If youâ€™re a hockey fan you probably are aware the NHL held itâ€™s annual All-Star festivities this past weekend in Montreal. What normally is an event I get geeked up for turned out to be one of the weaker exhibitions in recent memory. Sans most of the skills competition, I was bored out of my mind. Maybe it all started with the way the voting played out, maybe it wasnâ€™t.
There was absolutely no excitement to the game itself – zilch. The pre-game ceremony was dreadful. Between the spinning violinist (perhaps she was playing viola) and the half-naked guy with the giant hoola hoop it felt more like Cirque du Soleil meets the New York Philharmonic. Somebody should have told Montreal that this was not the opening ceremonies to the Beijing Summer Games. Iâ€™ll have a side order of yawn with my NHL all-star game, please.
Whatever happened to hair bands and pyrotechnics? Watching Alexander Ovechkin and his youthful enthusiasm during the skills competition was enjoyable. It was nice to see the rookies versus the sophomores in the YoungStars game. Yet, the centerpiece of the weekend – the 2009 All-Star game was brutal. The fact that it went to a shootout may have been the best thing for a pretty lackluster performance from some of the top players in the game. The Eastern Conference finally ended this nonsense, winning 12-11. There was no defense and no emotion.
What kind of hockey game ends 12-11? Perhaps this was the NHLâ€™s version of the And-1 mix tape videos. Maybe an adult beer league game on a Monday at 11:30 p.m. ends in a 12-3 route. Nobody cares to watch a game with no sense of urgency – at least I donâ€™t.
Maybe itâ€™s me. Maybe I was expecting too much from such an event by a professional league. I was reading John Buccigrossâ€™ most recent column on ESPN.com and felt motivated to chime in as well. Bucci touches on the aspect of competition. Major League Baseball has tried to make their version of the all-star game a bit more entertaining by granting home field advantage to the winning league in the upcoming world series. Thatâ€™s a start. In general, the all-star game/weekend in every sport is a joke.
The recognition that comes with being named an â€œall-starâ€ should be like a gold glove in baseball. Itâ€™s a resume builder and potential factoid or stat that can be regurgitated upon induction into a sports hall of fame. Play the all-star game after the season, or at the start of the next season (like some readers of Buccigrossâ€™ have proposed). Make it mean something. The Winter Classic this past New Yearâ€™s Day was great. Last year in Buffalo was great. The spectacle of such an event is captivating. But, more importantly, the game is played with a certain intensity. An intensity only found in a game where there is something on the line; such as 2 points in the standings.
Hockey is a team sport and deserves to be portrayed as such. Maybe the NHL should revert back to the format of â€œNorth Americaâ€ versus â€œthe World.â€ That may spark some excitement and competitiveness. Perhaps, scratch the all-star game and promote the Winter Classic even more. What about re-instituting a game or set like the â€œSuper Seriesâ€? I am pulling at straws here, but there needs to be a change. This past weekend was embarrassing. I expect a lot more from a league and a sport that has much more to offer.