Hello! Long time no blog! I hope you’ve all been well in my absence. Except that I see that the NHL has made some…changes…to their All-Star Weekend, which it is of course their prerogative to do. Still, I feel there are some opportunities that were missed, and while I will withhold judgment on the new format until I see it, here are five suggestions for how I would have improved the All-Star Weekend.
1. The Draft
We all know that the All-Star Fantasy Draft is the best part of the weekend. Why, last year we had Alex Ovechkin determinedly trying to go last and teams Toews and Foligno making a Kessel-Seguin trade for the hell of it. Actually, let’s relive the beauty because these guys were drinking something, and I want some.
So why oh why did the NHL scrap it? Okay, it’s a little bit harder to do the draft with the new format, but seeing the players relaxed and joking around is really what we want to see at something like this, so here is my suggestion: Put all the players in a room with no audience, just hidden cameras. Mic them all up. Give them an open bar. Let them draft each other (with some rules obviously; I’m a fan of the mandated trade). Let the games begin. 2. The Commentators
Nothing against the usual emcees and commentators at the All-Star Game, but it’s the All-Star Game. We’ve got to pump it up a bit. Let’s have the fans vote on a player who isn’t going to do commentary. Or have the fans vote on a color commentator who’s, like, a famous fan of hockey. Something to punch it up. Imagine watching the All-Star Game with Big Blues Fan John Hamm doing color commentary, or Paul Bissonnette commenting on the All-Star Draft (the censors may have to be at the ready). Take the commentating less seriously, anyway, because if the game is going to be goofy, the play-by-play might as well be too.
3. The Skills Competition
Firstly: We need more goalie involvement. Goalie races. Goalies participating in the shoot-out competition. Goalies trying to get an empty-netter from the other end of the ice. Nothing is funnier than seeing goalies trying to skate in those huge pads. We all love it. Give us more.
Secondly: The whole relay thing is super boring to watch. We need something to spice it up. Maybe make it like slap cup, where you’re allowed to interfere with the other team if you finish your part first.
Thirdly: Strip shoot-out competition.
4. The Game
Okay, look. The All-Star Game is hard to make fun for a number of reasons. Everyone knows it doesn’t count, no one wants to get hurt, and it ends up being a total gongshow and not in the fun way. So how do you make it worth it to the players without tackily bribing them with cold hard cash like they’ve decided to do? We could go baseball’s route of using home-ice advantage as incentive, but that would mess with the fantasy draft. No, we gotta make these guys play for pride. That’s what really gets them going.
Perhaps they go the Pittsburgh Penguin route of mustache boy(s); perhaps they each play for a charity (that would be pretty cool, actually); or perhaps whoever loses has to star in an awkward NHL commercial. Skate quick, boys.
5. The Rewards
I know I just said that bribing is kind of tacky, but it is a time-honored tradition of the All-Star Game. All-Star players and MVPs get bonuses, which, honestly, shouldn’t that have already taught the NHL that giving a cash bonus isn’t really going to motivate this already incredibly wealthy athletes? People make up paper-thin excuses just so they don’t have to go!
The traditional prizes of, say, a car is cool, I guess, but I think we can reasonably assume most if not all of these guys have at least one car. What we need it something that they can’t get themselves, or failing that, something they could get themselves but that isn’t a finite resource. I’m talking booze.
Now, the NHL’s official beer is Coors for some godforsaken reason, so I suppose that would have to be the prize, although in that case I wonder if people might be trying not to be good so as to not win it. I suppose some athletes may be under the legal drinking age so this may run into some problems, but hey–Coors does make a non-alcoholic beer!
On the other hand, we know NHL-ers can put away the booze. And maybe the NHL can’t officially tell the winning team that they’ll cover that night’s bar tab, but…it might get you some pretty motivated hockey players, is all I’m saying.
and bonus option 6. Co-ed All-Star Game
I’m pretty sure I’ve suggested this before, but here it is: vote in a women’s player and a men’s player as captains. Have the pool be mixed gender, and let them hold a fantasy draft that way. This would, of course, probably require the NHL to do some partnering with the CWHL and the NWHL, which would be tricky, but I’d love to see that. Wouldn’t you?