The NHL opened their All-Star Game voting on December 1, 2015. As tradition goes some players get voted in by the fans, others are chosen by the NHL itself. Others get added as players go down with injury or can’t attend. This year though, the NHL has decided to try something different. They’ve decided to try to make players, who have become bored with the old format, excited to play in the All-Star Game again. So when All-Star Weekend rolls around in Nashville here are three changes, one thing that’s staying the same, and the concession made to get there.
- No More All-Star Draft
For the last few years we’ve been treated to the sight of NHL players picking other NHL players like middle school gym class all over again. Who is picking who and who is ignoring who just for the sake of the laughs has always been obvious and enjoyable. The site of players swigging beer and cracking jokes in a room of their peers has always been a fan favorite. Its loss is the biggest one this year. The reasoning is that there will be more than two teams this year which makes sense, but also brings us to…
- 3-on-3 Tournament
The success of 3-on-3 overtime has been massive. Fans love it and most players are enjoying it. I personally think it’s the best thing to happen to the NHL product since the sweeping changes following the 2004-2005 lockout. Of course the NHL has decided to take its shiny new toy to its toughest weekend to get people invested in it. The All-Star Game last year suffered immeasurably by the drop outs of big names like Evgeni Malkin and last minute replacements from the Young Stars squad. The game has become stale and while the wrinkle of the draft was fun, it wasn’t enough to sell players ongoing. So the NHL proposed bringing in a new competition format.
Each Division — Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific — will be represented by a team of players. This team will be made up of six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies from each division. Every NHL team will be represented. Each division’s team captain will be decided by the fan vote which changes to only voting in one player per division. Each team’s coach will be the coach from that division whose team is winning following the completion of the January 9th games. They will pit the Eastern Conference’s two squads against each other, then the West’s two squads will go head-to-head in a pair of twenty minute mini-games. The winners of each of these games will advance to the Final mini-game where they will play East versus West. This sounds fun to us as fans for the most part but how do they get players to agree to do this? Well that’s pretty simple…
- Prize Money
Money talks and while NHL players realize they’re playing a kids game, a little monetary incentive never hurt when players are being asked to give up a few days off in exchange for more games that don’t mean anything. So the winners of the All-Star Tournament this year won’t just get bragging rights, they’ll also split a one million dollar check between themselves (and personally I think it would be pretty cool if they made a trophy to pass around because everyone wants a trophy). This money will most likely go to any number of the charities of choice that different NHL players have, but definitely adds a little something to make them want to go.
What’s the Same – The Skills Challenge
So when I first heard they were changing the All-Star Game my first reaction was “not the skills competition!” Because while the game itself has gotten boring (other than Darryl Sutter’s assistant coach last season I can’t remember anything about the game) the skills competition is still really fun. The players love the bragging rights of being the fastest skater or most accurate shooter. Don’t worry, that isn’t going anywhere. The shootout competition where Patrick Kane infamously dressed up as Superman will be back in 2016 and Corey Perry’s mini-stick will be allowed out if he so chooses. That, the NHL knew, wasn’t broken so it didn’t need fixing.
How they got there – Adding in bye weeks
The NHL is notorious for not changing much or when they do it being a long arduous process (we all remember the lockouts). This change, however, seemed relatively quick. There are two reasons for that. The first is that this isn’t necessarily permanent. They have only agreed to this new format for the 2016 version of the All-Star Game in Nashville, Tennessee. The powers that be (the NHL and NHLPA) could decide this is a great idea and keep it, or that they hate it and scrap it all over again. But the NHLPA still needed something if it was going to give the NHL this new format and that, reportedly, came in the form of NHL bye weeks.
The NFL and NCAA Football both do bye weeks so we all know what they are. They’re a period of time when a team doesn’t play any games in order to rest. Honestly, I often wondered why the NHL didn’t have them before since the season is so long and arduous. It would seem that the players are finally asking and reportedly getting them. There have been no official announcements yet, but many sources are saying that starting next season, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 every NHL team will get a five-day bye week in exchange for signing off on the new All-Star Format.
So enjoy the new format and tune in — by supporting it this year, it can hopefully stick around going forward.