By Marc-André Breault – Year after year, the NHL tries to find the right formula for the All-Star Game and the skills competition. Unfortunately for them, I believe the problem is not what the players do on the ice but more the players who are invited to it. I fully understand their idea of inviting one player per team to represent all the teams in the league, but in this format, I think we should call it a rewards game.
I believe that the All-Star Game exists to introduce non-traditional fans to the league. What you want to do with this game is to show those who like NHL hockey more or less, what the best players can do and what the fans could see by watching a NHL game.
Here is what I would do to boost the popularity of the NHL. For skills competitions, I would ask teams to submit one player per category. A player with the hardest shot, one for the most accurate shooter, another as the fastest skater, and a player with the best hands and who is able to make exciting dekes.
An idea would be for teams to send a video of their selected players to a selection committee, which would then pick the top 10 to participate in the skills competitions. It might allow ultra-fast players like Paul Byron to participate in this kind of event. We would have better competition between the players since it would be the 10 best selected by a committee.
The game itself
As for the all-star game, I would select the best players or even the best trios or duos in the NHL. We would thus have the best in the league even if all the teams will not be represented. We could see duos or trios like McDavid and Draisaitl or Kadri, Rantanen and MacKinnon or Pasternak, Bergeron and Marchand… We would see Crosby, Malkin, Kucherov, Ovechkin, Panarin…
Then, the goal of these games without contact is to find ways to score spectacular goals without cheating. It’s time to showcase moves like the “Lacrosse goal”, to do incredible tic-tac-toe passing plays, to do one-timers with guys like Ovechkin, ensuring the safety of players, of course. End to end rushes with players like Cale Makar and even perhaps with set plays displaying their talent.
It’s time to put on a show. Put on power plays that will move the puck faster than any player. If people find it too long to see players exchange the puck with ease and don’t find it interesting to see a game end 24-22, maybe playing 10 minutes or 15 minutes would be more interesting? Do the same contests with former, retired players who still play or are still able to play? Wasn’t it great to see Al MacInnis come out and take his slap-shot with a wooden stick in St. Louis at their recent All-Star weekend? There are surely other interesting ideas, but the current format has been stagnant for a few years now.
Putting on a show
In short, what we want to see is a show. For this show, we want to see the best players at work. While it’s clear that players are going into the weekend to have fun with virtually no chance of injury, players with minor injuries may take the time to go anyway while healing themselves. They will probably manage to bring in the majority of the star players and maybe people will want to watch this game every year. Surely that would be better than hearing people say every year how boring this weekend was. What do you think ?
One Lucky Generation by Marc-André Breault