While he probably isn’t soliciting advice on how he runs his league, Gary Bettman might want to read some of the tea leaves coming out of this years all star break in Dallas.
While the actual all-star game was its typical high scoring, non hitting self, a Harlem Globetrotters like excursion into fancy passing and goal tender abandonment, the real chatter has been about the Young Stars game the night before. And, well Mr. Bettman, cover your ears, because the reaction has not been nice.
The consensus seems to be that the Young Stars showcase should be dumped, the contest which features the young up and coming talent in the NHL was described as a bit of an embarrassment by some, and a debacle by others. You would be hard pressed to find one article or conversation that said it was the event that made the break a success.
It’s not the fault of the youngsters; it’s the format and the concept that is at fault. The four on four thing is ok for a few minutes, but after a while it’s like watching a pre game warm up for sixty minutes, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass oh yeah somebody shoot. It’s as if the writers of the Simpson’s had designed their own form of sporting activity to make sport about.
Compared to the Top Prospects game the week before from Quebec City, Tuesday nights “game” was like pond hockey run amok. You ended up hoping that somebody would shoot the puck into a snow bank and the game would have to be called.
In the end the suggestion was made to increase the All-Star rosters to guarantee a set number of spots for the younger stars of the game, giving them the feeling that their on the main card and not on some wayward sideshow activity.
The skills competition was the highlight of the break, everybody loves to watch the hardest shot, the fastest skater and those pie plate target shooting masters. Perhaps the marketing gang at the NHL can dream up a few more events for that session and holster the Young Guns.
While the All Star game is a bit of a folly at the best of times, it won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Next year its Atlanta’s turn and then it’s back to Montreal to celebrate 100 years of Canadiens hockey.
Some suggest that perhaps the better move might be to invite the Top Prospects to tag along with the All Star traveling show. The problem with that idea though would be that the Prospects game with all of its intensity would probably overshadow the big boys, so we’re not likely to see that anytime soon.
For now, the league needs to look back at what worked and what didn't these last few days, the Edmonton Sun's Jim Matheson , Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Morrison and Sports Illustrated's Kostya Kennedy offer up their advice.