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Friday, January 9, 2009

An All-Star Game Worth Watching

The NHL All-Star game is rapidly approaching, which means that it's time to start tossing out ideas for improving the game. I was going to save my opinions for the All-Star break, but I figure by that time, we'll all be sick of reading/thinking/talking about it, so I'm putting my two cents in now.

Tex Jr. and I attended the A.S.G. in Dallas in 2007, and the following is the sum total of my memory of the event:

1. Paying $25 to park in my normal lot, where the "normal" game charge is $15.

2. Paying $125 per ticket to sit one row below the rafters.

3. Listening to Tex Jr. enumerate the reasons why he ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE that $250 Vinny Lecavalier Replica (not even Authentic!) All-Star jersey.

3A. Explaining to Tex Jr. that there was NO WAY ON THIS EARTH that I was going to pay $250 for a Replica (not even Authentic!) jersey that would be deeply discounted before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. (ED NOTE: Tex Jr. did get his jersey - a month after the event, for $119)

4. Oh, yeah: Dion Phaneuf's bank-shot empty net goal from behind his own net.

That's it. The first few minutes are cool, because you're overcome by the TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME-ness of seeing the best players in the game today, assembled on one sheet of ice. Slowly, though, it dawns on you: These guys are just trying to avoid injury! They have absolutely nothing to play for, so I can't really blame them. This got me to thinking: How could you make this thing worthwhile for the players and watchable for the fans?

In my lifetime, the most exciting All-Star Game was...actually a two-game series. Remember Rendez-Vous '87? Played in Quebec City, it featured a team of NHL All-Stars against the Soviets. Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Bourque and Hawerchuk on the same team. Kamensky, Fetisov, Makarov, Krutov and Larionov on the other side. Come to think of it, Chris Chelios was there, too. Blatantly biased officiating. Cold War overtones. Some of the best non-playoff hockey I've ever seen.

While the political backdrop for the series will (hopefully) never be recreated, I believe a game featuring the NHL All-Stars and a National Team (rotating annually) would be worth watching. With one team playing for national pride and the other playing to prove that the NHL is superior to any national program, there are bound to be fireworks.

As I see it, the games would work like this: Say, for example, the NHL All-Stars face off against Finland this year. The NHL would work with the Finnish Hockey Federation to ensure proper representation of Finns currently in the NHL on the national team roster (while this shouldn't be an issue with Finland, I can see problems when dealing with Russia). No Finns in the NHL would be eligible to play on the NHL All-Star team, so no one has to play against his own country. Obviously, roster spots not filled by NHL Finns would be filled by players from the SM-liiga, as selected by the national hockey federation.

In addition, the NHL All-Stars should be selected by the players, the coaches and the General Managers, period. Once the players have been selected, let the fans vote to assemble lines, defensive pairs, and the goalie rotation. Use the Skills Competition to decide home ice advantage for the All-Star Game.

As I said, the opponent would rotate throughout the IIHF each year. While the NHL vs Canada or the United States would obviously be quite appealing, the idea of the NHL vs Russia holds a certain nostalgic appeal for me. Plus, the thought of a line of Ovechkin-Datsyuk-Malkin facing off against Hossa-Crosby-Kane makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Let the (New and Improved All-Star) Games begin!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis

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