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Changes coming for the NHL All-Star Game; team captains to pick sides now

Nov 9, 2010, 6:19 PM EDT

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If you’ve found yourself bored to tears over the NHL All-Star Game over the years, chances are you’re not alone. After all, the game itself is basically everything that the NHL isn’t about these days. No one throws a body check, guys don’t really play defense, and it’s essentially shooters versus goalies with a couple of defensemen out there to keep up appearances.

With the GM meetings  going on in Toronto today, former NHL star-turned-league executive Brendan Shanahan says that changes are coming for the mid-season exhibition game and they’re going to be a bit on the radical side as Craig Custance of The Sporting News shares with us.

According to Shanahan, the changes won’t be as drastic as giving the winning team home-ice advantage, like what baseball did with leagues competing in the World Series.

Instead, he’s hoping to tap into the competitive side of the All-Stars more than the exhibition game does now. One idea that has been the subject of speculation would be to have team captains choose sides before the game—like a pickup game. Shanahan declined to confirm that idea when asked by Sporting News.

His biggest hope, he said, is to find a fun way that brings out the competitive side of players seen in every regular-season game.

It’s good to see that they’re staying away from the bogus thing Major League Baseball did with their All-Star Game in “making it count” for home field in the World Series. Trying to force players to care about a game that doesn’t count for anything aside from fan entertainment comes off as phony as it sounds. Also, making home ice in the Stanley Cup finals, for instance, as something to be put up for grabs in an All-Star Game would virtually devalue the regular season.

As for the apparent proposal itself, it’s a fascinating suggestion to do something pond hockey-like to have captains pick their sides for the game. Putting the pressure on the big guns that are voted on by the fans to then have to pick who they want in the game provides some honest intrigue for fans and players alike. Wouldn’t you like to know who Sidney Crosby or Nicklas Lidstrom (if he wasn’t avoiding the game) would pick for their teams? I sure would be interested to see who they’d choose.

(Update: Chris Johnston gets confirmation from the NHL that yes, indeed, captains will be picking sides for the game and it will go into effect starting with this year’s game in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fantastic.)

What they decide to do to make guys want to bust their humps a bit more for the game itself will be fascinating to see. Again, it’s just one exhibition game with no real stakes on the line at all. One suggestion from us to spice things up: Winner take all regarding All-Star bonuses/payouts.

There’s less than zero possibility that this would ever be a possibility, but we know these guys get paid and pulling the curtain off that fact and putting the All-Star Game payouts on the line so winners take home all the cash would at least put something on the line for the guys in the game. Making it something that doesn’t have anything at all to do with screwing with standings or home-ice advantage or the general integrity of the regular season standings would put some life into the game. Besides, what player wouldn’t mind taking home a few extra bucks in the end from their buddies on the opposing team?

Not only would it be bragging rights but it’d give them a chance to dangle something over their heads for a full year. You’d get the best out of the guys on the ice and while it’s still an exhibition you’d at least, ideally, get them to try a bit harder to win the game rather than putz around for two-and-a-half periods then spending the final ten minutes actually trying.

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