All-Star Game Past
As a child, I was fascinated by the NHL all-star game. Growing up in the ‘80s was not just a fantastic musical era, featuring the prime years of such luminary bands as U2, A Flock of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo, it also allowed for televised coverage of matches to attain event status.
The lack of video coverage in those days with few television channels and no internet coverage meant that any rare opportunity to see a game generated sizeable viewing figures.
For locals unfortunately, Canucks games were few and far between on screen. All-star matches in turn provided one of the few times a fan could see any match, let alone one that incorporated a collection of the best stars in the league.
For a kid used to only seeing weekly Maple Leafs games stuffed down their throat by a Toronto-centric television network, it was a real treat to see the skills on display of the league’s best.
The games were competitive too.
The Wales conference (eastern) and the Campbell conference (western) would put on a heck of show, and the players you could see were genuinely interested in winning, freely hitting and back checking against one another.
All-Star Game Present
However, over time the game has devolved into more of a sponsorship showcase and the games are now more often played in non-traditional markets, reducing the excitement and build up around the event.
The daily coverage voraciously feeding a never ending array of sports & specialty channels means that one can watch competitive hockey every day, so the ‘gentlemanly’ non-contact all-star format has lost much of its appeal.
Players seem more eager not to injure themselves, and are more closely focused on their contract status.
If we can see those skills on a hundred different highlight shows every day, then why do we need a Disneyfied version?
In Gary Bettman’s NHL, the good of the game is not necessarily uppermost.
For the public, we can choose to watch or not and it is very apparent that many of us, including this observer and apparently Ovechkin, will be merely catching the highlights this year or tuning out altogether.
What are the benefits for the four Vancouver Canucks attached to this year’s edition of the player showcase? They are good and bad in equal measure.
For the brothers Sedin, there is not much of a gain in showing up in Ottawa. Going back to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and some energy draining playoff runs through last year’s Stanley Cup sojourn, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have played an awful lot of hockey.
The wear on their aging legs has been very apparent over the past couple of weeks as their production has declined.
A good rest is more of what they need at home with family and some light workouts, not a long slog of flights back and forth to the nation’s capital. The risk of a careless injury to either or both the twin stars for a meaningless match, could adversely affect Vancouver’s chances later on in the season.
On the other hand, the boost of confidence provided for defence-man Alex Edler to be sent as a representative to the main event could further stir this gentle giant.
He has broken out this season on both ends of the ice, and the revelation for him to be counted among the league’s finest rearguards can greatly help the Swede’s mindset.
He also gets the opportunity to drop a heavy shoulder hit or two on an unsuspecting Blackhawk or Bruin in the contest, not many tears would be shed either.
The inclusion of Cody Hodgson in the rookie skills contest is also very motivating for the youngster as it celebrates his full-fledged emergence as an NHL regular, putting his injury ravaged past further into the rear view mirror.
It also enables a glossy showcase for the Canucks if, as some rumors suggest, the team is even considering shopping the talented third liner, though it could mortgage the team’s future and lead to some team execs being run out of town by Vancouver townspeople bearing torches.