Leafs are on a break so let’s discuss how to make the All-Star game watchable

Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
In many ways I’m a contradiction. I hate the idea of watching the All-Star game but I love to sit around thinking of ways the game could be improved.
There are some cold hard facts and the first is that the All-Star game is not an event for us. Us is me assuming that you aren’t a child or a corporate sponsor of the NHL. For kids it’s a fun way to see your favourite player on a line with a star from another team. When I was eight this usually led to me drafting up trade proposals in my Hilroy notebook that saw the Winnipeg Jets bring in Mike Bossy and Luc Robitaille to play on Dale Hawerchuk’s wing. I stand by the fact my trades made more sense than what we see on armchair GM trade boards.
For sponsors it’s a chance to cash-in a bit on the big cheque you wrote the NHL. Some of your executives get to attend a well catered function where NHL players will laugh at their jokes and politely pose for photos. A few signed jerseys later and everyone is happy. Really sponsors are just children with better access.
Anyways, acknowledging that the NHL has no interest in wanting to fix the All-Star game, or at least not radically overhaul it, I decided to dump a few of my ideas in this space anyway, and asked a few TLN writers to do the same. I’ll start with their ideas first because I’m a gentleman, and because I know I’ll be long winded.

Michael Mazzei:

There are so many ways that the All-Star weekend could be improved and I have a few ideas that could help give it some jolt of life. One thing that the NBA does well is by having a rookie showcase game during the festivities. which is a great way to market some of the future stars of the game. Since not every rookie is able to get nominated, bringing in a rookie showcase could be a great tool for the NHL to use at future All-Star games, especially less than a year after the 2023 draft class begins to make their mark on the league. While the NHL technically does one already during the preseason, it might make more sense to have it moved to the All-Star Game weekend.
Another thing I would implement is the fastest shot competition to go along with the hardest shot. This would be a cool opportunity to have some of the games best snipers show off their wrist shots and could be a good comparable to how the fastest wrist shot stacks up against a slap shot.

Bennett Jull: 

First and foremost, get the player selection right. The All-Star game should showcase the best players in the league, period. I know we all feel Nylander should be in South Florida next week, but there are others as well that merit a spot. I could understand the argument of sending one player per team, but that argument lost all validity when Beniers wasn’t replaced by another Kraken player. The NHL needs to showcase its best players, period.
In terms of the actual weekend, it’s important the NHL showcases their young stars, especially those in smaller hockey markets. More emphasis on the younger All-Stars could be very beneficial.

Steven Ellis:

I’d love to see more money involved, which might be a driver to make it more interesting. Specifically, players trying to score/make saves, with each point going towards payouts for charity. So, let’s say Mitch Marner is representing Sick Kids, and he scores 5 times at $10,000 each. $10,000 is donated to sick kids. And the goal is to make every player raise as much money for their charity. Players won’t want to look like they don’t care at that point, right?If that doesn’t work, I think 3s Eliminator in NHL 23 is a fun format with the moneypucks. First goal counts as one, but then the rest are randomized, like a +2, – 3, etc.
I think these are all ideas with merit and I especially think a money on the board for charity approach might up the engagement level.
As for my take, my thought as long been to move the All-Star game to the beginning of the year when there is an appetite to get back into the swing of hockey and All-Star game at least beats the preseason. Hold the event just as camp opens so players get the chance to dodge a couple of days of drills before reporting which acts as a bit of a sweetener as well.
I also think the widely shared idea that the skills competition should have the best players at each of those skills rather than limiting it to All-Stars makes a ton of sense. The world deserves to see Ilya Mikheyev in the fastest skater competition and he’s not likely to get there as an All-Star.
I think bringing back the All-Star draft is a bit of a no brainer too. I dream of the NHL becoming comfortable with players showing personality beyond wearing a bright blue suit instead of a navy suit. I probably shouldn’t hold my breath, but it would be nice. I’d say stick with the players making the picks, but give them a celebrity GM (celebrity fan of host city team, host city team alumni player, obnoxious viral superfan, band that is performing at intermission, whomever) as they are likely capable to offset the personality of more robotic captains.
I’d also say that fan designed jerseys would be cool and engaging, and finally, this is said acknowledging that no one will ever be happy with it, go with as a diverse range of musical acts as you can. New bands, old bands, rock, hip hop, pop, (preferably not, but to prove a point) country, whatever and go crazy with the number of acts you can get over the weekend. Have a house band during play, make it a fun celebration of hockey.
Given that Toronto is likely to be the next All-Star game host, we have a vested interest in the NHL figuring it out. As for now, I won’t hold my breath on improvements and stick to my annual tradition of catching a couple of skills competition events and completely skipping the All-Star game unless I can’t think of anything better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

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