Sunday, January 30, 2011
NHL All-Star Weekend
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the NHL All-Star Game. Over the past couple years, it just honestly hasn’t done it for me like it did when I was younger, and apparently, I wasn’t the only NHL fan who felt this way. After taking last year off of the All-Star festivities because of NHL players participating in the Winter Olympics, I’ll admit that I kind of missed the All-Star game and its processes, flaws and all.
So this year, the NHL decided to try to fix the All-Star selection and organization process. Instead of the typical East VS West style they’ve used for years, team rosters are selected via the All-Star team captains who are selected. Starting players are still voted for by fans (a process which still remains as broken as ever), and the selected team captains (in this case, the captains of each team are Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and future hall-of-famer Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom)“draft” from the pool of players picked by the league to participate. A risky gamble definitely, but somehow, someway, it all kind of works…to a degree. Now that All-Star weekend has come and gone, let’s go through all three stages of the weekend All-Star process: the Draft, the Skills Competition, and finally, the All-Star game itself.
The All-Star game fantasy draft found Team Staal and Team Lidstrom select from the thirty-some odd players, among them being superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and more besides. The whole Draft evening was in a nutshell, kind of boring to be honest. The whole process was just drawn out, and the shitty commentating from the usual lineup of announcers that Versus supplies us with didn’t help matters either. Even the players looked bored. Case in point, Ovechkin and goaltender Cam Ward, both seated next to each other and obviously texting each other some comical things judging by the smiles on their faces. Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien looked like he was going to fall asleep at any moment. Flyers star Danny Briere looked like the chair he was sitting in was quite uncomfortable or he was going to shit his pants. The real highlight of the whole night however was seeing Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel get picked last by Team Lidstrom, which amounted to being “the All-Star that no one really gave a shit about”. It came out afterwards that the NHL awarded Kessel money to give to his cancer charity and a new car for receiving the dubious honor, but all in all, the Draft was a bore. Hopefully the NHL manages to improve the process down the road.
THE SKILLS COMPETITION
The Skills Competition is something that I always look forward to seeing and generally enjoy, this year being no exception…for the most part. What made this year’s edition so enjoyable to watch wasn’t the players per se’, but instead the gaffes made by the arena announcer calling out the players and some of the effects crew as well. Most notably was Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis get announced as being from the Florida Panthers, and Chicago Blackhawks winger (and former Flyer) Patrick Sharp come out to a Columbus Blue Jackets logo being portrayed under his name. Now that would have been a funny prank, to make Sharp think he just got traded to the Jackets by doing this, and just tell him that “we forgot to tell you”. That could have been classic.
Anyway, the Skills Competition itself was fun, thanks pretty much to the players who participated. From Montreal Canadiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban borrowing Carolina Hurricanes rookie forward Jeff Skinner’s jersey to wear so he wouldn’t get booed, to Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas falling on his ass during a rink-race with ‘Canes goalie Cam Ward, to Alex Ovechkin breaking sticks left and right (and subsequently ganking Kris Letang’s during the Hardest Shot segment), without even meaning to! These guys made the whole night worth watching, and they generally had fun throughout for the most part, particularly the rookies who took part, even though a handful of them (most notable being Edmonton Oilers rookie phenom Taylor Hall and Panthers winger Evgeny Dadonov) looked like they were miles away.
And one last thing here too, I don’t want to sound like I kiss Ovechkin’s ass too much, but what all he did during this game is just one of the many reasons I love this guy so much more than his fellow superstar forward, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Crosby is extremely talented, and did not participate this year due to a concussion (in fact, Crosby has only once participated in an All-Star game, every other time he’s been selected he’s been injured) and even lobbied against the new format of the All-Star game as well. The fact is however, is that Crosby never looks like he’s having fun out there on the ice; at least not like Ovechkin does. True, Crosby has more hardware and accolades than Ovechkin does for the time being, but Ovie has the personality that many NHL players today sadly lack.
And oh yeah, former badass great Jeremy Roenick asking the Thrashers’ Byfuglien (who just so happens to be one of the few African-American players in the league) to “spit out some raps” was equal parts awkward and hilarious.
THE ALL-STAR GAME
The first thing I noticed before the game even started was that the audio was out of synch, and it was painful (and wasn’t fully fixed until BEFORE THE THIRD FUCKING PERIOD!). What made things even more painful to watch however was the staged moment before the puck drop between a bunch of little kids all wearing the jerseys of former hockey greats like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. This was softened however thanks to appearances from Hurricanes greats Ron Francis and Rod Brind’Amour; two of the absolute best players to ever play for the franchise. And oh yeah, 3 Doors Down performed during the first intermission…I know I mentioned the word “painful” before, but I think applying it to this aspect is the best use I’ve made of the word yet. I could make better music using my ass hole and a jug.
All that aside though, the All-Star game in itself was entertaining enough to watch, and despite not featuring such things as big hits, dirty penalties, and guys beating the shit out of each other; in other words, all the things that make hockey great. But that’s the thing about the NHL All-Star game, you know already that you’re not going to get any of that, and that’s why so many NHL purists would love to see the whole thing done away with. I can sympathize with them to a point, but as a fan more so than anything else, I think that it’s something that should NEVER be done away with, but is still in need of some serious tinkering regardless. After all, there’s just about always room for improvement in just about anything, and the All-Star game is no different.
Speaking of room for improvement, I can’t write about this anymore without mentioning the NHL Guardian Project. 30 super heroes crafted by legendary comic book creator Stan Lee, all based on the 30 NHL teams. It was an idea that actually intrigued me when I first heard about it, because I’m a nerd first and an NHL fan second. But I can honestly say that these 30 superheroes are so damn lame, and are created based on the literal meanings and definitions of what the team names stand for. The “Bruin”, which is a giant bear, or the “Hurricane”, or the “Avalanche”…all this from the guy who years ago co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, the Fantastic Four, the original X-Men, Daredevil, and more besides. And the presentation of these “Guardians”? Christ almighty…I’m having a hemorrhage just thinking about it, and I think it may have lead to me pissing blood…
Anyway, now onto the fucking game! The game itself was what one would come to expect from an NHL All-Star game. Lots of offense, zilch on defense, and everybody just having a bit of fun, except for the goalies of course. Seeing Blackhawks sniper Patrick Sharp walk away with the All-Star MVP is cool, considering that this guy NEVER got a chance with the Flyers and was frequently shipped back and forth between the NHL and AHL, until he was traded to the Blackhawks for practically a bag of pucks. Now he’s a Cup champion, having a career year, and is an All-Star MVP. Team Lidstrom may have beaten Team Staal, and the game itself turned out to be pretty nail biting towards the end.
All in all, despite its assortment of flaws, annoyances, and general grievances (3 Doors Down sucks more than a desperate and coke-deprived Lindsey Lohan), this year’s edition of the NHL All-Star game was an entertaining endeavor. It’s good to see all these big-name players get together for one big bash and not take it too seriously, and just forget for one game about the conference races and playoff pushes, and that’s what it’s really all about in a nutshell. With all that being said though, the playoffs aren’t all that far away, and before you know it, someone will be raising that big beautiful bitch that is known as the Stanley Cup.
It’s a celebration bitches, enjoy yourselves.