Just under a week ago, the NHL had their much maligned All Star Game. Early results indicate that ratings were low, very very low. Here are my thoughts on the whole spectacle.
I skipped the Young Stars game and apparently it was appropriately lame. Watching the Skills Competition, it was sadly the same tired and overdone competition.
First, the goalie shooting competition was missing. Although a gimmick, I found it enjoyable when the goalies (in full gear) tried to take a shot on an empty net from their side of centre.
Secondly, they talked to players during some of the competitions, like talking to the goaltenders on the tendencies of the shooters in the shootout and so on. It was pretty good stuff, especially the running commentary that Turco did. But it was far too short, they cut him off after a single shooter, just so that the ‘real’ paid commentators could drivel on. Turco seemed more then willing to sit there and chat it up, why not use that for their advantage? It would be much better to have Turco make claims on what shot he thinks each player will make, rather then random talking about what is happening that usually happens.
Finally, they should modify the shootout to be more like the good ol’ NBA Dunk Competition. The Dunk Competition has become a fan favourite and given the skill level of some of the NHL players and some of their creativity while in on the one on one, a Style Shootout Competition would be awesome. Have players like Crosby try the lacrosse goals, the spinoramas, the backhands. Only one player did much more then a few dekes, the competition could use a lot more of that.
That said, I agree with what has often been said of players wearing helmets in the shootout. Some say that taking the helmets off and making the players faces and heads that much more visible will help promote the players as stars and increase the feeling of attraction and ownership to the players by the fans. The fans start to see the faces, make a deeper connection, care more and so on.
That brings us to the All-Star Game. Rory Fitzpatrick didn’t play, despite the fact that Scott Niedermayer (one of the starters) was unable to play due to injury and Fitzpatrick as the #3 vote-getter would be an ideal candidate. In what has now become known as Rorygate, it has become shamefully obvious that the vote counts were tampered with to attract the utmost attention possible, but not allow Fitzpatrick to be voted into the game. Basically, the NHL wanted both sides of the plan, to take advantage of the beautiful viral marketing scheme that dropped into their lap and to also still honour the wonderful tradition of the All-Star Game. It seems they failed at both. Here’s a link to Slate.com’s article (yeah! even Slate got in on it). There’s plenty of other coverage about this all over the NHL blog network with enough questionable proof that it only comes to one conclusion. Sadly, the NHL still lies, not even meriting the whole thing with a ‘no comment’ or a ‘neither confirm nor deny’. No, Bill Daly claimed that there was no changes made to the voting process throughout the whole campaign. Yeah…sure…just ask those who voted for Rory consistently. My only hope is that the one message, that the real fans, those with passion for the game, were fed up and tired of the shenanigans and tired of the bullshit and the fact that the NHL ignores their existing fans to try to attract new ones. The All Star game is boring, tired and stagnant and that’s just the beginning.
Speaking of the actual game, first off the woman singing the Canadian National Anthem was more then terrible. She left room for her own artistic singing at the end and then after screwing up O Canada, she proceeded to fall flat on her ass. Quite the way to begin the game, of course, it wasn’t the first time this ever happened.
Then was the interview between Ron MacLean and Gary Bettman. Now, I admire Ron MacLean, he’s always been a more than capable foil to Don Cherry’s act. But the guy is starting to lose his edge. He’s not a fan of the new NHL rules, so much so that it’s starting to blind everything else and throw his entire straightman act off kilter. Bettman handled Ron like he would any two-bit reporter.
Bettman has been in his job for 15 years. 15 “Glorious” Years. Maybe it is soon time for him to hit the road? My vote for new Commish? Brian Burke. Sure, sure he’s Anaheim’s GM, but look at his track record. He used to work for the league, he took a job with Vancouver, a then failing franchise and turned it around. Then he goes to Anaheim, a team with a decent foundation but terrible attendance. He brings in some winning ways and low and behold, the success of the team and his style of play has more people going to the Pond. Burke knows hockey, he knows the game and knows the business. As much as I would hate to see him leave his post with the Ducks, I think he’d be great as the head of the NHL.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the discussion was when Ron unveiled his new-look NHL alignment. There has been many debates on the NHL schedule and how it is balanced amongst divisions and conferences, with players like Crosby only visited Western Canada once every three years. One of the proposed solutions was separating the conferences into two divisions, rather then two. But with each division featuring 15 teams, this naturally led to one division per conference with an additional team compared to the other, which opened the door for the idea of further expansion.
That’s where Ron came in. His suggestion was a team in Winnipeg and a team in…wait for it…Halifax! Queue the much rolling of eyes and the groans all throughout Halifax. Phil Croucher of the Daily News put it pretty good in his column. Sure area hockey fans will pay 90 bucks to see exhibition hockey at the Metro Centre, but there’s only 7000-8000 who show up and it’s once a year. They’ll need twice as many people, showing up 41 times a year to make it worth their time.
Basically, the only way Halifax could dream those NHL dreams would be first for a population boost in the area, maybe to the tune of an additional 100 000 people or so. With the expected tech and trade explosion coming, that’s doable, but can’t be expected.
Secondly, the city would need to win the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid just to ensure the sports infrastructure can be put into place. The current bid probably doesn’t include anything close to an NHL sized arena that can hold at least 18 000 people, nor does it contain anything that could be easily turned into that arena. But bringing the Games would not only get the right sort of people in place to get this done, but also prove that it could work.
Speaking of the arena, that’s the other thing Halifax needs. The Metro Centre holds 10 000, so this would be almost twice the size of the existing facility. Naturally, there’s already whispers that the Metro Centre needs replacing or refitting soon. It’s location causes nightmares in the downtown core whenever a big event finishes up. So the arena probably couldn’t go there (probably wouldn’t fit either). Which means a new site needs to be found with access, parking and etc.
If anyone can do it, I put my money on the folks at the Trade Centre.