Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fixing the NHL All-Star Game

As I sit here and watch the Eastern Conference pile up the first period goals, I am left wondering what the NHL can do to fix it's All-Star game. The Saturday Skills Competition is way more entertaining than the Sunday no-hit, no-save, shot-fest. One of the main problems with the game is that no pure hockey fan really enjoys it because there isn't any intensity, and the casual hockey fan probably doesn't even know it is on. This really could be the best All-Star game of any sport, I mean when was the last time you watched more than a quarter of the Pro Bowl? Here are some ways to fix the NHL All-Star Game:

*Move the game outdoors. We all saw how awesome the Penguins/Sabres game on January 1st was. The weather conditions and how good it looked in HD helped make it the most watched regular season game in years. If the NHL moved the All-Star game to an outdoor location in a cold weather city, thousands more fans will tune in just to see if it is snowing. Of course, I doubt the players would want to play an exhibition game in the cold and snow because of injury risks, so this idea may not be very likely. It would be an instant fix if they ever convinced the players to do it.

*Change the format to Stanley Cup Champs vs. All Stars. The idea of the Eastern Conference playing the Western Conference is boring. There are no rivals across the conferences, and who really cares who wins? The whole idea is flawed from a fans perspective. As a Flyer fan, I root for the Flyers in the game, not the Eastern Conference as a whole. Why would I want to root for the Devils and Rangers players to do well when I hate them? Instead, let's have the previous years Cup winner play against a team of all stars made up of the best player on each team. The Ducks might not love having to play an extra game, but it's better than forcing them to open their season in London (nice call, NHL). Some might argue that the All Star team would blow out the defending champs, but I would disagree. The defending champs have played 40+ games together, while an All-Star team is slapped together for one game. I also like the idea of having just one representative from each team, so that way we don't have 15 Red Wings players.

*Get it on a real network in the US. Versus is just an awful network. I am shocked that this game isn't on NBC. This one is out of the NHL's hands, but they need to be doing everything to beg ESPN to start showing hockey games again. The coverage on Versus is lame, and if I have to sit through one more hunting commercial during a hockey game, I think I'm gonna be sick.

*Have the players wear their team jerseys. Figuring out which player is which is nearly impossible when the only thing that signifies what team a player plays for is a small patch on their right shoulder. Sometimes the players wear different jersey numbers, too. Get these guys in their regular jerseys, having one team in white and the other in their darks. The players are smart enough to figure out who is on what team. The average fan will give up watching the game when they can't tell who the players are.

*Don't play in Atlanta. Stop playing these games in dead markets in warm weather cities. Keep to the Northeast and Canadian cities if you want fans in the stands that actually care about the game.

So those are my ideas for a more interesting All-Star game. Obviously, the first idea about playing the game outside would really be the most interesting, but the NHL probably would never go for it. Let's hope they make some changes to make this game more watchable. Any other ideas about what the NHL could do?

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