Article by Clutch    (01-29-11 09:12 AM)


All-Star Game’s a painful, hurtful waste of time

By Stephen Harris / Bruins Beat
Saturday, January 29, 2011 -
RALEIGH, N.C. — Anyone with even a partial understanding of the sport of hockey, and certainly people who have any fondness or respect for the NHL, should look upon the All-Star Game with nothing but contempt.

The event that occurs tomorrow afternoon at the Carolina Hurricanes’ RBC Center isn’t just a waste of time for all involved, it’s far worse than that. This ridiculous game isn’t merely of zero value in promoting the league, it’s actually a giant negative.

It hurts the game.

It sells a product that has absolutely nothing to do with real NHL play. The score will be, what, 14-12, or something like that. Virtually no defense will be played, and the players will go at about three-quarters speed. There will not be a single instance of physical contact that isn’t accidental.

At an All-Star Game a few years ago, one player turned to skate up ice, accidentally bumped into an opponent and knocked him to the ice. Player A then stopped, went back and helped Player B up.

Were an actual check be thrown — as did the Bruins [team stats]’ Terry O’Reilly, who simply couldn’t change his ferocious nature and play the creampuff hockey of this game, did in a game years ago — it would instantly become part of All-Star Game lore, talked about for years to come.

The things that really matter in the NHL has nothing to do with what takes place in this game. This affair puts on values that are antithetical to what hockey is really about.

Think of the familiar catch phrases and words you hear every day from coaches and experienced players:

“Keep it simple” . . . “Win battles”. . . “Go to the dirty areas”. . . “Compete.”

None of those will apply tomorrow. Instead, you’ll see an NBA-style extravaganza of phony and show-offy moves. The most honest team game in the world becomes a display of glitz and ego.

There is only one reasonably competitive All-Star Game among the major sports. Baseball. And that, of course, is because baseball is fundamentally an individual sport, not a team game. It’s one man’s skills vs. another man’s skills.

In the NFL’s Pro Bowl, those players who bother to show up have to do at least a little basic blocking and tackling. It wouldn’t look good if defensive backs simply let receivers run past them uncovered, or offensive linemen didn’t try at least to slow down rushers.

But imagine a Pro Bowl that was flag football — no contact, and the quarterback gets to five-one-thousand to get the ball away.

Basically, that’s precisely how the NHL All-Star Game is played.

It says plenty about the values the league espouses for this whole event that Bruins center Tyler Seguin was one of the rookies invited to take part, and Brad Marchand was not. Think Seguin, and you think big name and fancy skills. Marchand, a no-name, is about non-stop effort, courage and grittiness, along with skill.

Marchand has 13-12-25 totals and is plus-21 in 47 games; Seguin has 7-9-16 and plus-1 in 48. So whom would belong here if this was really about hockey and not a phony show.

The NHL toiled endlessly to try and bring some level of legitimacy to this wretched event. It’ll never work, simply because the players don’t care. They won’t do the one thing that’s so imperative in real hockey: Try.

Tonight’s skills competition is the one element with some value, simply because the players are motivated to win.

But it’s a safe bet that most of them, honestly, would far prefer four days off to coming here for this.

The latest gimmick to drum up interest was having team captains pick the all-star teams, man-by-man, at a much-hyped event last night at the local convention center.

Big deal. Now, if they wanted to try something weird that might actually be fun, have the All-Stars toss their sticks in a pile, separated by forwards, defensemen and goalies, at the start of the pregame warmup.

Then have the captains pick the teams, anonymously, by grabbing sticks, the way it’s always been done for games of pond hockey shinny.

That way you might at least get some interesting teams. That way you may even create an underdog with some motivation, yes, to try.

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01-29-11 09:21 AM - Post#1279795    

    In response to Clutch

It's an exhibition. I like the MLB All-Star competitive edge... the winner nets home team advantage for the World Series. Between the draft POSSIBLY creating a little bit of a competitive atmosphere and adding a home rink advantage to the Cup round, maybe the game would be a bit more competitive.

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