The NHL All-Star Game is good for one thing, for me, every year. It starts up a lot of useless and sometimes downright stupid talk from loads of people. It's important for me to say up front that I think the ASG should no longer be played. To understand my perspective on that, you have to understand the original intent of All-Star Games in general.
Set the way-back machine for any date prior to the dawn of cable television. In hockey growing up, not every game for my home town team was televised and I never saw teams in the
Western Campbell Conference. The All-star game was a great opportunity every year for me to see players, on TV, that I never was able to see. The advent of cable, Center Ice, NHL Game Center & pirated internet streams of games has made the All-Star game outmoded for me. I can, in general, see any given player, on any given night now.
All the All-Star game does now is present an opportunity for idiotic statements and faux snub talk every year. Much more on that after the jump.
The first thing that happens every year is the "snub" discussion. This year when the NHL unveiled the full ASG rosters and the names Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom were missing, the internet did what it does. It went into ridiculous hyperbole mode and started screaming about how badly these players had been done to. Shortly after the calls for justice reached a fever pitch on Twitter, this astonishing factoid came out.
Just confirming that Selanne was indeed asked to go to all-star but politely declined.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 12, 2012
So Selanne decided on his own that he didn't want to attend after approached, such injustice. For the record, after Selanne declined, he suggested that teammate Corey Perry go in his place.
Now that the snub discussion regarding Selanne was over some people pivoted to an even more ridiculous position regarding player participation in the ASG. No less than three journalists suggested that players were obligated to participate in the game if selected. The logic was that people who purchased tickets to the game paid to see stars and a selected player, like Selanne, owed the ticket buyer. Lets set two facts straight on what a ticket purchase earns you, the fan.
1. Your ticket purchase entitles you to sit in Section X, Row Y, Seat #. You may sit in this seat for the duration of the event provided you conduct yourself within the confines of the ticket holder agreement you agree to at the time of your purchase. You may also be entitled to a free soft taco should the home team win.
2. Your ticket purchase does not entitle you to make demands on what any player does with his body or how any player should make any decision regarding their career.
The notion that you are "paying the player's salary" is ridiculous. The closest you might get on that point is that you a providing a minimal percentage of base capital that will be reinvested and over time provide a small portion of a player's salary. Revenue from merchandise, licensing of radio and television rights and corporate sponsorship all bring in more and in the long term provide more to pay players' salaries than your ticket price. Should any of those paid interests have a say on when a player plays? No. Additionally the inane idea that "we pay their salaries" was being espoused in part by journalists who generally attend every game they want to for free via a press pass is just stunning.
Then there is the most outlandish accusation of all. Players who opt out of the ASG are sissies. That one came from a journalist as well. Until you've played the game in a competitive fashion I don't think you have the proper frame of reference to call any hockey player out on their toughness. I played 8 seasons of competitive hockey. I've seen players play though injuries. Play when they shouldn't play. The ASG is worth zero points. If a player doesn't want to risk injury or aggravation of an existing injury, in a game worth zero points, I call that wise.
Then finally comes the most ridiculous of all of the statements being made, this one again by a journalist. Its the "I can't just decide not to go to something work releated because I am tired or do not want to" statement. Please stop trying to compare your writing job for your news paper, or your desk job at Corporation A to the "job" of being a world class athlete. If that's the comparison you want to make you might want to not eat so much and put the bowl of Cheetos down while you are watching them play. Pretty sure they cannot scarf down 3 dozen wings with ranch dressing during a game. My point is that comparing your job to theirs is as stupid and without merit as comparing Call of Duty on Xbox 360 to actual war.
In the end I hold true to the idea that the ASG is an outdated concept that needs to go. It introduces risk of injury in a game worth zero standings points for the players. Sure the NHL makes money from the corporate types who gobble up tickets and from the NBC broadcast rights. How much does the NHLPA make from it? Additionally the game is no longer the NHL's signature event. The Winter Classic has taken that position. Every 4th year, when the NHL players play for national pride at the Olympics is when I tune in to see the stars play. The All-Star Game is nothing like the product put out every night in the NHL. It's time it goes away. I still see the merit of the ASG format in the AHL and ECHL. There is no reasonably priced means to watch minor league hockey and the schedule is not balanced to where each team play each other at least once. The AHL All-Star game is the only time this year that Eric Tangradi will see Yann Danis barring a trade. The AHL version is still serving true to the original intent of the All-Star format. Too bad that game won't be widely televised either.