The NHL All-Star game is a treat for the host city and dozens of media folks having a few pops on the company dime. It’s also great for league sponsors who spread millions on TV and streams to affirm their importance by rubbing elbows with NHL players.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has the right idea. Participate as little as possible, focus on hockey, and get back to real life as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, All-Star Games are a function of a society long gone. They’re a perk players no longer need or want. They’re a blight on the schedule.
But let’s cut to the chase.
No one likes them. Fans don’t care.
Yet they exist in a tormented tradition and adherence to the past when such artificial but grandiose spectacles could create a joyous communion. Before cable TV and 24-hour sports channels conflagurated sports coverage, All-Star games were a chance for fans across the country to see larger-than-life players and personas they might only see once or twice a season.
That was back when athletes were heroes and glossy posters adorned bedroom walls. All-Star Games were something to look toward, like a hot fudge sundae in a baseball helmet after a Little League game.
But now those treats that were the All-Star Game turn everyone’s stomach.
Sports leagues, not just the NHL, remain transfixed on the past. Fans 18-35 years old are generally the prime targets and most rabid consumers of the product.
Fans 18-35 now have six-inch screens nearly sewn to their hands, which are an integral part of daily life. Instagram reels of sports highlights, quick opinions, and more highlights fill the day. The ability to watch games–any games–at any time–fills nights.
If a fan in Boston likes Connor McDavid, that fan can watch any game and the highlights.
So, what’s special about a game with that star player goofing off with other star players? Most fans want to see their favorite players in fierce competition, not halfhearted slapstick comedy.
The 4-Nation Face-Off next season will be interesting, but the lack of European or Russian teams means some of the game’s best players will be watching with the rest of us for 10 days.
The small international tournament is imperfect but light years ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov’s boo-inducing lazy performance in the NHL Skills Competition Friday.
National games used to mean something. Monday Night Football. The MLB All-Star Game. Hockey Night in Canada. But they’ve all been diminished not by greedy networks directly but by saturation of life and sports on demand.
The international tournament might be a sweet respite from the contrived teams and forced competition. The Olympics in 2026 will be an even better treat.
The players and fans deserve better than a schlocky relic of the past. We’ll be better off with more outdoor games, a special rivalry week, or even just a shortened regular season and Stanley Cup Final that ends before late June.
After today, it’s time to dump the All-Star Game.