Thursday, January 25, 2007

What Do You Want From An All-Star Game Anyway? - Selling Hockey Stateside Part 1

Holy Moly, a 12-9 blowout!

Doesn't much resemble an NHL game now does it?

There is no perfect format for the event to please everyone. Everything has been attempted. It cannot become meaningful or representative of the NHL game.

Should it even?

It was once a Stanley Cup champions versus All-Stars game. It had some meaning and sense. It pitted a well tuned unit against players not used to playing together, whose goal consisted of beating (read - maiming) the defending champs.

Imagine the Carolina Hurricanes lining up against the best of the rest. The words purposeless and obsolete come to mind.

East versus West, a longstanding concept, still fails to produce the sparks of a regular NHL contest. A North America team against the World team, provides a home team to cheer for, albeit with the same result.

Challenge Cups, Rendez-Vous 87, and the Olympics have all had their runs, generally messing with a good NHL season already underway. Yes, they were more compelling, but offered no long term solution.

The absense of the game's physicality gnaws at many a die hards nerves in these All-Star contests. The fact is defensive play cannot be forced on players participating in a meaningless game.

The All-Star teams simply do not resemble what a team is. To think it ought to, is missing the point.

Who wants to see all these assembled talents grind it out in a trap style game that ends 3-2, with players on each side out for the season because of injuries.

What would be the point of that?

Do you really want to see Sidney Crosby flattened at center ice, head down for a second, by Dion Phaneuf?
I can handle that in the context of a regular season game, but not here.

Many suggest that something be at stake it this game, to make players perform in a semblance of what the game is about.

In baseball, homefield advantage in the World Series has added interest. However, in baseball, there is little physical contact other than a spikes high slide into second base or the chin music served to the batter hogging the strike zone.

The idea cannot translate itself into a hockey game of such small consequence.

So exactly what is the point of the All-Star game anyway.

Well, it's not about who wins and who scores, because who really remembers anyway?

It's not about who makes it to the game and who didn't.

Just who won that Dodge truck in '86?

It's all about the sell. Marketing. Promotion. Showcase. Personalities.

Should it really be about anything else?

The fact that it focuses on the game in its most unrepresentative state annoys many. Often, the curious are deceived while the diehards yawn.

Over the years, the All Star festivities have grown to include skills competitions and fanfests. Both have been great starting points, if imperfectly executed.

Does the NHL really need to go over the top with Cuba Gooding Jr. types, faking a frothing love of the game, while looking like an imbecile reading cuecards.

The Hollywood promo that the All-Star game claims to be, is not trying to preach to the converted, but seeing Cuba ask Paul Coffey questions on a 1993 Cup final he didn't partake in, and watching Joe Nieuwendyk twitch facially while wondering just what dynasty he was a member of, hardly sells the game to anyone.

I must admit that personally, I loved watching the mic go dead on Mark Messier in a moment of self promotion.

Does a down to earth, working class game need such hoopla?

Evidentally, to sell it in U.S. markets, it does.

As Canadian fans of the game, many of us have problems with that angle, and we really shouldn't.
It doesn't need to be sold to us - we own it.

The All-Star game is about selling the great game of hockey to a United States Of America that is hesitant to buy in, as it is foreign to them, in most parts.

Foreign in the sense that it is not yet of their own.

It one day will be, but not tomorrow.

1 comment:

Jes GÅ‘lbez said...

I must admit that personally, I loved watching the mic go dead on Mark Messier in a moment of self promotion.

You and 99% of Canucks fans.

"Chip?"