NHL All-Star Weekend Returns: Why it’s for the Fans

Tia Petrzilka, Staff Writer

NHL All-Star Weekend is centered on the fans.
                                                                                                                                        Courtesy of MCT Campus
NHL All-Star Weekend is centered around the fans.

Since 1948, the NHL All-Star Game has been an official and annual event where the top talent of the NHL, no matter what team they are from, set aside their differences for entertainment of the fans.

I don’t know about you, but when the NHL went through its lockout in 2012, I would painstakingly search the news for any sign of an agreement, only to find countless memes displaying the tough times, which at low points I took comfort in.

Eventually, we all seemed to develop what Verizon later introduced us to in 2013, a few months too late: FOMOH, or if you’re not familiar with the term, Fear of Missing Out on Hockey.

One of the most exciting events of the NHL season is All-Star Weekend, including the draft, the game, and other activities.  It has not happened since 2012, due to the lockout of 2012-2013 season and the 2014 Olympics and this month, it will return.

So what’s more exciting than seeing your favorite stars mingle and bond and fight over their favorite fellow stars and play hockey?

Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin’s heart-felt relationship, broadcast to the entire world as they possibly play for the same team.

Huddling around your TV during playoffs with your buddies and being able to call in sick to school or work the next day, along with half of the office if your team or…cough…the bandwagon team you just became a fan of, is doing well, may sound like a good time, but there’s nothing like NHL All-Star Weekend.

In reality, the event is more than a bunch of hockey players having fun and playing hockey.  It has come pretty far and has been growing each year.  It’s a great display for the fans, not to mention a great source of income for the NHL.

One major aspect of the NHL All-Star Game is fan voting, where fans have the power to literally vote in six players: three forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender.

While it is pretty cool that any 6-year-old with an iPad can have this power, it’s not necessarily fair to the players.

For example, the All-Star Game is supposed to showcase the top talent of the NHL and while each player voted in is talented, they might not be having the best season statistically.  Some fans believe that it should be based solely on stats, not popularity.

“I don’t think the public should be able to vote in players because it’s a skills-based event so your stats from the season should determine if you participate or not,” stated NHL fan and junior Frankie Saliba.

The question is, however, if the game is for the fans, then is it really that unreasonable that only a fraction of the roster is comprised of vote-ins that for the most part would have been part of the event anyway?

“I think it should be fan voting because sometimes statistics are misleading because it doesn’t capture things like sportsmanship or other characteristics that are as important as some of the statistics so I think fan voting is a better way to do it,” expressed business teacher and hockey fan Mr. Bill Reichert.

Let’s take a look at who made the cut this year.

With a whopping 1,574,896 votes, Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons collected the most votes out of anyone in the entire league.  The 21-year old Latvian was a huge surprise in fan voting.

Girgensons has not had an exceptional season nor is he one of the top players in the NHL, but according to ESPN.com, Latvian fans played a part in determining his spot on the All-Star Game roster.

“I like the fact that Girgensons came in sort of out of nowhere and that’s kind of cool to have a young person like that rise to the top.  I think it was cool that his country rallied behind him as well cause he’s from Latvia, so a lot of the votes that he earned were Latvian votes,” stated Mr. Reichert.

It’s important to note that Latvia’s total population lies around 2 million people.  Let that sink in.

Despite the fact that Girgensons is nowhere near the top of the NHL statistically, and fellow teammate Tyler Ennis has slightly better statistics, no one on the Sabres is having a particularly hot season.  Every team must have at least one player participating in the event, even the Sabres, who have managed to comfortably rest at the bottom of the standings.

In addition to Girgensons, fans selected forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and goaltender Corey Crawford.

If you know anything about the NHL, you’ll notice that the five players following Girgensons are all members of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kane would have made the cut either way.  He currently leads the Blackhawks in points, assists, and goals, and is also among the top 10 in the league in both goals and points.

Kane has established himself as one of the greatest offensive talents in the league.  His stickhandling is mesmerizing, and he is one of the most exciting players to watch.  This year, his jersey was the number one jersey sold, according to NHL.com.

Fellow teammates Toews, Keith, Seabrook, and Crawford are all doing pretty well this season, but, apart from Toews and Keith, there are arguably players who are more deserving.

Crawford had a stellar start to the season, but after falling down at a concert one night, he developed a leg injury and as a result, he missed a decent amount of games.  Since he has been back, however, he has been pretty consistent.

The rest of the roster is determined by the NHL and includes forwards Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen as well as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, of the hosting Columbus Blue Jackets.

According to the CBS Sports, the NHL stated that there was 52 percent increase in votes for this year’s game in relation to the last time fans voted.

With more fans participating in voting, it seems that the game is more alive than ever.

Even though every season brings new talent, and stars go through ups and downs, there are always a few who remain pretty consistent over the years, and it’s refreshing that fans aren’t just voting in the same players every year.

“I think more [players] should be fan voted in because the sport is really about the fans.  When push comes to shove, we’re the ones paying their salaries by buying tickets and gear and what-not so I do think we should pick the whole roster, but I’m happy with the way it is,” added Mr. Reichert.

Throughout the years, the event has gone through many changes and most of them add to the enjoyment of the experience.

One major aspect of what is now NHL All-Star Weekend is the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, which takes place the night before the game.

Each of the two all-star teams select individuals to participate in various events, including the accuracy shooting, fastest skater, skills challenge relay, hardest shot, breakaway challenge, and an elimination shootout.

The competition is a riot for both players and fans.  Fans get the opportunity to see their favorite players show off and also get to see their personalities in a more laid-back setting.

It’s a time for fans and players to have a laugh and a time for fans to sit back in awe as their favorite stars wear costume accessories while playing hockey — well, only some of them.

For the most recent NHL All-Star Game, the captains of each team drafted fellow players in a fantasy-like draft.  This new draft brings even more excitement and suspense to the game and strays away from the traditional and dull Eastern versus Western Conference matchup.

Logan Couture gets picked last in the 2012 NHL All-Star Draft.
                                                                                                                              Photo Courtesy of NHL.com
Forward Logan Couture gets picked last in the 2012 NHL All-Star Draft.

“I think a lot of the dimension of the event is fun because, quite honestly, the game itself isn’t really that exciting to me.  Because these guys aren’t playing full blast and you can’t get them hurt, it is just an exhibition game and that’s for fun, so I like the added interest from the draft,” reflected Mr. Reichert.

Foligno and Toews were selected to be this year’s captains.

Two assistant captains were chosen for Team Foligno  and Team Toews as well:  Respectively, the assistant captains are Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and Kane, and then Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers.

All-Star Weekend is truly for the fans and is orchestrated precisely for their entertainment.

“Of course the game and skills event are good for the fans. There’s nothing more cool than seeing all the top players in the league play in one game and also have a good time in the skills event. It’s also pretty cool to see what tricks some guys will bring out at the skills event,” expressed Saliba.

This year, the Blue Jackets will be hosting the events at Nationwide Arena, as they had originally planned for the 2012-2013 season.

In addition, they have planned many activities and displays, including an All-Star Winter Park that will open on the Jan. 16, a 5K run on Jan. 24, a fan fair starting on Jan. 22, and a benefit party to fight against pediatric cancer the same day.

All-Star Weekend will kick off with the player draft on Friday, Jan. 23 and will be followed by the Skills Competition on Jan. 24.  The game will take place on Jan. 25.

If you don’t decide to watch the draft or the skills competition (even though they are the most entertaining), just sit back and enjoy the game.  It was made for you.