January 28, 2008
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In the archives:

The new NHL? A dustup in Ottawa tests the model

Last chance for the Loonie, March 2006

Notes from the pond. Hockey Boy attends the Innaugural Pond Hockey tournament in Gravenhurst

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Just ask Jim - the most opinionated man in hockey

Bring on the Shootout! Jan 28, 2008

I don’t normally watch All-Star games in any sport. I find the NHL hockey version particularly disappointing. Lets face it: the game we love is about speed, contact, and crowding the net. The All-Star games that I have witnessed tend to be passive affairs that have little to do with anything that we see in a regular game. They tend to resemble shinny games between the Tim Bits Kids. And even the Tim Bit games have more of an edge.

I realize that the event is a necessary evil and a nice way of showcasing your best stars for the publicf, but the general spirit of non-competition between the players tends to take any luster away from the game.

The most interesting match in recent memory was the1998 tilt before the Winter Olympics. This was the first Olympics where the NHL allowed its players to compete and the All-Star game was suppose to provide a preview of the big event. It did not disappoint.

The Norh America vs. the World element created a competitive tone to the whole affair. The game had a definite edge to it - featuring determined play on both sides and honest to goodness contact. Do you remember Theo Fleury doing his best Pete Rose* imitation by attempting to hit everything in sight?

But that was a while back.

Flash Forward to 2008. With no Olympics on the horizon - and Sid the Kid limping - it would be hard to create any kind of a reasonable drawing card for this game. But god bless em'! Gary and the boys back at the home office managed to come up with at least one thing that piqued my interest: a skills competition modeled along the lines of the Slam Dunk event in the NBA.

With nothing else on the box other than figure skating and the psycho Red Bull competition, I tuned in.

Unfortunately it just didn't work. Instead of being a showcase it threw a glaring light on its limitation. The players - Ovechkin et al - seemed rather self-conscious about the whole event. There's really only so much you can do on a breakaway. Suddenly dipsy-doodling in front of the net at the end of a high speed rush made the whole event look ridiculous .

I know it was supposed to have all the grace and excitement of the Slam Dunk Affair, but it just petered out.

If you want to do something that combines grace and athleticism - and you don't want to make it look like Blades of Glory, or Dancing with the Stars, why not a shootout competition? It's such a big part of the game now, it’s a natural for the skills competition event. It’s great for TV, exciting for the fans and easy on the players. Line up five players on each side, give them a couple of shots each – and let em’ fly!

Done right, it could be the most exciting part of the weekend (and put an end to them All-Star Blahs).

Till Next Year’s event.

James McGee

* For those of you who forgot, Pete Rose slid into homeplate during the MLB game in 1970 almost killing backcatcher Ray Fosse, but winning the game for the National League side. (Source http://www.baseball-almanac.com/asgbox/yr1970as.shtml)

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