The NHL’s annual All-Star Weekend came and went and there’s a very good chance you didn’t pay any attention to it. If you did, you probably tuned into either the Skills Competition on Friday or the Three-on-Three Tournament on Saturday because there was nothing else on.
The reality is the NHL All-Star game is boring. This isn’t just an NHL thing. It’s the case for all of the major North American sports save for the NBA. The NBA’s big personalities cater to a spectacle like the All-Star game and the Slam Dunk Competition has always been a riot. The Pro Bowl is a disaster and I don’t think it’s ever been PVR’d once in its history. The MLB All-Star game was so boring that the league tried to force it to be relevant by letting the winner decide who gets home-field advantage in the World Series. That said, the Home Run Derby compensates for the MLB All-Star game being boring.
There’s been talk that the NHL and NHLPA might opt to scrap the game altogether. Still, while the All-Star game is far from perfect, it’s a staple in North American sports. It’s been going on for over 70 years now and simply removing it seems like a poor way to treat a tradition. Being selected to an All-Star game adds value to a player’s legacy and it’s the only time during the season where the league’s best come together to be celebrated. I feel like the All-Star game has brought us some great memories and pictures from the past and scrapping it would rob us of more in the future.
At this stage of the season, players want to enjoy a break and it’s hard to get them to try hard to make the All-Star game interesting. That brings us to this weekend’s What Would You Do Wednesday BONUS EDITION question. How do you make All-Star Weekend interesting?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a few creative formats used to generate interest in the All-Star game. For a few years, the league did a gym class style draft, in which two captains did a fantasy draft to put together their teams. We got funny moments like Phil Kessel sitting by himself before being selected last and a Kessel for Seguin trade, but the game itself was still dull as ever. The league then switched to a three-on-three tournament, which was exciting at first but has since become repetitive. There used to be a write-in fan vote to get random players to the All-Star game, but the NHL couldn’t handle the hilariousness of John Scott being named a captain, so they scrapped that.
The Skills Competition is pretty good, I think. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it functions as a chance for players to show off a little personality, much like the Dunk Competition and the Home Run Derby. Even if the NHL wanted to scrap the game, the Skills Competition is still something that could continue to exist. Some events like the passing challenge aren’t overly interesting, but the fastest skater and the shootout are always a good time. You could spice things up further by adding wacky stuff like…
- Bubble hockey. It’s a staple of intermission entertainment around the league. Get players to play a game with those big bubble suits on.
- Dodgeball. Get a different sport into the mix and have players throw balls at each other. The Florida Everblades of the ECHL did this with Rob Gronkowski.
- 3 vs 100. Have 100 kids play a game against three players. Three professional soccer players did this and it was wild.
- Get fans in the mix. If the NHL wants to remove the three-on-three tournament, some rendition of it can be kept alive in the skills competition. Imagine bringing fans who trash talk on Twitter on the ice to play with against NHL players.
- Goalie and player switch. I feel bad for the goalies in the shootout because the entertainment value of the event involves them getting lit up. Have players throw on the pads and see what happens.
The more difficult of All-Star Weekend is the game itself. As I said earlier, it’s hard to get the players to try hard and make these games intense because they’re all hungover and nobody wants to get injured in a meaningless game. Maybe the All-Star game could be more of a spectacle in a different way.
- Do it as an outdoor game. One thing the NHL has done right in recent years is their outdoor games. They produce cool jerseys and put on incredible outdoor spectacles year after year in different locations. Maybe the All-Star game would be cooler is it was outside.
- Play the game in Europe. Maybe fans in North America don’t care about the All-Star game, but I bet European fans would enjoy it. The league is actively trying to expand its global presence so maybe it would be worthwhile to use the All-Star game to do so.
- Bring back World v. North America. This was a thing the NHL implemented in the late-90s and did for a few years to add more intensity and pride to the All-Star game. If you wanted to keep the three-on-three tourney style thing, you could take a page from the World Cup of Hockey book and do Canada, the United States, Europe, and a rookie team.
- Just let the fans pick everyone. I mean, it is about the fans, right? John Scott’s inclusion in the game was easily the best moment of the past decade and the league actively tried to make it not happen. Forget including one guy from each team and let the fans go wild.
- Have an NHL All-Stars v. KHL All-Stars game. This would be wild. In 1987, the NHL did Rendez-vous ’87, in which the NHL All-Star team played against the Soviet Union squad. It would spice up a bit of a rivalry between the two leagues.
What say you, Nation? How do you spice up All-Star Weekend? Is it salvageable? Should it just stay the way it is?