All-star game a bust
NHL’s mid-season showcase needs to change
With boos, cheers and heckles raining down from a boisterous Ottawa crowd, the NHL All-Star weekend took place on Jan. 26.
Or, was it more like disinterested fans watching disinterested players play a game meaning next to nothing?
The game has been criticized in past years — some going so far as to say it should be abolished.
Matt Lippitt, an avid hockey fan said the all-star game doesn’t cater to those already invested in the sport.
“I think it’s definitely for the fair-weather fan,” Lippitt said. “The game itself is like shinny.
“I watch a bit of it, but it seems targeted at the casual viewer.”
The game traditionally lacks intensity and emotion. This is no surprise as players need to be weary of injury with another half-season left to play. What isn’t lacking is the opportunity to catch a glimpse of players’ personalities.
“I watch the skills competition because guys are mic’d up — it makes it more fun,” Lippitt said. “I think it helps sell the game when you see the players’ personalities.”
One notable NHL personality who didn’t attend the all-star game is Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, after being suspended for three games for a hit on Pittsburgh Penguins Zbynek Michalek.
“I think it definitely doesn’t help when Ovechkin isn’t there,” Lippitt said. “He’s a prominent player in the league. Most fans are probably asking, ‘who the hell is Scott Hartnell?”
Passing on the game has become trendy among players. Niklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne have passed on this year’s affairs. Pavel Datsyuk, this year’s first overall all-star draft pick, skipped last year to nurse a lingering injury, despite playing the regular-season games leading up to the break.
Steve Monteith, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, doesn’t really mind who is present at the all-star game.
“It has the league’s best players. I never watch it for just one guy, so if a couple people aren’t there, who cares,” Monteith said. “I’m not going to be devastated if Zdeno Chara isn’t there to slap a puck over 120 miles an hour.”
The overlying mantra for players at the all-star game is to take it easy and have fun. Conversely, it may be just that attitude that pushes viewers away.
“The media is trying to get players to open up and chat, but the players don’t want to be there,” Monteith said. “It’s awkward.”
For years, the NHL has received criticism regarding the care-free attitude of the all-star game. For most players not participating in the game it’s a time to relax with family or go on vacation. The league’s best players are forced to continue working.
While Lippitt admits to watching the game as a form of “mild entertainment,” he thinks there are other professional leagues that do the all-star game better.
Baseball’s all-star game pits the American League against the National League. The MLB not only pays the winning team, but the winner of the game gets home-field advantage in the World Series. “I would be more invested in the game if home-ice advantage was on the line,” Lippitt said.”
Monteith added the seriousness and intensity of the MLB all-star game trumps the NHL’s version, which recently introduced a new format where team captains are elected to pick the teams.
“The draft captains are overly nice,” Monteith said. “The fans are only cheering for players on their home team because they don’t care who else gets picked.