The current format for the NHL All-Star Game is fun, fast-paced and safe for the players involved. But does this format take away the true tradition of the sport?
The National Hockey League will have its annual All-Star Game in Tampa, FL on Jan. 28 at Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The All-Star Game, as in the other major sports, is a way to recognize the top players in the league. The teams have been selected in a host of different ways from coaches and player votes to fan voting in arenas and on the internet. The games have always been high scoring because, in almost every game, the hitting is non-existent.
General managers, coaches, and fans surely don’t want to see their star player suffer an injury in an unimportant game that showcases more skill than physicality. With the scores reflected more of a football game as opposed to an NHL game, the league changed their format to 3-on-3 games. The theory was to promote the goal scoring and skill of the players, which seemed smart since no one was worrying about defense and checking anyway.
The question I have is this: If the league has resorted to a practice-style scrimmage game, why play the All-Star Game at all? When the league hosted a regular All-Star Game, it actually resembled a regular-season hockey game. Two teams of 23 players each, skating 5-on-5 hockey for three 20-minute periods.
Instead, the league has decided to use the same format it has used for the last two All-Star Games. The game will be divided into three 20-minute games, with star players from each NHL division—the Pacific, Central, Atlantic, and Metropolitan—making up the teams.
Is this really how the league wants to showcase its best players? They will participate in what could be classified as a drawn-out, extended regular season overtime period. This style of hockey favors the goal scorers and piles on the goals against the All-Star goalies selected to play. We all know the game is supposed to be fun, but why not stick to the tradition of what the National Hockey League truly is?
At the end of the day, the event will be a high-scoring one, regardless of what format they use. Goal scorers rack up the points in these games so why is it so important to eliminate two-thirds of a regulation hockey game? The defense and goaltending are essentially useless now than they are in the traditional games. I’m sure goalies such as Henrik Lundqvist and Jaroslav Halak enjoy the game but resent getting lit up on national television.
I would rather watch John Tavares or Nico Hischier skate in a regular All-Star hockey game than see them skate around in circles and keep getting scoring opportunities until they put the puck into the net. The old style of the All-Star Game worked well and was enjoyed by fans for years. The league added the skills competition which gave the players a venue to showcase their skills in skating, passing and shooting in a rich, competitive way.
The league has to go back to a traditional style of 5-on-5 hockey for the All-Star Game. Then they will once again be able to show the skill of the players in its true hockey roots. This is not the International Ice Hockey Federation fans are coming to see. This is the National Hockey League, where the league has to stop worrying about everything other than the fan. It has commercialized itself enough over the last few years.
It’s time to start worrying about the integrity of the sport and not what plays better on television. This isn’t a circus where we go and see who can do tricks and trapeze swings. This is where the best players in the world come to bring their talent. If Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL can’t recognize that, then maybe they should not play an All-Star Game and instead just announce the All-Star players and call it a day.
Right now the league wants fans to attend and watch a high-end team practice. As most players will tell you that practice can get boring real fast. It is getting boring to the NHL fan also.