Today’s All-Star game has become something of a farce as of late. Within recent years having big name players dropping out, such as Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk and now most recently from this year Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews who would excel at the new 3 on 3 format. It seems the game has lost its lustre, has lost the honour it once held when every single guy was thrilled to play to represent their conference or country. Wales vs Campbell, North America vs the world, those were the days. There was still a level of playfulness but guys still went hard, they backchecked a little, goalies gave a little extra effort. There was still a sense of pride within the players when they played and now it’s just become some sort of spectacle where no one really gives a flying $@!#. The NHL has to do something to make this game meaningful again, make guys want to play in it, not start campaigns like Jagr (who yes I know is older) did telling everyone to not vote for him, or we have the Rory Fitzpatrick incident in the 2006-2007 season, and now our most recent John Scott debacle.
This game should have some purpose, should have some heart still attached to it. It was refreshing to hear in an interview on Oilers TV with Tom Gazzola and Taylor Hall and see how excited he was and have this little tid bit of a quote “I think it’s going to be a good experience. It’s going to be fast. I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m going to try pretty hard. I’m excited about the whole thing.” Does he need to go out there and try hard, by all means no but he wants to cause there is still meaning to this game to him, there is still a little something to prove out there with best of the best.
Here are some proposing changes in my opinion that could make this game worth something, where guys wouldn’t get sick or “injuries” and miss the game and its festivities.
1.Put something meaningful on the line for the game, not just cash.
I am going to have to steal this idea from the MLB All-star game, which yes is an All-star game to the fans, but to the players, something much bigger is on the line. That being the winning conference AL or NL, gets home field advantage come world series time. I’m not sure if anyone has ever watched one before but these guys still joke around have a little fun, but it’s still down to business and they are doing everything they can to make sure their team wins, in hopes they get home field advantage in the world series. I believe the NHL should adopt this idea, and give the winning conference home ice advantage for the hardest trophy to win in all of the sports. Guys like Ovechkin, and Crosby and Datsyuk and many others wouldn’t be skipping this game and taking their slap on the wrist. Especially guys on cup contenders or guys in playoff positions, they wouldn’t want to miss the chance of ensuring that if their team makes the final, they get the home ice advantage.
Now by all means, I’m not saying for these players to go out and hit and give it 120% and risk an injury and hurt themselves or someone else and kill the rest of their season. Just simply would like to see some more backchecking, some actual defensive play, and guys not cherry picking every shift looking to hang out and overall a bit more effort. Would love to see the goalies not hung out to dry as often, and let them make some impactful saves, keep them in the game. By all means I’m not saying take away that sense of fun and being able to let loose during the game, some of the best moments are the players mic’d up for example in the 2011-2012 All-star game, Scott Hartnell mic’d up and chirping Dion Phaneuf every chance he got, was fantastic to see and showed how light-hearted some of the more aggressive bruisers of the game are.
2.Take away the fan voting, not entirely but establish a new system
Now obviously I might take a little heat on this one, because some tend to enjoy the fact that the fans can have control like they do in deciding who is an NHL All-star and who’s not. One small problem, fans tend to make some poor player a mockery of it or a joke causing incidents like the “Vote for Rory Fitzpatrick” campaign that happened during the 2006-2007 season, even the player going as far as making up T-shirts and pushing himself when he clearly doesn’t belong there. I propose that the NHL establish a committee of Head coaches, scouts and even some analysts and pick the respective players that deserve to be there. You could even just do Head coaches and scouts as they have the best seat in the house every night to know which players belong and which doesn’t. I believe you could get a fair group of the best of the best, but still maintain each team must be represented by minimum 1 player and continue with the captain system and let him pick.
Now as far as the fan voting goes, it shouldn’t be abolished but there should be some sort of restriction in a sense. Instead of having the ability to vote for anyone and writing in anyone one player, have a larger group handpicked by the selection committee, which could be a mix of fan favorites from each team and rookies, or however they would like to break it up that way.Keep say 1 spot open per team, a wildcard position if you must and let the fans vote on that player. It keeps the fans interactive still and ices the best product for the weekend, even in the skills competition.
3. Last not but not least, which is the most drastic idea, but create heavy fines and suspensions for missing out.
It always seems so convenient that a player comes down with an illness or a nagging injury that just so happens to flare up days before the All-star game. These guys may not know it, but they are dropping the value of this game, the game its self is losing the integrity and it’s sad to see. Yes I do understand some guys really can’t play and could use the few days rest, but the NHL needs to set up a neutral doctor in these situations to make sure these guys are in fact A-okay to play and aren’t just using a little sore wrist to get out what’s supposed to be an amazing display of skill and raw talent, especially this year with the new 3 on 3 format. Start making these players accountable in a big way for missing and I’m certain they will think twice before missing. But maybe if ideas 1 and 2 happen, they won’t need to even worry about this. I do understand they get a little slap on the wrist for missing the game, but I would rather see a heavier fine and heavier suspension if a player is, in fact, choosing not go without a legitimate reason.
In closing, we all just want to see the best of the best in the NHL face off against each other, the ones who deserve to be there at. Watch them enjoy themselves on the ice and still show the lighter side of what can be a brutal sport sometimes. Also, have them share a fantastic weekend with their families, cause for some this is their first or their last All-Star experience. The NHL needs to do something to make this game more meaningful, give it more purpose, they made it more exciting with the 3 on 3. Now it’s time to make this game worth something again, and restore the honour this weekend once had and bestowed upon its participating players and not just make it all for the show, but again make it so players are counting down the days to get there and putting something important on the line.
Here’s a look at the 2016 NHL All-Star Jerseys in case no one as seen them, let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading everyone, let me know what you think @madi39 on twitter or in the comments section below!