Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ways to improve the All-Star Game

In case you haven't seen it, Sporting News's Craig Custance asked the hockey world how the league should improve the All-Star game. There's a lot of neat (and a few crazy) ideas in there, but why not throw in a few more? Some of these might be reaches or smell like mad science. Just roll with it.

First, a few of my favorites from the article:

Love the pickup game idea

Is there anything cooler than the idea of highly paid professional athletes acting out an experience almost any non-home schooled person went through in junior high? Just imagine players weighing skill versus friendships versus their teammate's egos would be great. Seeing which players were picked last probably would be the best part of all.

Also, helmets off is a must

Maybe we'd find there's a guy whose eyes bug out when he sees some open net like a modern day Rocket Richard.

Any excuse for international ice is a good excuse

Since the league would never give up that prime seat revenue, we'll probably never get the kind of open ice that could really make a bigger difference than less organic moves like widening the net. So at least tantalize audiences with the larger ice surface for the All-Star game.

Now, a few of my own:

Real estate and All-Star games: all about location

In the last few years, the league keeps shoehorning teams into opening their seasons in Europe. If those teams struggle, fans immediately (and not completely unjustifiably) blame said struggles on the extra travel.

And look at the New York Rangers this season. It seemed like a brilliant idea to have the Rangers play in the Czech Republic ... until Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka left the NHL. That's not to say that those games were failures because of a lack of prominent Czechs, but no doubt the league must have been thinking hometown fans would love to see Jagr play in those games.

Put the ASG in Amsterdam or Paris or Rome or some other awesome, tourist-y location and watch the mainstream media members suddenly catch hockey fever. Plus, having All-Stars instead of NHL teams play would allow people who never see the Crosbys and Ovechkins in person get to watch a bunch of big names at once.

Before you say "but the big names won't show up" ... don't you think Martin Brodeur would be more inclined to play if the game was featured in some exotic location instead of, say, Columbus, Ohio?

And to take care of issues with travel:

Move the All-Star Game to the preseason

This would make the traveling concerns weaken. Also, instead of wedging the All-Star game in the middle of the season, why not play it when people are jonesing for hockey? By positioning it in late January, people already have seen 40-50 games per team. But hold it in September and hockey fans will be much more likely to tune in. And if you're worried about competition from the NFL, just televise it on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

If an outdoor game becomes an annual event, why not give the ASG at least one snowflake boost?

Imagine watching the best players in the world skating and passing in an environment like Wrigley Field. Sooner or later, the novelty of the Winter Classic will wear off for the non-diehard hockey people so making one of the outdoor games an ASG would keep it fresh. What you'd lose in hometown team ratings you might just gain in nationwide ratings (maybe).


These events are that one time of their year when people don't need to worry about empty shootout points, dirty hits and other scandals. So why not have a little fun with it? And what better way to schmooze sponsors than to showcase hockey in such a grand, borderline romantic setting?


Jeff said...

A pre-season all-star game is the only option I've read that I like.

jamestobrien said...

I'll take it!