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In Defence of the All-Star Game

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In case you couldn't tell with my on-going series of anticipatory posts, I really like the All-Star Game. However it has come to my attention while reading the train-wrecks that are internet comment sections, that people don't really like it. They can come up with arguments advocating for its removal. Here I will offer counterpoints arguing in its favour. Note: the quotes weren't taken from any specific sources, but are instead generalizations. Also, my roster suggestions are based on the rosters unveiled on January 10, rather than injury-revised rosters.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

"We Have the Winter Classic, a Better Celebration of the Game, We Don't Need an All-Star Game"

This opinion is espoused by noted and respected hockey insider Pierre LeBrun. The Winter Classic and similar outdoor games do a better job of celebrating the game of hockey and paying homage to its history and whatnot. That is perfectly true, save for one thing. It assumes that is the purpose of the All-Star Game as well, and that it is, as a result, redundant. My first exposure to the All-Star Game came during its rebellious experimental years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the World vs North America years. Never since I started watching hockey has it ever occurred to me that that was its purpose. It's not about paying homage to hockey history, it's about showing off the stars.

"The NHL All-Star Game is Pointless, Just Like Any All-Star Game"

The NHL All-Star Game is an exhibition game. There are no stakes. It's outcome has no effect on the rest of the season. Therefore it shouldn't be played at all, right? People would say that. You know what else doesn't have a point to it? The last-place team in the NHL playing the last few games of its schedule. Looking purely at its impact on that team's season result, it has no point, but nobody would actually suggest not playing them. That's how I look at the All-Star Game. Sure it has no impact outside its little weekend, but it's still worth having. There are things that could be done to make the game a little more exciting, but that's another topic entirely.

"The Fan Vote Is a Popularity Contest"

Um, yeah...so what? I don't see a problem with players getting voted in by fans. There are problems inherent in the format, but not the concept itself.

"We Get Other Teams' Games on TV, So We Don't Need an All-Star Game to See Other Stars"

I don't like this argument because it assumes that seeing a handful of stars from only two teams is the same as seeing  a bunch of stars from the whole NHL. Seeing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane vs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin isn't a 1:1 comparison to seeing Toews and Kane plus 19 other elite players against Crosby and Malkin plus 19 other elite players, and shouldn't be looked at as such. With exclusively skilled players, it's better than the intimidation and attrition-centric grinder games of the regular season.

None of this is to say that the All-Star Game is perfect. Far from it. I'm also going to propose some things that could improve the game.

Add Stakes

A problem that needs to be addressed is that is no consequence to the result of the All-Star Game. You can tell in how the All-Star Teams play versus a normal game. It's better than the Pro Bowl, where you get replacement-ception, but it's not as good as it could be. I would suggest having the two All-Star Teams playing for their Conference getting home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final, but that would require ditching one of the most interesting All-Star Game concepts ever, the Fantasy Draft. I like it, and think it should stay. We could easily have stakes by having the teams play for charity. The original All-Star Game, played during the Depression, were benefit games. I'd take it a slight step further, encourage the teams to try harder by awarding the winning captain money for the charity of his choice. If you feel both should get money, offer a larger payout to the victor. With real stakes, you'd see better competition, but the lack of impact on regular season standing would probably demotivate the players from playing a regular-season grindy game. Win-win!

Restrict Fan Voting Results

Of the original pre-injury All-Star rosters, 22 teams each sent one player. Only eight teams sent more than one player, only Columbus (three players) and Chicago (five) sent more than two. 73% of the NHL's teams sent only 52% of its All-Star participants. This means that when injuries hit, it's more likely to result in a player going unrepresented in the All-Star Game, as will happen with Detroit this weekend. I think teams should be restricted to sending no more than three players to the All-Star Game. Simple math would prevent all teams from sending more than one player, but a limit of three would allow more teams additional representation, making it less likely for a team to not be represented because of an injury.

Expand Rosters

Continuing my frustration with last-minute injuries preventing teams from being represented, and with players really deserving of going not being named, I'd suggest making the All-Star lineups similar to Olympic-sized rosters. As you may know, an Olympic roster has an additional two forwards and two defencemen, and one extra goalie. An All-Star Team already has three goaltenders. I'd take it a step further by adding an extra forward line and defence pairing. I'm sure there'd be a way to make it work for only one game. It would be a happy medium between only deserving players going to the Game, fan vote ballot stuffing tendencies, and not making as many glaring omissions as there were this year. If you're curious, my extra forwards would have been Pavel Datsyuk, Nick Bjugstad, Max Pacioretty, Joe Pavelski, Filip Forsberg, and one of Winnipeg's top line forwards. The extra defencemen would be PK Subban, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Better Jersey Designs and Designers

Chances are you didn't really like the jerseys unveiled for this year's All-Star Game. Even if you're like me and was intrigued by the neon green colour scheme they went with, you were probably still disappointed. Past the link was a design submitted to Icethetics.co, a site dedicated to the hockey's design. The design has three different interpretations of the same template, one that uses the black, white, and neon green colour scheme, one that eschews it in favour of Columbus' team colours, and a compromise using neon green as an accent on the Blue Jackets coloured jerseys. In my not-so humble opinion, these design proposals prove that the colour scheme wasn't the problem so much as lazy and/or uncreative designers who agreed on neon green, decided it was unique, and called it a day without designing a good uniform.

Giant Novelty Rink

This idea probably sucks a lot, but it's probably the last creative idea I'll have for a while, so why not propose it anyway? Make a giant rink, ideally two normal rinks criss-crossing at centre ice, and have each side be the zone for one of four All-Star Teams divided across Divisions (Team Adams, Team Patrick, Team Norris, Team Smythe). There certainly wouldn't be the problem of glaring snubs.

So there's my moslty-serious suggestion for why the All-Star Game is a worthy component of the season and how it could iron out some of the lumps. Tell me what you think in the comments.