’s the biggie. The NBA uses their skills competition as a way to flaunt the best their sport has to offer in a number of categories. The NHL, instead, just pulls guys who are already at the game into various competitions that may or may not be something each player is fit for. John Scott hardest shot? Dustin Byfuglien, fastest skater? Brandon Saad, shootout expert? Sure, why not. It makes for some pretty uninteresting events overall.
Instead, choose the players in the league we legitimately think are best in each category, and bring them for the weekend to exclusively participate in the Skills competition. This way, the rest of the All-Stars can take it easy and schmooze on the Saturday.
What are said competitions?
1. Fastest Skater:
This event is pretty self-explanatory, I don’t have a problem with how they do it now. Except obviously, now you can actually use the guys you think are the fastest.
Potential competitors: Michael Grabner (Leafs), Matt Duchene (Avs), Marian Gaborik (Kings), Carl Hagelin (Penguins)
2. NHL Chicken/Puck Knockout
I’m not sure what the widespread name for this game is, but here’s the idea. Eight (or any number of) players start in the center circle each with a puck. If your puck leaves the circle you’re out. The goal is to be the last player with your puck still in. Who wouldn’t love to see NHLers attempt this game? I’ve been calling for this for years, it HAS to happen.
Potential competitors: Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Jaromir Jagr (Panthers), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Capitals), P.K. Subban (Canadiens), Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues), Johnny Gaudreau (Flames)
3. Hardest Shot
Another classic, but it really means nothing if Zdeno Chara isn’t there, so get the best of the best.
Competitors: Zdeno Chara (Bruins), P.K. Subban (Canadiens), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals)
4. Breakaway Challenge
Here’s where it gets tough, because the stuff we’ve seen in this event over the years has been embarrassing. We need some real dazzle.
Anything short of Rob Schremp-esque skill, or Patrick-Kane esque entertainment, just won’t do. Ideally, you want the two combined.
So get the best of the best, even if the best is playing in the minors. Call up Rob Schremp, or better, discover the new Rob Schremps. I’m sure there are guys currently playing in the AHL or NHL that can pull moves like that, it’s just up to the league to figure out who they are. So my list of contestants will be uncreative and short, but the NHL should be able to get four guys who a) know that they will be participating at least a month in advance, and b) have skills that will really make people go “wow”.
Potential Competitors: Kane, Schremp, but really hopefully guys even better than them. Being able to pick the puck up with your still is basically a prerequisite, or at least having the creativity to do this.
As for the real game, it doesn’t really matter. I’m fine with the 3-on-3, I was fine with 5-on-5 as well. It’s not supposed to be real hockey. It really can’t be. Just make it fun.
Bring back the fantasy draft, if it takes a few brews to loosen the players up, I don’t have a problem with that (though for some I guess the U.S. government might). And let P.K. Subban — and any players that have more to say than “Oh yeah just great to be here it’s exciting” — do most of the media work.
There, a more polished and exciting All-Star weekend.