I have finally found something more pointless than Philadelphia’s snowfall — the National Hockey League All-Star Game. This “game” could re-write the definition of excruciating for this lover of defense. This year’s version just ended with the All-Star Blue team escaping Raleigh, N.C. with an 11-10 victory over the All-Star Red Team. It is time for my gripes!
First, what happened to East versus West? In 1998, the NHL began pitting the top North American players versus the best from everywhere else. The format lasted for five years, and each rendition bored me more. I know the NHL desperately wants to matter in the United States. Tennis, my obsession, does too, but both face long roads primarily because Americans want to watch what they invented, or think they invented, right, the ghost of Abner Doubleday? The whole North American All-Stars versus the World All-Stars had me thinking the NHL wanted some form of athletic Cold War. Just when I thought the league had gained its sanity back in 2003, today’s game occurred.
I had no clue until tuning in that this year’s game did not match East-West or North America-World. Instead, each team’s captain chose players from a combined pool of fan balloting and the NHL Hockey Operations Department. This player draft format meant that the goal by the Flyers’ Claude Giroux against the Penguins’ Marc-André Fleury was not a hallucination brought on by elevated blood sugar levels thanks to my earlier pasta feast.
I confess that I gave up after ten minutes, thinking the All-Star Red team’s 4-1 lead would wither quickly. How I enjoy being right! I know the fans come for offense, but someone needs to check someone! Give a goalie a snow shower. Make Fleury see flurries.
Call me a grump, but some of those guys make their living off being great defenders. Should they cease being so good just to add a few more cheers to an arena? Proceeds from the game go towards the players’ pension fund, so I could see how nobody would want to drop down to block Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara’s 105-mile-per-hour slapshot. However, somebody needs to take a body. How about a volunteer to grab Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane and let the star know never to grow a mullet again?
Next year’s contest will be in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. The city’s skaters have the Senators as their moniker. The boys have only to look at their political namesakes to know how to be rough and tumble. Come on, Ottawa, I am rooting for you. Inspire someone to check a Czech playmaker or finish a Finnish star. Just keep me from witnessing a score that belongs more on a diamond than in a rink.