The NHL All-Star Game has been a letdown for years, save for the occasional moments of amusing spontaneity (thank you, Owen Nolan).
They've tried to improve it, flipping the format to North America vs. the World to spice it up -- no dice. Perhaps we should be thrilled that the NHL hasn't done something drastically stupid, like allowing an exhibition game whose participants are established via a corruptible Internet fan vote to determine home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals.
(Conversely, the All-Star Weekend skills competition has been as compelling as the Game has been tedious. Especially now that the players are starting to figure out how to exhibit some personality in the trick-shot challenge.)
Some folks feel the all-star game is a pointless exercise for apathetic players; and one of those folks is named Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, who suggested killing it in a recent "5 Ways I'd Change The NHL" column. But knowing that the NHL is keen on having a mid-season event for a little breather and for deep-pocketed sponsors, he offers a novel idea for a replacement:
If the league insists on having something for those three days, my solution for a while now has been this: bring on Europe's best. Bring on the best players from Alexander Medvedev's KHL, plus the top skaters from the leagues in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Finland -- an IIHF All-Star team -- and take on the NHL's finest. The winning team gets a $1 million share per player. Between Medvedev, the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA, you can easily dig up the cash. Now you've got a midseason hockey game that matters.
Obviously, the first concerns are logistics: Whether all these leagues could coordinate on scheduling, and whether they can agree on venues/location. (Keep in mind the KHL did an outdoor all-star game; you think they wouldn't want to drag NHL players into that venue?)
But it would be an altruistic idea for the NHL, from a "betterment of the game" standpoint. Until, of course, it elbows into all of those markets with some kind of NHL Global league.
If nothing else, having the greatest players in the world participating in a skills competition would be unprecedented. This change in format might not mean anything to the casual fan, but it might be an international hit with puckheads. What say you?
Pass of Fail: Replacing the NHL All-Star Game with an NHL vs. The World game.