First, a bit of a plus. The game will be 3 on 3. It will open up the ice, and boost creativity, but it’s not like these games, even 5 on 5, ever featured neutral zone traps, body checks, shot blocking, or back checking - so going with fewer players won’t solve the HUGE hockey problem here.
And that is: players skate at half speed, drift, and doodle, and don’t look like they give a hoot. These matches have less contact than do conventions for anthropophobiacs.
Second, a bigger plus. John Scott, THE John Scott, he of 11 career NHL points, late of the Arizona Coyotes, voted to the NHL All Star game by nutty fans, following nuttier NHL rules, is GOING TO PLAY, despite his being traded to the Montreal Canadians, who sacked and packed the pugilist to their IceCaps minor-league team. Scott’s articulate and self deprecating and “gets it.” He’s funny. Not as funny, derisively, as his game, but funny.
Third, the biggest plus. Before, during, or after All Star festivities fans and players must try Nashville’s famous and ferocious Hot Chicken meal(s).
It’s a shame the NHL couldn’t go to a 3 on 3 format for all its games. Of course, the players’ union would never go for the job losses – so the chances of this happening are as likely as Donald Trump toning it down - but for the fans - always the lowest concern on the totem pole as regards owner, management, and player interests - they’d love the less-players-is-more format.
Fans must wonder, too, if the goal scoring sprees of the 1980's might make it their way back to today's NHL. Despite lotsa rule changes, reducing goalie equipment sizes, and actually calling penalties for hooking, holding, and interfering - the game today is stultifying, the fan-base brains fried, from watching too many brutally boring defensive contests.
But as regards the NHL All Star game? Don’t confuse a lukewarm, low energy game, with low scoring. These feature more scoring than a porn movie. The 2015 final score, the highest for the 60 All Star games played to date,
was a football result: 17 to 12!
Yet to watch the “highlights” is worse than watching a hooker faking interest. Geez, even the goalies, while being threatened to being scored upon, look like they are going slow-mo. Given such lackluster, lackadaisical efforts, it is obvious:
NO GAME is better than a shame of a game.
Heck, one NHLer, Bobby Ryan, described the 2015 shebang as “stale.”
It is, however, small wonder, when you think about it, that these exhibitions of “excellence” are played on cruise control. Participants fear injury and have little incentive to go full out. Coming from different teams means that their team(s) can’t benefit should that player, or players, be on the winning side. As well, monies go to the players’ pension fund. Since most are multi-millionaires, with average salaries in 2014 at 2.58 million - this amounts to, if not chicken feed, at least to no great shakes.
And sometimes, frankly and sadly, those picked to play are upset to lose three days off. For some, being selected is a hassle not an honor.
Another problem with the NHL All Star contest is that at least one player must be selected from each of the 30 teams in the league. Thus there are only about six positions left to fill with true all-stars, so the bottom banal six teams will be sending, relatively peon-pedestrian players to battle. Quite often, they’re not really all-stars.
But...if even the best - and the scrubeenees - hardly try, what’s the point?
And yet – possibly the only thing more depressing than watching players coast is to note their nauseous apparel. Uniform designs have, for the most part, been uniformly garish, gaudy, and gross. Ok, horrible and heinous also. The only plus here is that kids taking fashion as a college elective, somehow get jobs from their bird course. Granted, there have been a few years with classy all-star sweaters, but a few doesn’t cut it.
Back to the problem of incentive. The only All Star game played properly, played full out, is Major League Baseball’s. The stakes are huge. If the National League team wins, the National Team World Series entrant gets home-field advantage; if the American League team wins, the American World Series teams gets that benefit. Alas, how could the NHL replicate such a great stick and carrot into its game? Mucho MONEY, one supposes.
Maybe the hockey hoedown should drop the game itself and dollop on more player-to-fan interactions. Hockey talks featuring stars – like the ones on January 29th at the Bridgestone Winter Park – and on prime Time TV to boot, are all well and good, but perhaps a focus on - the ice, with teach-and-greets, could be done. Yes, show off the combatants’ marvelous stick handling, skating, passing, and shooting skills – but add in the kids. Have the tyros make bets: “Game-the-Skills Games”. These gambits would help promote the sport.
So, yeah, while it would be nifty if the All Star game turned out to be a crafty, great music rock-a-baby, to Nashville fans; and the NHL, while rightly, wants to grow the game - in non-traditional shinny markets like this Tennessee town - an All Star miracle, an off-the-charts fest, would have to happen - to even approach what sweet, sweet music once came out of Music City’s RCA’s Studio B.
Still, the place is a bit pumped to host this spectacle. It’s their first time doing so, and, for sure, the American national anthem, sung by Vince Gill, a Predator season-ticket holder, should be good - as will be prior performances by the likes of musician, Aaron Lewis.
But good shifts from Gill and Lewis can’t make up for a lame game.