Monday, 16 November 2015

Potential Fixes For The NHL All-Star Game

The NHL All-Star Game seems to be as irrelevant as possible today after there were suggestions that it should be the testing ground for new ideas. Personally, I'm sick of seeing this game being pushed further and further into "who cares" territory when it was once the crown jewel for the best-of-the-best in the NHL to come together and showcase their talents. Every year, there's a new bell or whistle added, so it might just be time to strip it down and start over and make it a showcase once more. I can't say that these ideas will work, but they're better than a 3-on-3 pond hockey game or larger nets at the game.

First off, let's drop the fantasy draft. It's a gimmick that's gone for too long, and we need to go back to conference-vs-conference. I want to see Ovechkin, Crosby, and Stamkos line up across from Seguin, Tarasenko, and Pavelski. I want to see Carey Price stare down at Pekka Rinne as the two teams square off. I'm interested in seeing PK Subban tee it up from the point for the Eastern Conference while Dustin Byfuglien does the same for the Western Conference.

This game is about the best players in hockey getting a chance to showcase their talents. That means that the best player from each team goes to the NHL All-Star Game by default, and the remainder of the roster is filled out with the next best players from the conference. Sure, a few players who feel they should be there might be left off, but that should be the catalyst for them to really tear it up in the second half of the season.

Secondly, because we're going back to conference-vs-conference, we need to bring back real All-Star Game jerseys. Enough with the trendy colors that no one likes and the market research into sleek and sophisticated designs. We're not buying it, and your sales should tell you this. Instead, let's move back to the star design with a twist. Instead of having the teal and purple colors for the star color, the colors would be shifted to the host team's color scheme.

For example, if the game is played in Nashville as it is this season, the Western Conference as the home team would wear yellow as their star color while the Eastern Conference road team would wear navy blue as their star color. If the host team is, for example, Toronto who are commonly seen as blue-and-white, the blue color would revert to the home team while while the white color would be worn with the black star jersey template for the road team. There will always be exceptions to the rule - Pittsburgh and Boston are both seen as yellow-and-black - but there are options with the white star for the road team.

The third thing I'd suggest doing is eliminating icing altogether in the NHL All-Star Game. Now you might be saying, "Hey, whoa now, Teebz. That's a gimmick," but there's a reason for this. Since there's no hitting in the game as it is, it's time to open up the offence by having players attempt the stretch pass without penalty. It's time for those with speed and hands to take passes or chase down an errant pass.

Let's be honest here, though, in saying that icing calls are few and far between at an NHL All-Star Game. With the goalies having to respect the trapezoid, you could get a crazy bounce out of the corner where a race for the puck can end up in the back of the net. By eliminating icing, you're also forcing players to retrieve the puck where races can result in goals or fatigue can result in goals. Either way, you're letting your fastest, most talented players loose on the rink, and that's good for hockey.

Finally, if the NHL really wants to have some fun with the NHL All-Star Game, invite the women to play. Have the CWHL and NWHL All-Star Games during the same week, and allow those players to participate in the skills competition. Imagine the Eastern Conference getting the likes of the NWHL's Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, and Kelli Stack on their squad while the Western Conference adds Marie-Philip Poulin, Caroline Ouellette, and Brianne Jenner to their skills competition roster.

With the NHL backing both leagues, reportedly, this would be a fantastic way to put the women's game on the map and really prove that the NHL is interested in growing the women's game. While the two women's leagues are civil to one another, putting them head-to-head gives each a bit of incentive in going all-out in trying to help their respective NHL Conference down the other. Bragging rights? Most definitely. And the NHL brings in an entire section of the market to which they may not even appeal. That's just good business.

If the players aren't excited about 3-on-3 overtime, there's going to be a rash of players who miss this year's NHL All-Star Game with mysterious illnesses and injuries. The NHL All-Star Game needs to go back to its roots when people still cared about the game because it offered the best players on the planet a game where they could showcase their talents. Let the players play and leave the gimmicks to the summer testing periods.

The NHL All-Star Game is about putting the best players the NHL has to offer on the ice. Just let them play hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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