Monday, January 26, 2009

Fixing the NHL All-Star Game, Version 2.0

Last year, I laid out my thoughts on how to fix the NHL All-Star Game, a game that was once an exciting contest that has devolved into a hit-less scoring fest. Despite the thrilling finish to this years game, the Saturday Skills Competition continues to be the better event. It's the one time we get to see the stars up close and personal doing what they do best, although the "breakaway challenge" is pretty hokey. This year, I want to re-visit the ideas that I had from last year because they are all still pretty applicable for how to make the NHL All-Star Game a must watch for all sports fans.

*Move the game outdoors. The Winter Classic has been an instant hit. For two years in a row, the NHL showcased its game with an outdoor contest that looks amazing in HD. 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. Sure, this would leave out some deserving players from teams other than the Stanley Cup winner, but with the joke that was the fan voting this year, would it really be that different? 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 like this idea more than some sort of North America vs. the World idea because it doesn't pit teammates against one another. Guys who play together all season long shouldn't have to be opponents for one silly exhibition game.

*Get it on a real network in the US. Versus is getting better, but it still is not a big-time 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. Get the kind of crappy deal the AFL got just to get the game more exposure.

*Have the players wear their team jerseys. This bothers me every year. 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 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, just like in the Young Stars game. 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.

Those are my ideas adapted from my thoughts from last season. They all still hold true. The NHL already has a better All-Star Game than the Pro Bowl but a few of these changes could make it a must-see, kind of like baseball. Of course, if they could simply have all the best players playing and not bailing out like a bunch of wusses (Crosby!), that would really help the game out.


Joe W. Linden said...

its good, i just have two gripes with it.

- Stanley cup winners vs. all stars? i mean sure the team that wins it all is obviously the best in the league, but theres NO WAY a regular team could stand up against an all-star team. it'd be like the harlem golbetrotters, minus the staging.
normally i would hate evegni malkin, but last night i could just see him as another skater (and a good one at that). instead of hating his guts i enjoyed watching him play for once.

- secondly i HATE what MLB does in letting the players wear their own jerseys. its two seperate teams, not thirty. now i will admit the ones they wore last night were horrendous, so maybe they should mandate permanent all-star jerseys. last years model was GORGEOUS.

you can't go wrong with outside games.

i hate "VS.". remember when hockey was on ESPN? god, those were the days.

EnriqueFed said...

Just to respond:
-Like I say in the post, the Stanley Cup winners will fare better than you think because they have played together. It will be an All-Star game style anyway so it will probably be close

-I like the look of the All Star jerseys, it's just not possible to tell who is who. The designation of who is from which team is very difficult to see, it's not like the Pro Bowl where they at least have a logo on their helmet. The casual fan won't stick around long enough to figure out who is from their favorite team if it isn't easy to tell

-The NHL should just offer to show games on ESPN for free and enjoy the exposure the game would get