The National Hockey League’s All-Star Game is a chance to showcase the league’s best players in one game.
From 1947 to 1968, the Stanley Cup champions would take on a team of the best players from around the NHL. That was considered the All-Star game up until 1969, when the All-Star Game became a division versus division format.
From 1969 until 2009, the All-Star game would vary in degree to competition between two set teams. From 1969 to 1997, as the league expanded, the competition went from division versus division to conference versus conference. In 1998, the NHL introduced an All-Star Game that featured NHL North American All-Stars against NHL World All-Stars. That lasted until 2002, then it was switched back to a conference format.
In 2011, the NHL introduced the Fantasy Draft, where two players would captain their represented teams, and select their team based on the players selected to participate in the All-Star Game. Then, both teams would play with a mix of players from both conferences.
At first, it was a cool concept with guys like Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry playing on the same team. How about the Sedin twins playing on separate teams? It happened.
But the NHL wanted to spice things up even more, as last season’s All-Star game was lack-luster, and the players were just coasting and playing just to play. Plus, the All-Star Game jerseys were a sore eye for the fans.
This season, the All-Star Game gets an overhaul, as it will be a 3-on-3 tournament with three 20-minute games played in a divisional format. Unlike previous games, these teams will be competing for a prize, which is a $1 million prize to split amongst the players. Each divisional team will have eleven players, composed of six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies.
The first two games will feature the Central Division versus the Pacific Division, and the Metropolitan Division versus the Atlantic Division. The winner of those two games will clash in a winner-takes-all game for the grand prize.
Sounds fun and exciting, right? Sounds more watchable than the debacle that the All-Star Game has been in past years.
There is just one niche with the All-Star Game festivities that has been a problem throughout the years: the voting process.
Yes, the fans get to vote for the players they want to see in the All-Star Game. Yes, it does get the fans involved in the game. However, it has gotten completely out of hand.
The 2016 All-Star Game voting process began on Tuesday, and will conclude on New Year’s Day. The fans get to vote for the four captains of each team, and the NHL hockey ops. will choose the remaining cast of players. Through the first couple of days of fan voting, Arizona Coyotes’ fourth line winger, John Scott leads the voting for the All-Star Game.
The guy with 280 career games under his belt with six different teams. The guy who has scored five career goals, has eleven career points, and has amassed 535 career penalty minutes playing as a grinder who is most well-known for dropping the gloves and fighting anything that moves on the ice.
Is this a joke? Nope. More and more fans are getting behind this train for Scott to be the captain of the Pacific Division team. However, this is not the first time something of this caliber has happened in the All-Star Game voting process.
In 2007, a campaign went around the NHL to get defenseman, Rory Fitzpatrick into the All-Star Game. Fitzpatrick, who was with the Vancouver Canucks at the time, was in the later stages of his career, but the fans of Vancouver wanted him in. In the end, Fitzpatrick ended up not getting voted in.
Last season, it was Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres. In a season that was as atrocious as it was, the city of Buffalo was happy to see one of its own in the festivities. But it was not only Buffalo that got Girgensons into the All-Star Game. His home country of Latvia accounted for a majority of the All-Star votes, and Girgensons ended up leading all players in voting by over 350,000 votes.
This season, Girgensons and the Sabres are having a rebound season under head coach, Dan Bylsma. As the voting process opened, Girgensons sent a Tweet out to his fans in Latvia:
Visu cieņu faniem, bet lūdzu šogad nebalsot par mani zvaigžņu spēlē! Šādas lietas ir jānopelna!
— Zemgus Girgensons (@zemgus94) December 2, 2015
Translation: “With all due respect to fans, but please do not vote for me this year [for] the [all] star game! Such things must be earned!”
But Girgensons is not the only player in the NHL telling his fans not to vote for him this season for the All-Star Game.
43-year old grizzly veteran, Jaromir Jagr went to Twitter and told his fans, in a comical way, that he would die if he were to play in the 3-on-3 format.
Fans-I appreciate your votes for All-Star game, but 3 on 3 would kill me,and i don’t want to die yet:)Thank you for understanding. Too old:) — Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) December 2, 2015
We can only hope that Scott will do the same thing as Girgensons and Jagr, and tell the fans to stop voting for him. Or when the results come out, he will decline his participation in the All-Star Game.
The fans trying to make campaigns to get a certain, and unlikely player, into the All-Star Game is not funny, nor is it cute. Why would hockey fans want to see a player like Scott try to compete against players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, and others from a tough Central Division?
That is why the fan voting process should be taken out of the fray completely. Get rid of it.
The 3-on-3 format has been a huge hit among fans all around the NHL this season. Overtimes this season have been five-minutes of sudden-death, 3-on-3 action before heading to a game-deciding shootout. It has been high-octane, high-speed, and thrilling continuous action that has fans on the edge of their seats.
So to say that fans will not watch the game because they cannot vote players in seems unlikely. There will be those select few, however hockey fans will still tune in.
With the fan voting out of the question, how can the players be selected to the All-Star Game?
One way is dictate who goes to the All-Star Game is by point totals. The player with the highest point total from each division will captain its respected team, and then the list of the top scorers go from there. If two or more players have the same total of points, then the tie breaker could be the highest amount of goals a player has scored. If still tied, the tie breaker could be determined by something like the amount of goals scored within the division or conference.
Another way could be determined by the amount of three-star honors they have had this season. If a player has the highest amount of three-star honors, they will be chosen as the captain of their respected division. If two or more players have the same total, then it will be determined by the amount of first-star honors they have had throughout the season. If still tied, then the player with the highest point total will be honored with the captaincy.
There are other ways to determine who play in the All-Star Game each season, however fan voting needs to be eliminated from the selection process.
The NHL would like to make the All-Star Game entertaining to watch once again, and they are doing the right thing by making the format 3-on-3. Also, giving the players some compensation for winning the All-Star Game will probably give the players more drive to take the game seriously.
Another suggestion that could make the All-Star Game more meaningful is to determine who will have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals. Like the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, whoever wins the All-Star Game, it will earn their conference the right to play four games at home for the Stanley Cup Finals over three games.
If the players do not wish to participate in the All-Star Game, they should not have to play. If the NHL Player’s Association does not want the All-Star Game anymore, the NHL should consider scrapping it for another form of entertainment during or after the season.
Let the fans have their little fun and try to get Scott and other guys like that into the All-Star Game. Let them make the 3-on-3 contest no fun with guys who cannot skate or keep up with the high-intensity pace.
Starting next season, just take the fan voting out of the All-Star process. Let the NHL and the players decide who gets to play in the All-Star Game. The fans will not go anywhere, they will still come and watch their top players play in the festivities.
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