We just wrapped up the NHL’s 63rd annual All-Star weekend in Tampa Bay, an event in which the league’s brightest stars come together for a largely apathetic celebration of hockey greatness and fans gather on The Twitter to complain about how boring it all is. What a tradition!
Over the past few years, the league has moved away from the standard East and West All-Stars play a five-on-five game. They experimented with a captains format in which players were drafted to teams, which gave us some hilarious moments, like when Phil Kessel was selected last overall. Despite the fantasy draft itself, the game was pretty boring.
As a result, the league moved to a new format to go along with divisional re-alignment. The league was split into four divisions rather than six, and the All-Star game was ultimately flipped to be played as a three-on-three tournament between the four divisions. In the past, the league also experimented with a North America vs World All-Star game, which could have been interesting this year given the lack of NHL players at the Olympics.
Then there’s the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. The standard events are the fastest skater, hardest shot, and accuracy shooting, but this year, the league added some new events, the goalie save streak, the passing challenge, and a re-designed puck control relay. The save streak was sort of a switch from the shootout we had seen as a staple in previous years, the passing challenge was brand new and was sort of confusing, and the puck control relay was just, uh, bizarre. The relay featured players weaving through an obstacle course and then flipping pucks through these gates for some reason. The event kind of turned into who could best execute the lacrosse-style puck pickup.
This year was also the first year since the Skills Competition’s inception in 1990 that the league didn’t keep track of a SuperSkills conference champion. Instead, the winner of each event got $25,000.
All-Star games are a conundrum in all of the major North American sports leagues aside from the NBA. In baseball, the league made it so that the winner between the National League and the American League got home field advantage in the World Series. That was horrible and it was scrapped this year. The Home Run Derby has been a staple, but there’s skepticism around that event because players worry that participating will goof up their swing. In football, the Pro Bowl is an afterthought. Nobody wants to play in it and its held immediately before the Super Bowl in an event that virtually nobody pays attention to. And like I said, basketball is the only sport with a popular All-Star game. It’s inevitable given the league’s celebration of big personalities that getting everyone together for a no-defence bash will be entertaining.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. What would you do to make All-Star Weekend better? Do you think it’s fine as it is? Could the game format be improved? What about the skills competition?
I like the three-on-three tournament format with the cash prize at the end. I think there’s actual incentive to win and three-on-three is always a good time to watch. That said, I think it would be interesting if the All-Star game was tied into some kind of outdoor classic that better matches the aesthetic of the sport. I don’t know if it’s possible to make the skills competition exciting for anyone other than kids, but maybe that’s what this whole thing is about anyway.
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