The All Star break is now over. The league's superstars (and Dennis Wideman) have returned to their teams, non-superstars have pulled themselves off their beach-front lounge chairs, and order has been restored in the NHL universe (proof: Team Senators lost). Since I am a dedicated fan and I own a DVR, I was able to watch the draft, the skills competition and the game. This could also classify me as someone that did not have anything better to do.
Overall, I enjoy watching the game. It has many components to like. The fantasy draft replicates fantasy drafts that many fans participate in before the year starts. The skills competition lets you appreciate just how good these guys are, and also allows the player’s personalities (or lack thereof in Kessel’s case) to be showcased. The game itself lets you watch incredible lines that could only be pulled off in video games. Fun times for all.
I really enjoy the concept and feel of the All Star festivities. That being said, I want to like it even more. Like a true Canadian, I can bitch about just about anything, and the All Star weekend is low hanging fruit. I just can’t get fully behind the whole thing.
In my opinion, the draft show appears to have the production value of a 1980s Canadian game show. The skills competition cannot be the NBA slam dunk competition, and should stop trying to be. The actual game is going to lack the intensity and feel of a regular game. The only all star game in sports that can sort of pull off a “regular” game is baseball.
The product could be better. The NHL should embrace this (and to their credit, they are willing to. The changes in the last couple years demonstrate this). Here are a couple ideas from someone who has an opinion that doesn't really matter at all.
Location: Come to Ottawa in late January! Great! Know what is even better? Come to Columbus in January 2013! So you are trying to tell me we should get angry when star players like Ovechkin or older guys like Selanne say thanks but no thanks? The thing you always here is that players would rather sit on a beach then go to the All Star game. Solution? Welcome to the NHL All Star Game in Miami! Is Columbus not exciting enough for you? How about NYC or LA? I understand that the game is a big feather in the cap for NHL cities. I also think I heard that this year’s game injected around $30 million into Ottawa (so clearly Columbus is jacked about next year). But the NHL should take a big picture look here. I know this does not always happen (Versus vs ESPN anyone?). The city could be as big as a star as the players playing the game. With great locations, you can expect more players, hype and excitement. The only excitement Ottawa had going for it was plenty of knowledgeable fans that cared about the game, and I guess that is a big plus. Did I mention that next year’s game is in Columbus though?
Originality: The draft is original and a big win for the NHL as far as I am concerned. The NHL should be proud of it. If people get a little bent out of shape about the “embarrassment” of being picked last, it is easy to tweak things to take the focus off the last pick. Why not have three separate parts to the draft, one for forwards, one for defenseman and one for goalies. Now there are three last picks, and the focus does not fall on one poor bastard sitting by himself sweating things out. Also, the media does not rush to that one guy to ask him how it feels. Done.
But why stop here though?
While watching the actual game, I started zoning out some time around the middle of the second period. Hey look! Team A takes the puck in their own zone, skates down the ice making about 48 extra passes because everyone is afraid to shoot and look selfish and the defense won’t hit anyone anyway…they move the puck into the zone and score! Rinse and repeat!
Why not shake things up. I know there is not going to be any hitting and the intensity of a regular game is not going to happen. The NHL should recognize this and put on a three hour show instead of a three hour hockey game. The argument that the All-star game sells the casual or non-fan on hockey is ridiculous, so don’t try to play the same game.
Have a period with four-on-four or three-on-three. You think Hartnell was bringing down the Sedin line and everyone wants Alfie to play with them anyway? Don’t just pull Hartnell off that line, trade him during the intermission! Have a referee turn heel, give Tim Thomas two minutes for being a douche and skipping his White House visit and send him to the box. I don’t know, but I would not really mind if the game took a bit of a turn towards a Harlem Globetrotters game if it was more fun to watch. Make a show of it. My favorite parts of the game are seeing the players goofing around with each other. Give them more chances to do this and I would be happy.
Entertainment: The best thing going was the miked up players. Hartnell was fantastic. The “Sedin triplets” thing made me giggle. The play-by-play on the bench was great . Oh, and by the way, I am now going to incorporate the term “Suck it Phaneuf” in everyday use. “Hey, I grabbed the last cold beer out of the fridge, suck it Phaneuf!” Also, even though I am a Leaf fan, I had no idea Lupol was as entertaining as he actually is either. Bring on some more of that please.
I think the best way to improve the entertainment value of the All Star events is to bring in real life, experienced entertainers. The NHL tries this with the NHL award show and fails miserably because they don’t use fans or even hockey savvy stars. Jay Mohr has actually admitted he is not a big fan, but Bettman jumped into bed with him. Twice. I am also pretty sure that the Real Housewives are fans of plastic surgery and materialism, not hockey.
So what about this. You get Mike Myers and Dennis Leary to be the GMs at the next All Star draft (both are NHL fans and both are wildly more entertaining and easier to understand than Chara). You assign them an All Star Captain each, as voted on by the fans, to help with the actual draft (one home team captain would be good as well). Maybe even stick them in a war room with any other help they want to bring with them for advice (Leary can bring his buddy Cam Neely, or some other comedian for back-up. Hell, bring Roenick, that would be great).
During the game, stick them behind the bench as one of the “coaches”. Get them to provide some comic relief throughout the game. I would love to see Leary and Tortorella matched up and let them try to out-angry each other when something goes badly. This would be the closest thing to must-see-TV for me. Are you trying to tell me you would turn the game off after a period? What about someone like Kevin Smith? He would do it (and he could use it as a chance to promote Hit Somebody). Vince Vaughn? Seth Rogan? Jeremy Piven? These guys all show up for hockey games, given the right opportunity, they would show up for this as well.
There are millions of ideas to spice things up a bit, so what do you think people?