Monday, November 24, 2008

All-Snooze Game

I'll state right off the bat what some know - I'm a Penguins fan. That means I have a hard time finding anything positive to say about the city of Washington, D.C. (on a variety of levels, but that's a different story) or the Capitals.

Not the case this time.

This is a little less than a week old, but it's a brief though humorous blog entry by Caps owner Ted Leonsis.

He posted a link to an article by a Canadian writer stating - sarcastically or not - what a joy it was that the Canadiens supporters had each of their six All-Star Game nominees leading the voting, which would lead to a starting lineup of all Montreal players in the city of Montreal.

Mr. Leonsis said, "What if the All-Star Game was in Nashville?" Implying a starting cast of all Predators, if the writer would be singing the same tune. I enjoyed the post.

I'm not going to rag about the voting process. Any All-Star Game is a popularity contest. I won't accuse anything shady going on with the voting to date. I think everyone who's been around the NHL knows how passionate Habs fans are. In fact, it doesn't surprise me at all that the Montreal players are leading. (As it stands now, there will almost be a lineup of Habs vs. Wings; Detroit players lead the forwards, Lidstrom and Rafalski are 1-3 in defensemen and Osgood, who is not having a good year at all, is second in goalies, but behind Luongo.)

Want to hear something fishy? Penguins defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are on the ballot. That shouldn't be. Gonchar won't be back until well after the game and Whitney won't return until a few weeks before. (By the way, Gonchar's fourth and Whitney's sixth.)

No, what I'm saying is - do away with the All-Star Game.

Yes, you heard me. Get rid of it.

The game serves no purpose. It doesn't even have much entertainment value. Sorry, but goals every five seconds, no defense, no checking, no penalties, just isn't that exciting for me. No one remembers who wins or the score, or the MVP. It leads to "controversies" like this year - "Are the Habs fans doctoring the voting?" It leads to constant talk about who got snubbed and who's unworthy. It leads to Rory Fitzpatrick situations. It might provide something to talk about, but really, it seems like something people get far too worked up about when it really is rather meaningless.

Granted there have been some outstanding memories from the game - Google or Youtube ones in particular if you want, I won't name specifics. But I think the Skills competition the night before is much more fun and interesting. That's what I try to catch every year, not the game.

The only two highlights, for me, from last year's game were these: The announcers talking to East starter Rick DiPietro at the faceoff, then Rick Nash coming down and scoring just seconds into the contest during the chat between the goalie and the booth; and Manny Legace's comment when Gary Bettman discussed shrinking goalie equipment because goalies are getting bigger. Legace said, and I can't remember the exact quote, but it went something like, "What?! I'm 5-9!"

Don't know who won. Was last year when Eric Staal had a hat trick?

One year I completely missed the game. I can't remember if I was out of town for work or what, but All-Star Weekend came and went for me. All I thought was, "Oh well."

Plus, it's not an All-Star roster. It's a first-half All-Star team, sometimes not even based on merit. (Niklas Backstrom is fifth in voting among Western goalies. Fifth! Only Tim Thomas has better numbers among regular starters in the league than Backstrom.)

If the NHL wants to keep the idea of All Stars around, fine. Name the "teams" at the end of the season when we see how players fare throughout the grind. Don't name them after a couple of months and don't have them actually suit up for a game.

In the game's defense, I like the camaraderie and togetherness the players display. One example is Jeremy Roenick razzing Dany Heatley about his missing teeth in 2003. But again, I remember that more than Heatley's four goals (five if you want to count the shootout one).

I'd love to see the skills competition remain. But if we do away with the game, we'd have to do away with the competition or find a replacement for the game. It doesn't make much sense getting the players together for one day. I'm not sure what we'd replace the game with though - any ideas or suggestions, feel free to post away. The writer in the above linked article said the All-Star team used to play the defending Cup champion. Well, as the results stand, that will essentially happen (never mind that one of the would-be starters wasn't actually on the Cup-winning team). But I'm not really sure I like that idea either. I guess I'm against the whole idea of having an exhibition game in the middle of the season.

I'd almost rather see a two-day skills event than a game. That won't happen of course. The league will continue to have the all-star game and people will continue to not watch.

This isn't NHL-specific either. Baseball's all-star game is much the same, I'd imagine the NBA's is as well (not something I follow), and the NFL Pro Bowl is quite possibly the lamest sporting event ever created.

I only watch the all-star game to see how the local team's players fare. If the game meant something - as baseball attempted to do with its all-star game - that would raise the stakes. Except what could it mean? You can't put home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals on the line. Hand out a trophy for bragging rights? Extra money to the winner?

I think that last one would get teams to play hard. What better motivator than money? Yet at the same time, how depressing would it be if that's what it might take to get a real game out of the event?

So just get rid of it. Give the players the weekend off, don't make them play a pointless exhibition where they risk injury on each play (just look at how innocent-looking a play resulted in a possibly serious injury to Luongo.) Name them All-Stars at the end of the season to see who's actually deserving.



Nick in New York said...

I watch the game because I just like watching hockey, and because it's sort of a tradition to me personally.

Since there's no hitting anyway, one thing that I think would be cool would be to let fans play.

I think it started as a charity event (Ace Bailey, no?) so I say each team sponsors a thing where fans of their team try to garner the most pledged dollars towards whatever the charity (NHL-chosen) is.

Then, the top twenty pledge-garnering get to play a mini game at their team's rink as a "thank you".

Then the top pledge-garnering fan from each team gets to go to the ASG and play in a mini-game comprised of the top pledge-garnerers from every other team at some point during the rest of the All-Star weekend.

Then, the top pledge-garnering fan from each conference actually suits up for the game representing that conference. Promise them one shift or something like that.

All the money pledged by all participants goes to the charity so everyone wins.

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Interesting idea.

I watch the game, but it's almost more like I feel obligated to watch it; stick together with the sport of my choice kind of thing. There's worse things, I guess.