The National Hockey League has grown by leaps and bounds in every aspect of the game except one—the sad spectacle that is the NHL All-Star Game.
The National Hockey League has grown into a premier sport over the last 20 years in the United States. The league possesses the best championship trophy in all of the major sports and a great fan base that attends games all across the country and, of course, in Canada.
So why can’t the NHL have a normal All-Star Game like (most of) the other major sports?
The NBA, NFL, MLB, and MSL all have actual games for their all-star contests. Heck, even the NLL has an All-Star Game that resembles a real lacrosse game. Why is the NHL the only league to drastically change the traditions of the game by offering a 3-on-3 tournament-style game?
I understand the league was getting tired of the high-scoring 15-14 games. There was no hitting and no defense, with the goalies being hung out to dry all game. But the game had structure; it had much-valued tradition.
The other major sports leagues aren’t concerned about the score. They care more about putting a product on the field or court that represents the values of their game. This is the area in which the NHL has failed, big time.
The league has lost its way.
When the league wanted to make a change a few years back, the NHL went old school. They went back to pick-up hockey games, choosing two captains who picked teams they way they did when they were kids. It was fun and entertaining, with the drafting televised. The last player chosen—you remember that from when you were a young kid—well, he was awarded got a car.
That was better than when Oprah Winfrey gave away her cars, or so my wife tells me.
It was such a popular idea the NBA copied it. What happened to that time of hockey?
The NHL All-Star Game used to bring in all of the league’s best players for the game and skills competition. Now, due to the new format, there aren’t as many players invited.
In case you missed it, here are the players selected to play in the game. The captains were chosen via fan vote.
Those are all good players. Also, there is another fan vote to add one more player from among the many who weren’t selected.
Speaking of the players who didn’t make the game, yes, I have a beef with that too!
A quick look at the snubbed players tells you why the league has lost its way:
- Patrik Laine (WPG): 24 Goals, 31 Points
- Mitch Marner (TOR): 13 Goals, 53 Points
- Leon Draisaitl (EDM): 22 Goals, 51 Points
- Sean Monahan (CLG): 22 Goals, 50 Points
- Jeff Skinner (BUF): 26 Goals, 39 Points
- Chris Kreider (NYR): 20 Goals, 31 Points
- Kris Letang (PIT): 9 Goals, 35 Points
- Morgan Rielly (TOR): 13 Goals, 44 Points
I know change can be good, but this change is not good for the game of hockey. The All-Star contest is now merely a continuation of the skills competition played on the Saturday before the game. These are the best players in the world, so why not keep them in their element?
The current format doesn’t just discriminate against the goaltenders. It is also a slap in the face of the defenseman. The format is all for the forwards, and even offensive defensemen don’t get to show how good they are.[membership level="0"]
The league needs to bring the game of hockey back to its All-Star format: five-on-five, 21 players plus three goalies on each side. Fans deserve to see the best of the best.
Another idea the league used in the past is USA and Canada vs. the world. A little Olympic flair can go a long way when it comes to representing your country at the All-Star Game. There are so many possibilities for making this game great again.
Therefore, I am personally pleading with the NHL to bring traditional hockey back to the All-Star Game. The fans and the great players in the NHL deserve it.