Why I Don’t Like the All-Star Game

This is Greg Polis. He played in three All-Star games (1971, 1972, 1973) and won the MVP once (maybe twice).

According to Legends of Hockey “Greg Polis learned to play hockey in the tiny northern Alberta farm community of Dapp. When there weren’t enough kids around to play hockey, he improved his stickhandling by playing keep-away with his Labrador Retriever.”

In the 1970s the All-Star game held some interest for a few reasons. First, there were way fewer games weekly so some of these players hadn’t really been seen before (Polis turned a few heads in each of his appearances, he was really good) and there weren’t many no-show’s so the cream of the crop was on the ice.

The problems with the current setup are multiple and probably fatal: there will be a new format eventually. The main problem with any game of this type is that it doesn’t count in the standings so who the hell cares? My choices for Sunday are the NHL All-Star game, skating with the family outdoors and then going to the Oil Kings game, or renting movies and making sure the sofa doesn’t fly away.

Considering just how much time each winter I spend staring at the NHL, I’d be an even bigger piss-ant than I already am if I insisted on watching a game of little interest. Also, it’s such a boring game that even though there will be something worth seeing in this case a nice two minutes highlight package seems ideal and I can catch that anytime before bedtime Sunday night.

What would the NHL need to do in order to make it matter to me? How about this:

  1. Two games. One pitting Canada against the United States All-Stars, the other pitting Sweden/Finland against Russia/Czech. The Germans and Swiss and other countries can choose their poison.
  2. All proceeds to the players. That way they’ll all show and and they’ll all compete.
  3. A doubleheader. The first a modified top prospects game featuring the best young players outside the NHL (including Europe) and the second using the current format.
  4. Give a major carrot to the winning team. Aside from money what do these players want? Maybe the NHL teams should agree to a deal in which all of the players on the winning team don’t have to show up to training camp until 10 days after everyone else in the fall.
  5. Adjust the draft order. If the Western Conference All-Stars win then the Western teams all pick in front of the East (#1 pick-worst team in the West, #2-worst team in the East, #3-second worst team in the West) with lottery picks allowing teams to move up only on their allotted side (if an Eastern team wins the lottery the highest they can pick is second).
  6. Give a new car to everyone in the MVP’s extended family. Mom, Dad, Sis, Auntie Mame, Uncle Albert, Admiral Halsey.

The main problem for any All-Star game is that it doesn’t count in the standings. My favorite all star memories are things like Gordie Howe playing well at his final one (1980? sounds right) or Tim Raines showcasing his wonderful talents.

Or Greg Polis. So maybe they should try to write a script in which a surprise player rises to the top. A quality player known to most but still obscure enough to be interesting. Shawn Horcoff, that kind of guy.

Other than that, I’m out. It’s a tough sell and the sofa calls.

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16 Responses to "Why I Don’t Like the All-Star Game"

  1. marriedtotheoil says:

    I was initially hostile to the MLB’s machinations with the All-Star Game in baseball, but I have to admit that I like the “Home field advantage in the World Series goes to the winning league” rules now. (Of course, speaking as a Boston fan, it doesn’t hurt that it’s quite worked to the AL’s advantage so far.)

  2. Mr DeBakey says:

    Years ago
    In the days of the 21 team NHL
    It drove me crazy that 16 of 21 teams would make the play-offs
    Remember the Snorris Division?
    12 playoff teams would be better,
    But how to replace the lost first round gates+revenue?

    I had this idea
    Steal from Euro soccer!
    A League Cup running concurrently with the regular season

    In a 21 team league
    A single knock-out competition,
    One game per week- say every Monday night
    would take 20 weeks
    Match-ups determined on a straight draw basis – no seeding.
    Separate sponsors, separate TV package, separate [extra] everything

    If the first game was the first Monday in October
    The “NHL Name-of-Sponsor Challenge Cup” final would be played mid-February.
    Not intended to replace the All-Star game
    But it would’ve
    All the All-Star bits could have been attached to this event

    Two birds
    One stone

    Pretty unwieldy with a 30-team league though

  3. goldenchild says:

    Last one I cared about was 99′s first as a King, I think he had played in Edm already but it was the real homecoming. If I remember correctly he scored on his second shift then set up Kurri later in the period. I don;t know if the game was any good but it felt pretty special, of couse I was 12 at the time.

    Lt the game is for kids and sponsors prob always has been.

  4. doritogrande says:

    The fact that Scott Neidermayer’s playing in this game effectively made me a little dumber in the head. I’m not watching this game, and probably not the youngstars either.

    What would the All-stars care about winning the game for the draft pick anyway? Most All-stars are from teams with winning records, and only the token player for Washington would really care if they had a better shot at the 1st overall pick.

  5. Doogie says:

    My vote would be for skating/Oil Kings, personally. Also:

    Give a new car to everyone in the MVP’s extended family. Mom, Dad, Sis, Auntie Mame, Uncle Albert, Admiral Halsey.

    Brilliant.

    And yes, 1980 is right.

  6. CrazyCoach says:

    I have never thought much about the All-Star game and the last time I cared about it was when I was 12 and Gordie Howe was playing in his last one.

    The skills contest is nice, but I have heard that Gary Bettman has once again changed the format in his quest to make the NHL the NBA-on-ice.

    Can you imagine MLB changing the format of the HR derby?

  7. gary b says:

    how to fix the All-Star Game?

    Two words: flaming hoops.

    seriously, play it outdoors or something.

  8. Bruce says:

    The 1989 All-Star Game was the last (?) one to be played mid-week and certainly it was the last one without a “skills competition / legends game / young stars game / pin the tail on the donkey contest”, the whole package for this season ticket holder was just the game. But it was special given the return of the Great One, wearing home white for what we all knew would be a single curtain call.

