Seriously, did Horton's doughnuts run out of coffee on the morning the NHL announced the changes to the All Star game? It seemed like just about every hockey writer had a lot of negative things to say about the weekend long event, and I guess I can't quite figure out why. I just assume that there was a coffee shortage.
The common threads seemed to be the following:
1. That mostly everyone feels that this is just an opportunity for corporate sponsors and the like to rub elbows with the best the game has to offer.
2. The level of competition in the game is a joke, and as such this game isn't a good example of hockey, or even all that fun to watch.
3. The players usually put on the ballots for fan voting tend to be more about name recognition than performance recognition.
I will respond to each of these points, and then we can wash our hands of this talk and move on with the rest of the hockey season.
1. Yeah - it's called running a professional sports league. Teams and the league itself receive money so that particular products can be associate with hockey and the NHL. I don't see what the big deal is. That we give these people who pump so much green into our favorite teams the chance to meet Steven Stamkos?
Suck it up.
I take pride in the fact that hockey players are rarely the pampered athlete type, and the "they deserve a weekend off instead" argument is nuts. Yeah the players are tired. That's why watching a squad lift the Cup carries so much emotion.
I can't recall a single instance of a team claiming they could have won the Cup if they hadn't sent three of their players to the All Star Game.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
This is their profession, and the media side of the job is much, much less demanding than that of any other sport (except for in Canada, where I honestly believe that the media coverage is actually a detriment to the game... but that's neither here nor there.) Asking our best players to put on suits and schmooz two weekends a year - the All Star Game and Awards Night - isn't that big of a deal.
And they have fun playing together. They all bring their family members along and hang out and get sticks signed, etc... The players get to schmooz too!
So, to the point, the game is profitable and has positive impact on the League's bottom line.
2. If you don't like the level of competition, then perhaps you missed the point of the All Star Game. Which is to watch the league's best dip and doodle in ways that are usually only reserved for practices and time off during the summer.
Admit it. The possibility of watching Sid make a no look, behind the back pass to Pav Datsyuk who fakes a shot and drops the puck back again to a trailing Danny Heatly is a pretty awesome one. Sure, there isn't a lot of hitting or back checking. But we get that for 82 games a season, plus four rounds of playoffs.
I say lets marvel at the pure, crystallized and mostly uninterrupted talent flow that occurs on the ice. How many rule changes have been implemented to increase goal scoring? And a lot of people feel it hasn't been enough.
How people manage to complain about a 11 to 9 offensive showcase is kind of beyond me. I savor the chance to not watch a team trap another one to death for 60 minutes.
So the All Star Game is fun. Which seems to be a dirty F-word to hockey "purists", but I digress...
3. This point I kind of agree with. Which isn't any fun - agreeing, that is. But usually some of the players who are nominated don't deserve to be there, and are only there because of the name on the back of the jersey.
Unfortunately the All Star Game is one of the leagues few opportunities to receive any kind of mild national press coverage that doesn't involve a rude gesture from one player to another, hits from behind, or a 100,000,000 dollar man missing a shootout shot entirely.
In short, we need the name recognition element to the game for it to have any kind of "growing the game" effect.
Hockey fans, for whatever reason, have this shut-in mindset. That the game is theirs and only theirs and no efforts should be made to include the casuals.
Well guess what. We need the casuals. Casuals fill up the seats that season ticket holders don't buy up. And lets be honest. Right now most clubs need all the Casuals they can get.
So the All Star Game gives the NHL positive media recognition.
Lets recap then. This one weekend out of the hockey season is profitable, fun, and gives the game positive media recognition and you want to cancel the thing and replace it with rest and relaxation?
Maybe Horton's didn't run out of coffee... maybe someone spiked it with some kind of hallucinogenic drug... because that just doesn't make any damn sense.