Welcome to the NHL All-Star break — a contentious point of discussion for hockey fans. Some fans love the opportunity for the best of the NHL to show off its skills, while others loathe the absence of true hockey games, as well as the apathy of the players and coaches who participate in the event. Personally, I agree with the latter opinion, but since we are all just waiting around until the heated last leg of the playoff race begins, let us debate.
Proponents of the All-Star break argue that though unnecessary, the break provides some relaxation for players and coaches before the crazed scramble for playoff spots. Events like the skills competition bestow players with a rare opportunity to cut loose and show off their personalities in a different way than they can in regular season play.
The camera panning to Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin getting along and joking around, while a nightmare to some, can only be facilitated by something as foolish as an All-Star game. It is fun to watch the players we idolize act human for a change. Whether that is confirming that Connor McDavid is good at skating fast, or that Shea Weber can still slap the puck really hard, it is good fun.
However, there are some people — myself included — who are a tad jaded about the whole event. And perhaps it is just because I did not have a Capitals game to look forward to this entire weekend. But, for me, it is difficult to see the All-Star game as anything other than a contrived money grab by the NHL.
The “celebrity shoot-out” sounds like a clickbait headline more than anything else, and though some players genuinely enjoy entertaining and consider being named an All-Star a great honor, it seems that too many of them do not take it seriously enough for me to get excited about it.
Plenty of hockey players undergo the risk of suspension by claiming injuries that will get them out of going, a phenomenon so middle-school that it is almost impossible to take seriously. Just last season, Ovechkin chose the one-game regular season suspension rather than participating in the All-Star Game festivities.
But the fact that John Tortorella, head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is skipping the entire weekend to tend to his son’s sick pit bull has some scratching their heads. I am not here to discount the plight of a sick dog; I am saying that if the All-Star game was an honor like the NHL parades it to be, Tortorella should take it more seriously.
And for me, this shatters the illusion. Hockey that has no effect on standings or playoff bids, no matter how many gimmicks are added, simply fails to be compelling entertainment. Throw in a few musical guests that look like they were randomly chosen off a 12-year old’s party playlist — Nick Jonas, Carly Rae Jepsen and Fifth Harmony —and you’ve got yourself an empty weekend of commercialization and lackluster events that hardly jive with the honest hockey culture we all love.
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