9 Reasons Why They Should Just Pull The Plug On The NHL All-Star Game
This may come to a shock to some sports fans, but the 2012 NHL All-Star Game is this weekend. No, really. And I’ll give you twenty bucks if you can tell me where the game is being held without hitting up Google. (Just kidding. I will not be giving anyone twenty bucks.)
I mean no disrespect to the NHL or hockey in general. In fact, hockey is one of my favorite sports. I watch at least a couple of games a week, and come playoff time I hardly ever leave the couch. But the NHL All-Star Game is so freakin lame, you just can’t get excited about it. If a serious fan like me had no idea the game would be on January 29 until about January 22, how earth does the NHL think they’re going to attract any casual fans?
And the thing is, the NHL doesn’t need this silly nonsense. Take it away, and I guarantee no one would miss it. So I think it’s time they put an end to the whole thing and let us all move on with our lives.
But just in case you’re not sold yet on the idea of scrapping the NHL All-Star Game, here are 9 reasons why the league needs to pull the plug.
The hockey players “lucky” enough not to be chosen for the NHL All-Star Game (or who, like Nicklas Lindstrom, asked in advanced not to be included) get a nice long break in late January to let their bruises, pulls, and fractures heal. The other guys have to travel, participate in a bunch of media events, then “play” in a game. Sure, the game is a cakewalk, with no defense and no checking, but they still have to expend energy and there is always a chance for a freak injury.
And for what? An Olympic gold medal? Nope. For, um, nothing. So let’s just have a mid-season beak and let players heal for the stretch run.
9. Players need a real break
Do players have fun at the All-Star Game? Sure. But do players really care about the game? No, definitely not. Alexander Ovechkin made that clear this week when the pouting superstar dropped out of the game after being suspended 3 games by the league for a dirty hit.
Of course, players and fans and commentators all gave Ovie a ton of crap for this move—which was childish at best. But no one minds when classy veterans abstain (like the aforementioned Nick Lindstrom) simply because they’re old. And you know why no one minds? Because they don’t care about the game. In the case of the formerly Great 8, people just don’t like that he’s being a big crybaby.
8. Players don’t care
How the hell is the sports world supposed to take notice of the NHL All-Star Game when the put it in the off-weekend between the NFL Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl? Every media outlet has all their writers and reporters preparing Super Bowl stories and getting ready to head to Indianapolis.
And fans don’t really have time for it, either. I mean, in an ideal world, the NHL All-Star Game would be an occasion for hockey fans to throw All-Star parties in their basement rec rooms with nachos and cold beer. But that aint going to happen when the game is held a week before the Super Bowl.
7. Too close to the Super Bowl
On one level, I actually like the NHL’s new All-Star Game format. The league designates two players as All-Star captains, and these two guys then choose players for their teams (like you did at recess in grade school) in a televised event billed as the “All-Star Fantasy Draft.”
The whole thing is actually fun to watch (if you’re a hardcore hockey fan) because you see who the players really think of each other, and of course also because someone has to be humiliated by being picked last.
But here’s the problem: after the fun of the draft, which team am I supposed to root for? Sure, if you have one player who is without a doubt your #1 favorite in the league, you root for his team. But what if your favorite teams sends more than one player that you like, and then those guys end up on different teams? Who do you root for then?
Answer: no one. And that’s a problem, because most fans want to root for one team or the other. Competition is built on the psychology of “us vs. them,” and sports is boring without it.
6. Fans have no team to root for
One of the things that makes the MLB All-Star Game somewhat worth watching is that the venue is featured prominently. This is partly because televised baseball by its very nature puts the venue on display, and party because baseball stadiums just tend to have more character than stadiums in other sports. So if the game is held at Fenway or Yankee Stadium or PNC Park or Wrigley Field, it’s worth tuning in just to see the game in a cool setting.
Which brings us to hockey arenas—or, more specifically, to the fact that there are no longer any interesting ones. All the cool old barns (like Chicago Stadium, Maple Leaf Gardens, or the St. Louis Arena) have been replaced with places that are all indistinguishable on television. So to fans tuning in from, say, Worcester, MA, it makes no difference whether the game is being held in Ottawa (which it is, this year) or Anaheim.
Now, if only they could hold the game in some unique venue. Perhaps outside, in a baseball or football stadium. Now that might be something. Hmm...
5. No cool venues
Hockey, like football, is too tough a sport for teams to just allow their players to go full-tilt right in the middle of the season. Of course, the NFL has the good sense to hold the Pro Bowl after the regular season.
But the NHL insists on holding their event in the middle of the season. So the result is a “spectacle” that looks nothing at all like a real professional hockey game and in no way showcases what the game has to offer.
So what was the point of having an All-Star Game again?
4. Actual game sucks
Back in the day, if a hockey fan in Minneapolis wanted to see Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux play, they had to wait for a national telecast (which were rare) or for the one time a year those guys actually came to their town. Thus, the All-Star Game really was a unique opportunity to see great players.
These days any hockey fan can purchase NHL’s primo television package, NHL Center Ice, from their television providers. Or if they’re really cutting edge, they can purchase the online version and watch just about every out-of-market hockey game on their computer, smart phone, or iPad. Either way, you can watch any hockey star play on any given night. You don’t need to wait around for the All-Star Game.
So doesn’t that make the game sort of obsolete?
3. NHL Center Ice
Let’s suppose the game isn’t obsolete. Let’s suppose there are a hundred really great reasons to keep playing the NHL All-Star Game.
Here’s my next question: who are the stars?
I don’t mean, who are the great players? There are lots of those. But there are so few stars that appeal to the broader sports-watching public.
Who outside of the injured Sidney Crosby and the quitter Alex Ovechkin is a household name in the United States? (Canada doesn’t count, because guys like Kyle Wellwood are household names in Canada.)
If you answered “no one,” you’d be correct. For too long, the NHL has put all its marketing eggs in only two baskets (Sid and Ovie) while ignoring other marketable players. As a result, only die-hard hockey fans will know more than 3 or 4 players at this Sunday’s All-Star Game. And that is bad news for TV ratings and, thus, advertising dollars.
2. Too few real “stars”
You know what’s an awesome event? The Winter Classic.
The game offers a unique television viewing experience because it’s played outdoors at a non-hockey venue. It takes place on a day that doesn’t have much sports competition, since college football basically gave away their monopoly on New Year’s Day sports. And, most importantly, the game counts, which means people tuning in will see real hockey and not a friendly scrimmage.
So with such a fun, marketable event already established, why should the NHL keep holding on to the mid-season All-Star Game?
I say it’s time to pull the plug and focus on the Winter Classic.
Who’s with me?