Give the NHL All-Stars something to play for
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 20, 2015
The format for selecting the top players to be involved in the annual NHL All-Star Game and Super Skills has been an experiment for many years. Fan voting, player drafts, and the executive choices from the NHL have all been tried. Not that the games themselves have any merit except a little bit of bragging rights for the players and some excitement for the fans. The selection process is often more surprising than the actual event itself. With all that being said, how can we give a little more life to a game that doesn’t matter?
From the old-fashioned World versus North America to the current Eastern versus Western Conference battles, we always see some key players left off the roster. With the fans in charge of selecting the top six players in each respective position this year, we can see a huge flaw within the voting system. Five out of the six players voted are from the Chicago Blackhawks and one player from the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL then went on to select the remaining 36 participants.
This fan voting system, however, leads itself to some less-than-serious picks. Nothing against Zemgus Girgensons of the Sabres (who?), but with over 1,500,000 votes, beating out players with double his point total, I must say he is occupying a spot that doesn’t belong to him. Thanks, fans! This reminds me of the year where the Canucks’ Rory Fitzpatrick nearly earned himself a spot on the All-Star roster with the help of fan voting and a Twitter campaign. Fitzpatrick was well-liked, but far from All-Star material. The conspiracy is that the NHL stepped in and voted Fitzpatrick out near the tail-end of the voting process.
Another problem just happens to be a publicity ploy. A fantasy draft format will take place on January 23 to decide the two teams. Nick Foligno of the host city, Columbus, will be the captain of one team and Jonathan Toews of Chicago, the captain of the other, will vie for the best suited players, or their own teammates and friends. As proven from the past years, this is a popularity contest and less of a serious team construction.
All-star games, currently jokes masqueraded as sporting events, could have some value. The MLB puts pressure on the game by giving playoff home-field advantage to the team that wins. The NHL could use this. Here’s a hypothetical example: if the Eastern Conference wins in the All-Star Game last year (if there was one), then in the Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Rangers would have the home-ice advantage instead of the LA Kings because of the All-Star Game victory, even though they were both seeded forth in their conference.
The All-Star Game is often a lacklustre event, full of showboating and antics. It’s barely a hockey game. Sure, the MVP gets a new car or something and the winning team gets a celebratory pat on the back, but what’s the point? Make them play for something.
The games should be about building an elite team to compete for an advantage that will come into play when it really matters. I agree that it would be a shame if a player were injured, but hell, I want to watch hockey, not figure skating!