What should an All-Star Game be: an opportunity to see the best players all playing in the same game, or a celebration of the sport and league that brings fans together?
This question has led to many heated debates, Twitter feuds, and broken friendships (OK, that’s a little extreme). Some believe only the best of the best should participate, whereas others believe every team deserves to take part in what is ultimately the biggest celebration of their sport. On Friday, Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon announced that he was on the former side.
When MacKinnon learned that his teammate and the NHL’s fourth-leading point-getter this season, Nazem Kadri, would not be named to the NHL All-Star team, MacKinnon was rightfully frustrated. “It’s not a Participation Game,” he said. And while he’s technically right, that is what the All-Star Game has been for years now.
If NHL players truly believe the All-Star Game should be a showcase of the best the sport of hockey has to offer, then… NEWSFLASH! You might want to start putting your money where your mouth is and actually play the best hockey you possibly can. Anyone who’s watched the NHL All-Star Game in years past can tell you that it’s not the best hockey the sport has to offer, it’s a series of 3-on-3's with players mostly goofing around and playing half-assed in an effort to ensure they don’t get hurt, which is fine. It’s just not as riveting as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And until the players start taking it seriously, it will never be as good as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’re not actually seeing the best hockey being played, we’re seeing the biggest names from the best teams on the ice at the same time, and since that’s the case, why not give every fanbase an opportunity to root for one of their players?
The NHL All-Star Game is a cash grab by the league. They want an event that draws fans from all over the United States and Canada in an effort to grab a ton of views. It’s not a necessary game. The players know it. The fans know it. The league knows it (hence why it was the first thing to be eliminated from the NHL schedule with COVID concerns last season). As long as it remains an unnecessary event, players won’t take it seriously, and it will never be what MacKinnon claims it is. So, why is it a bad idea for the NHL to include at least one player from every team?
The biggest storyline for the NHL this season was the league’s expansion and introduction of the Seattle Kraken, and even though the Kraken aren’t doing that well in the standings, every NHL fan was still beaming with excitement over the inclusion of a new team. That’s what the NHL is about, the love of hockey. That’s what fans care about. Of course they want to see the best players all playing at the same time, and I’m sure if fans had the opportunity to vote for the entirety of every division’s roster, Kadri would’ve been a shoe-in for the All-Star team.
But alas, he wasn’t selected by the NHL. It’s a shame, and hopefully the fans vote him in as part of the “Last Men In” ballots, which will determine the final All-Star participant for each division. If he does, then great! The system worked. Kadri is in and every team gets to partake in the festivities. If not, that sucks, but hey, the NHL knows what the All-Star Game is about and they fed into it. Can’t blame them for that.