The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the NHL All-Star game this yearm but after that, the format needs a change.
The NHL All-Star Game is a tradition the league has had dating back to 1947. Then-NHL President Clarence Campbell first thought of the idea as a means to showcase the league’s top talent and allow for the stars of the game to truly shine, creating a best-on-best event.
The inaugural game took place at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto where it featured the defending Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs (insert Cup drought joke here) and a team of NHL All-Stars comprised of the other 5 teams. This idea was a hit and has continued since 1947, eventually growing into what we have today.
Now, some of you may not enjoy this next part, but I will continue to say it how it is; the NHL All-Star Game sucks.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
The All-Star Game Needs To Change After Toronto
The NHL All-Star Game is meant to be a spectacle for both dedicated fans and fans who are being introduced to the sport for the very first time. However, the problem with the All-Star Game is that it doesn’t seem to be attracting new fans to the sport and current fans are simply not watching it.
Why is this? I believe I speak for everyone when I say that the All-Star Game has become nothing more than a gimmick. Quirky-themed events, a mediocre (and meaningless) 3-on-3 tournament, players blatantly not trying - the whole event has become, for lack of better words, laughable.
Many of you who are still reading this may believe that I am anti-All-Star Game, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I still recall being a little kid and watching every single All-Star Game. The element that stood out to me was how genuine the players were. They were happy to be there, excited to be part of something only a rare few get to be a part of.
Now, we see videos on social media of players' disinterested reactions to being named All-Stars (first-time All-Stars I might add) and how they have to cancel their vacation plans. It’s a sad thing to see that even the players find this event agonizing. What can the NHL do about this? I have some ideas that may help the NHL get both players and fans more invested in the All-Star Game Weekend.
Firstly, make the games more meaningful. What I mean by this is to have something up for grabs, and put some skin in the game. Now this one is (in my opinion) the least favorable of the bunch. There are too many obstacles that would prevent this from happening. Hurdles such as; What would be up for grabs? How can we prevent players from getting injured? How would the formatting work? Do you scrap the Skills Competition?
There are a lot of questions that need answering, and the last time I checked I don’t work for the National Hockey League so I won’t bother answering those. Needless to say, if they do figure out the answer to some of these questions, I believe that it would provide the league with a meaningful in-season event.
The second option would be to scrap the 3-on-3 tournament and focus solely on doing the Skills Competition. My suggestion would be that they have a two-day Skills Competition. The first day would be comprised of groups (or teams) of the All-Stars competing in various skill events and the second would be both NHL All-Stars and social media influencers doing more “playful” events (such as the BreakAway Challenge).
Could you imagine the likes of Pavel Barber or Zac Bell doing their viral trick shots and competing in a Pros versus Joe's style of event? This way keeps both older fans engaged (the first day) and introduces new fans to the wild and crazy sport that hockey can be (the second day). In this new digital age, it would be good for the NHL to include content creators/media personalities in the event.
The final suggestion (and most favourable) would be to scrap the entire format of the All-Star Game and instead create a Weekend (or if needed a Week) of a best-on-best international tournament similar to that of the World Cup of Hockey.
The way I see it, this is a win-win for the NHL. On the one hand, you answer the prayers of many fans who want to see Bedard, Crosby, and McDavid all play together (amongst other players). On the other hand, you not only engage current fans but you can gain new fans globally as well. A week-long international tournament of the NHL’s best players going head to head representing their countries on a global stage sounds epic and a similar format was done from 1998 - 2002.
Could you imagine teams like Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, and even a Team Young Guns going head to head? I can and it would be wild!
The NHL All-Star Game comes to Toronto this February 1st, 2024. Whether you dislike it or love it, the city will be buzzing for when all of the All-Stars touch down at Pearson (and then likely wait in customs for 4 hours). Even with the current format, I’m sure that it will be a nice event to watch..maybe.
If you have suggestions or thoughts about the NHL All-Star Game, feel free to find me on Twitter (@ShowtimeWagon) and let me know! I love interacting with all of my followers. If you liked this article, be sure to share it with your friends and get their opinions too.