Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ten possible replacements for the NHL all-star game

A few weeks ago, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston broke some interesting news on Hockey Night in Canada: The NHL and NHLPA have discussed someday scrapping the all-star game, possibly to make room for an overseas event.

The news was no doubt devastating to all the hockey fans out there who love the modern NHL All-Star Game. But other than those three people, the rest of us were intrigued. The league has spent years playing with the all-star format in an attempt to inject some life into the proceedings, with decidedly mixed results. But the basics have always been the same: Take the best players from around the league, preferably with at least one representative from each team, have them face off in head-to-head competition, and hope they at least pretend to try.

We’ve kind of assumed it would always be like that. But what if we could replace the existing all-star game, either with a radically different format, or something completely new? That gives us some room to get creative.

So let’s do that. Here are 10 options — some realistic, some not so much — that the league and its players could consider if they ever did decide to scrap the current version of the all-star game.

The idea: A Ryder Cup-style international tournament

We’ll start here, since this is reportedly one of the ideas the league has been kicking around. A full Ryder Cup series – perhaps one pitting North America against the rest of the world – would work best as a longer series, and has been rumoured as an every-few-years event that could supplement the World Cup on the international calendar. But a scaled-down version, especially one played in Europe, could be a lot of fun, too.

Pros: Like the current all-star game, you’d get the best players in the world. Unlike the current all-star game, those players might be motivated to actually look interested, since they’d kind of be playing for national pride. And if you played the game outside of North America, you’d be seeding some of those international markets that are so important to the league’s future growth.

Cons: We tried the “North America vs. The World” thing already; that was the all-star format from 1998 through 2002. Once the novelty factor wore off, it wasn’t all that good. The international component, mixed with the one-player-per-team requirement, generated some truly odd picks. And the players didn’t seem any more interested than they did for conference-based play.

Bottom line: A Ryder Cup for hockey is a cool idea that could be a lot of fun. But if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure we set aside the time to do it right rather than trying to squeeze in an abbreviated version over a weekend.

The idea: An outdoor all-star game

This could take various forms. Maybe you go with a standard East-vs.-West game, or the current division-based format, but you play the whole thing outdoors. Or you could combine it with other ideas on this list – maybe an outdoor all-star game in Europe?

Pros: Outdoor games are just cool, especially when the league picks a prime venue. The standard all-star games generally aren’t much to look at, so some inspiring background visuals would compensate for that. Players seem to like playing outdoors, too, so you might get fewer guys declining their invitations. And outdoor venues mean more seats to sell, and more room for corporate bigwigs, so everyone makes more money.

Cons: The outdoor concept has been overdone in recent years, so some of the novelty has worn off. You’d also be all but ruling out certain markets for ever hosting an all-star weekend. And of course, there’s always the risk of uncooperative weather delaying or even cancelling the game.

Bottom line: It’s not hard to imagine the league trying this out at some point down the road. They could frame it as a one-off experiment, see how it goes, and then make the change permanent if it worked.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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