It's been hinted at for a few weeks, but the 2016 NHL All Star Game in Nashville will be getting a makeover. The game itself will become a 3-on-3 tournament.
TSN's Bob McKenzie provided the hockey world with the information on Tuesday night, though the league has yet to make an official announcement. It breaks down like this:
- The Fantasy Draft is dead.
- There will be four division teams.
- 9-10 skaters per team and a couple goaltenders.
- Each conference's divisions play each other in a 20-minute mini game. The winner of each of those games play in another 20-minutes mini game, for 60 minutes of hockey total.
So let's break this down as well.
Is This a Good Idea?
Hey, I'm for anything to break the monotony of the game. The flagship event is the worst part of the entire weekend. It's slow and boring and even the players don't care about it. The apathy in Nationwide Arena last year could be cut with a knife. Will 3-on-3 fix the lack of effort or raise the overall give-a-puck meter of the players? Honestly, probably not. But more on that later.
At the very least, it throws a gimmick on top of a gimmick and embraces the ridiculousness of the weekend. There's nothing serious about the event, so why pretend? It's not physical, so it's not like that aspect is being removed and theoretically it opens up the ice for more creativity.
What Are the Cons?
As mentioned above, there's absolutely nothing you can do about how little the players care about the game. In all likelihood the game will still be played at half speed, will still have tons and tons of goals, and still be somehow boring. The bright side to that con is that's OK, because the fans don't care about the game either and there are better parts of the weekend.
You'd hope that they would come up with something more creative than Team Central or Team Atlantic, but since this is the NHL you know it won't. Plus, 20 minute periods of 3-on-3 seems a little daunting. Granted, three periods of any All Star game is an endurance test, but still.
Will it make more people tune into the game? No. Maybe you'll have a few pop-ins just to see what's going on, but most regular hockey fans have already decided whether they're going to watch the All Star Game, and a new restructure won't do a whole lot to change that.
Finally, it means the death of the Fantasy Draft. Last year's event was by far one of the most enjoyable parts of the weekend. Whether it was Alex Ovechkin's ridiculous bid to win a car or the hidden libations that fueled Alex Ovechkin's bid to win a car, the entire thing was a delight. There was also some fun to be had in seeing all the players shuffled around, rather than just stick to their respective conferences.
Whatever they decide to replace it with, if they even decide to replace it, will almost assuredly not be as entertaining.
What Are Some Pros?
With only 9-10 players comprising a team in a six team division, it means the entire Blackhawks roster can't be voted in again. That's a start.
Splitting by divisions is a unique way to go, especially since a fan is going to be seeing a cadre of players they loath skating next to one from their team. Things were more mudded in East vs. West, and especially with the Fantasy Draft, but now these are skaters you have blood feuds with. Habs and Bruins skating together, MASS HYSTERIA.
Also, some of the talent in each division is stacked. The Metro division alone reads off like a who's who of potential Hart and Art Ross trophy candidates. Can you imagine a line of Toews-Seguin-Josi? There's room for each player's skill to shine in the game, even if they don't turn their dial all the way up.
Whether or not this "fixes" the event isn't the point. There are still going to be blowhards and curmudgeons croaking that the weekend is an embarrassment to the sport. Hardly.
All Star Weekend isn't supposed to represent the pure game of hockey. It's mean to showcase the talents and personalities of the best players in the league. It's meant for kids to see all of their favorite players up close and doing things they've never seen before. It's also a way for the host city to pull out all the stops and provide a background for a memorable weekend. One where fans of all 30 teams can set aside grudges and rivalries and just enjoy the sport.