    Gretzky and Kurri started the game having been legitimately voted to the starting line-up IIRC, and Wayne set up Jari for the first goal after something like 53 seconds. Wayne himself scored around the 5-minute mark, the crowd went wild again, and from then on it was just your usual All-Star no-hitter. The Campbells whupped the Wales 9-5 and Gretzky (1-2-3) won the car keys, chosen over a strong game by Joe Mullen in what many viewed as a sentimental selection.

    I’m glad I went, glad I saw “just one” of these All-Star affairs, have no desire to ever see another one until they make it mean something. (Home ice in the Finals? Maybe Bud Selig is on to something.) The game bears only a passing resemblance to hockey — a very odd way to sell one’s product. Thank goodness they gassed the Young Stars “Game” which quickly devolved into a complete fucking joke; do I understand they’re just doing a 3-on-3 after the skills like they just did in the Top Prospects event?

    I remember the Good Ole Days when the season started with the All-Star Game, featuring the Stanley Cup champs hosting the very best of the other five teams. It was an exhibition, but it resembled a real game and it sure seemed like they were playing for pride. I don’t get much of a sense of that anymore.

  9. nater says:

    I remember when I was a tike and started playing hockey on the rink in Dapp. My dad would tell me stories about how he and Greg Polis used to play there as well. He would talk about how Greg was an amazingly skilled and strong player who became an NHL All-Star. To me and many others, that helmetless era was the golden age of hockey. It is pretty difficult to recreate the same excitement nowadays but, I think we still do it for sentimental reasons.

  10. Bruce says:

    Wow, we got a contributor from Dapp, what are the odds? Welcome, Nater, now I know the population of Dapp was at least 3 (you, your dad, and Greg Polis) and I’m guessing there’s a mom in there somewhere. How big a burg is it? hockeydb puts Polis from Westlock, is that somewhere close?

    Greg Polis was a beauty, got on TV about twice a year playing for the early 70s Penguins but he always seemed to be a difference-maker. And guys like him were a reason to watch the ASG.

    I guess somebody with CI might disagree, but there are still loads o’ teams this fairly hardcore viewer sees twice a year. The ASG offers a chance to see a guy like Duncan Keith who isn’t all over the highlight reels but is nonetheless worthy of a little attention. (Too bad he won’t be playing real hockey.) And there’s always a couple of feelgood stories like Tim Thomas or our own Shawn Horcoff which make the Event worthwhile.

    As for the game itself, I went to the NHL.com scoreboard for a preview, and got this:

    “Resource Not Found.

    “The requested resource does not exist.”

    … and the “Rosters” link was inactive.

    Sure glad this weekend is all about Marketing the Game, otherwise I might get the impression that the suits in the league office have no idea what the fuck they’re doing.

  11. nater says:

    [Wow, we got a contributor from Dapp, what are the odds?] – The odds are very small so I couldn’t resist. Dapp is a ‘blink and you miss it’ town and I am exaggerating to say it has 75 people. There is a Grain Elevator, Community Hall, Hotel, Elementary School. [hockeydb puts Polis from Westlock, is that somewhere close?] – Westlock (pop 5500), is about 20 km from Dapp and Polis was probably born there since they have the nearest hospital.

  12. Black Dog says:

    Interesting remarks from Keenan today about the AllStar game. He feels it changed after the league took it over. Prior to that the Stanley Cup finallist coaches from the year before ran the teams. Generally they would pick a lot of guys from their own teams and as a result you would get a bunch of Islanders and Oilers or in his case, Flyers and Oilers.

    Some nice hate going on and voila, a real game.

    The other thing too is the money these guys make – was it a couple of weeks ago that Cherry showed Tucker and Roenick chatting it up before the game.

    That was a regular season game. A long way from the days when Richard refused to eat because he’d have to go through the Wings’ car to get to the dining car.

  13. Bendelson says:

    All-star game? Yeah, don’t care. Bettman’s corporate weekend.
    It’s the winter break – five days away from hockey.

    Time to ‘reconnect’ with the wife, meet the new neighbors, and see about finally fixing that garage door…

    Of course, living in Victoria, I’ll likely just go golfing instead…

  14. Dennis says:

    I guess the last one I really gave a fuck about was the two games Rendevous ’87 series.

    Maybe it’s just me but I’ve got a huge problem with the way this goes down. First off, I know no one wants to get hurt during an exhibition game but the league’s dying for a real US TV deal, read: not the current one with Versus, so it would behoove the players to do their bit by actually showing up when selected and playing their asses off. And maybe this is the first year where a tonne of guys have pulled out but the guys taking a pass seem to be legion.

    Here’s your weekend of potential spotlights but you don’t even care enough to show up?

  15. Rube Foster says:

    Great photo LT.
    If you look close you can see Guy Lapointe about to give Polis a two-hander.
    I remember getting the hockey cards of players like Polis and checking out their numbers and thinking “geez this guy is good, who the hell is he?” Those early Penguins had some fine players, Apps jr., Schock, Pronovost, Stackhouse and a bunch of others. Very talented players that had they been a leaf or a hab would’ve been huge names. If Battleship Kelly had been a leaf in his prime the Tragically Hip would have written a song about him by now. So it goes.
    As for the All-star game I thought it was all about Ace Bailey – the first. In the old original six days didn’t the defending Stanly Cup champ play a team of all-stars? Not sure if that would do anything to change up the no-hitter the game has become but it might be an interesting twist.

  16. Black Dog says:

    rube – until 67 I believe that was the format and you’re right on about Ace Bailey as well

    back in the 6 team days it was a game for sure but if you were the champs, the chance to beat an allstar team would present a nice challenge

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