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Why the NHL should move the All-Star Game to the preseason

Jan 27, 2011, 11:00 PM EDT

Image (1) allstargamelogo-thumb-350x191-16697-thumb-250x136-16698.jpg for post 15105

Note: this isn’t the first time I’ve made this argument, but I think it’s worth another look (and I’ll provide some new supporting reasons for why it might work).

There are plenty of critics of the NHL All-Star Game (and similar contests in other sports) and with good reason. When you take the necessity and danger out of a sports contest – especially in a violent sport like hockey or football – the excitement level drops quite a bit. Even the most dazzling plays seem ordinary because they happen in an exhibition game.

Brendan Shanahan and the NHL already accomplished their goal of adding some much-needed buzz and drama to the event by instituting a Fantasy Draft, which takes place on Friday. (Check out the teams Joe and I drafted during PHT’s own Mock Draft.)

But that doesn’t mean it cannot be more fun and cannot see even more improvements. I think the NHL (or many other sports leagues) would greatly benefit by moving its all-star game to the preseason. Here are a few reasons why doing so would add another helping of pizazz to the contest.

Limiting the impact of injuries

The list of players participating in this weekend’s event is an astounding collection of talent, but injuries kept some of its biggest names out of the game. There’s no Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla and so on because of wear and tear or worse.

Obviously off-season surgeries will cause some problems, but I’m guessing there will be far less issues in September or early October than late January.

Heck, if you offer players a week off from training camp to participate, you might get close to 100 percent attendance.

Higher demand when supply is low

When do hockey fans (and fans of other sports) crave their sport the most: before a single game has been played or more than halfway through the season? Why not collect the sport’s biggest stars when people miss them the most?

Interesting format opportunities

One cool idea that could work better in the preseason: Defending Stanley Cup Champions vs. All-Stars. Take the last Cup winner for example. Gather Dustin Byfuglien and other departing members along with remaining Chicago Blackhawks together for one last hurrah. Present them their championship rings and let them play against a collection of big names to test the chemistry vs. high-end talent question. Benefit from the ratings you’d probably garner when one big market such as Chicago tunes in to see their beloved champs together one more time.

Hype up the upcoming season, particularly the Premiere Games

There are people who wonder if the season-opening overseas Premiere Games are a failed experiment, but maybe they just need more build-up? The league could use the All-Star Game to generate buzz for the opening of the season and raise awareness for those first few games, which often air during odd hours of the day in North America.

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Anyway, those are some reasons why a preseason All-Star Game might be better for the NHL. What do you think? Should the league hold in the preseason, after the season or keep it the same way? Let us know in the comments.

  1. sknut - Jan 28, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    I like the idea of the Cup Champions playing against the all stars. I think the All Star break is exciting but it really disturbs the flow of the season. Another idea would be to take the past Olympic Champion against NHL all stars it would be intriguing and would be fascinating to see guys who didnt make Team Canada but yet were all stars play against each other.

  2. raiderdave - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    The point of an All-Star game is to reward players who are having good seasons. A preseason version would provide only a more watered down version of an already watered down event. Keep it where it is, because like any All-Star game, it’s more about the players and the fans who are actually in attendance than anyone else.

    • James O'Brien - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      But wouldn’t a preseason version reward a great full season rather than just a little more than a half season? It would be a celebration of the previous season while rolling out the red carpet for the next one. In my opinion, at least.

      • raiderdave - Jan 28, 2011 at 8:28 PM

        I suppose it could, but when exactly would the voting happen? Because if it happened at the same time as it does now, then I would have no problem at all with it. But if voting happened over the summer, then things like playoffs, awards, and accomplishments would come into play. And what if an All-Star player retired? Sure most of them would want to play, but not every player is the same.

        Watching the NHL Fantasy Draft right now, I couldn’t think of a better format of team selection than this. And I know the All-Star games in any of the major sports are watered down, but that would happen regardless of when the game is actually played.

        Sure it would hype of the season if a change was made, but I’m not so sure it would create any more viewers of early season hockey games other than the true diehards that are already going to watch anyways. I think the NHL should see how this newly created format goes in terms of creating new viewers, sponsorships, etc. as well as see what the new acquisition of NBC Universal does for the game as well.

      • James O'Brien - Jan 29, 2011 at 11:38 PM

        Good points all around, Dave. Obviously a preseason version would bring about some interesting questions, but perhaps fans could just vote during the end of the regular season? That would eliminate the playoffs making too big of an impact on voting.

        As far as retirements go, I’d imagine you could treat it the same way as injuries. Although it would be very cool to let a retired star play a final game during the All-Star Game.

        I think the Fantasy Draft showed that new ideas/general open-mindedness can really add some buzz to the event. Ultimately it’s still a frivolous and fun event, but a preseason game would also give it less competition: only MLB would stand in the NHL’s way on that day/afternoon/night.

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