Friday, January 25, 2008

Can anyone save the all-star game?

Outside of the actual game itself, flawed as it is, all-star weekend's biggest problem is that it's completely and utterly forgettable.

My guess is only a small fraction of hockey fans can even remember where last year's game was. (Dallas.)

The score? Good luck. (12-9 for the Western Conference.)

And the only reason I remember who the MVP was was the fact THN ran a big photo of Danny Briere with his new Dodge Nitro.

There are all kinds of ideas out there at the moment for how to fix this silly thing, but whatever's eventually done, it absolutely has to be turned into a spectacle. Next to the Winter Classic, Sunday in Atlanta is must-miss TV.

So put it outdoors, fire up the tailgate party and get some sense of a party started in the host city. The Grey Cup up here in Canada may no longer be a marquee event, but it certainly knew how to take over Toronto a few months ago: Create some buzz, offer up a ton of free events and, for heaven's sake, spend some money promoting the thing.

Especially if it's hockey in Georgia.

The Winter Classic showed this league can put on a show if it really puts its mind to it and turns the game over to the hardcores, and what all-star weekend should be is a celebration for those fans. Bring in the all-time greats, have Don Cherry and Bobby Orr on hand, hold it in Minnesota or Montreal, and make attendance mandatory for those selected.

Of the last 10 all-star games, five have been in warm weather climates, a desperate attempt to invoke some interest in a few underdeveloped markets.

I don't have a problem with that — but I just can't see how what they've put together is going to do the job.

UPDATE Eric Duhatschek has a good look at all-star games from the past and what they've now become.



At 11:51 p.m., January 25, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mirtle you've been out east too long. The Grey Cup is absolutely a marquee event. The TV ratings, everything else, keep going up.


At 12:10 a.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger Steve Patterson said...

putting the allstar game outside is an interesting idea. but it would be a one-year only kind of solution.

basically there is no way to make the nhl all-star game watchable. it suffers from the same fate as the nfl pro bowl or the nba all-star game...the action in the allstar game doesn't even come close to resembling an actual league game. the skills competition in the nhl and nba are really the only reasons to watch, but outside of the slam dunk contest (which has worn out its welcome as of late), they're borderline unwatchable too.

the only allstar game that works is in major league baseball for a few reasons. the national and american league players dont often meet each other. the winning side gets home field advantage in the world series. most importantly, the in-game action could actually pass as resembling an actual major league baseball game. that's why no matter how hard the nhl tries it will never improve the allstar game to where they think it will be.

the only way the nhl allstar game ever becomes relevant is if the league continues to get softer and softer to the point that people dont notice the lack of hits in the allstar game anymore.

At 1:05 a.m., January 26, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allegedly pointing out the staleness and relatively ho-hum state of affairs of the All Star Game was one of the goals of the Vote for Rory campaign.

Good thing the NHL got that message.

At 2:15 a.m., January 26, 2008, Anonymous ken said...

Up until the late 1980s, the All-Star game wasn't a mocking shadow of the sport like it is now. Games were close, players were, if not levelling huge body checks, then at least playing hard and minding their defensive responsibilities.

I wonder why that changed?

At 3:51 a.m., January 26, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's 1230 regular season games and then two months worth of playoffs. So we should worry about one game or actually one weekend where they give sponsors some lobster and good wine?

Fans are not the only ones that pay for show that we call NHL. Suits that pay millions should have something, too.

As do the stars of the game who for the most part take this weekend as respect to their skills.

As long as there's cities and organisations fighting to get this game to their barn we shouldn't cry about it as we usually do about everything.

At 8:25 a.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...

It's essentially an exhibition game, so it looks the way a preseason game could be expected to look if transplanted to the middle of the season and all the players fighting for a spot on the team were removed.

And I don't see why a player selected to play in an exhibition in the middle of the season should be forced to show up to a meaningless schmooze-fest for the suits when by this point almost everyone is nursing bumps and bruises and might like a few days off to recover for the playoff run since his team is going to need him more than his conference all-stars will.

Although I wonder if the biggest problem is that we aren't twelve years old anymore, and know about steroids, contract disputes, salary caps, and other non-fun hockey-related topics more than we did years ago.

At 11:08 a.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Baroque, I think that's a good point. Who this game still really captivates are the very young — maybe the games were better 20+ years ago, but I remember as a kid looking forward to all-star weekend more than almost any other during the regular season.

There's something appealing, on that level, at putting all the very best in one game; it's too bad the actual product doesn't turn out that way.

At 2:24 p.m., January 26, 2008, Anonymous Sergica said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:33 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger DMG said...

I think Steve makes a very important point here: the NHL all-star is kind of boring and kind of a joke, but that problem is in no way singular to hockey - When is the last time you ever saw an NFL game played without blitzes, a Major League Baseball game where both managers made an effort to get all the players in and were required to change pitchers every three innings or that ended in a tie, or an NBA game that ended in regulation with both teams scoring over 130 points? Yet no one in those circles freaks out about the game because those sports are not constantly openly discussing attendances, revenues and ratings because they have confidence that if they put a quality product into the marketplace people will watch it.

That's the problem, I think. The league has tried to turn the all-star weekend into a huge "event" to showcase the game its best players and asking the all-star game to be that is going to ultimetly be a failure because it simply isn't interesting enough. It's a nice little event but it is what it is - a chance for the league's best to get together, take a break from the playoff race, have fun and play a little exhibition game. If people are willing to accept it as such then there's not really anything to be upset about, in my humble opinion.

At 12:16 p.m., January 27, 2008, Blogger Patty (in Dallas) said...

...but I remember as a kid looking forward to all-star weekend more than almost any other during the regular season.

That's probably because you were a kid, not because the All-Star game/weekend was any better.

At 12:41 p.m., January 27, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Certainly, but I'll bet that hasn't changed. At least someone's looking forward to this game.

At 1:41 p.m., January 27, 2008, Blogger Patty (in Dallas) said...


Personally, I look forward to it every year, too. (When I was a kid, I didn't know it existed.)

The fact that it's just an exhibition game and it means nothing and there aren't any hits is what I like about it.

At 12:52 p.m., January 29, 2008, Anonymous Mike said...

I used to look forward to the Super Skills Competition more than the game and even that's been ruined now. Changing the fastest skater, taking away events like the puck control and breakaway relays ... They're not incredible events by any means but it gave you a chance to see every player in action.

Admittedly, I'm a homer. I'm a Kings fan who has had very little good to watch this year. So I was looking forward to see what kind of sick move Anze Kopitar could bring in the breakaway relay. Instead I got to see him skate for 4+ seconds in the new fastest skater. Notice how little excitement that change brought this year. If you blinked it was over and you're left with, "Those two guys? They're the finalists? How did that happen."

The game was actually more exciting because you got to see everyone in action. It's still incredibly marginalized and very ho-hum but I enjoyed watching Nash, Ovechkin and many of the others.

At 12:53 p.m., January 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before the mid/early 80's, scores in the All-Star Game were similar to regular season games; 4-2, 5-3, 3-1 etc.

Some think that the increasing solidarity of the NHLPA (especially post-Eagleson) has led to the stars not wanting to hit each other (& risk an injury) for an exhibition game. There's no aggression in the game now.

I'd like to see replay of an early 70's All-Star Game (Orr, Hull, Espo etc. 1971 score was 2-1, 1972 score was 3-2), but the NHL Network rarely shows a game from before 1985.

At 12:54 p.m., January 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring back Showdown '76!! haha (remember that between periods on HNIC...?)


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