All-Star Game Gets New Look

The shakeup ahead of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game is generating significant buzz around the hockey world whether through call-in shows, fan forums or chatter amongst players and media. The NHL wants to make their annual showcase a more unique experience that will excite their present fanbase and possibly recruit new fans as some the ideas mentioned would be groundbreaking for any All-Star Game format.

Fantasy sports have always been the obsession of both die-hard and casual fans across multiple sports and the 2011 NHL All-Star weekend should draw interest from fans of other major sports who would be enticed by the idea of seeing the “ultimate fantasy game.”

For those who are yet to view the changes to the NHL All-Star format, here is a quick rundown:

- Fans will vote in six All-Stars by position without regard to the Conference in which they play for selection.

- The remaining 42 players in the draft pool will be named by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department.

- The two team captains will be chosen by the players to participate in the drafting process.

- NHL Hockey Operations will name 12 rookies to participate in the Honda Superskills Competition.

- On January 28, 2011, a live fantasy draft in Raleigh, NC will be held where the captains will choose the remaining players for their rosters and a coin toss will determine first pick.

- Selections will continue in an alternating basis until each captain has chosen three goalies, six defensemen and twelve forwards for their team.

- The twelve rookies will then be chosen by each team for the Superskills Competition with each captain selecting six.

Former eight-time All-Star Brendan Shanahan who now serves as the NHL’s Vice President of Hockey and Business Development has gauged the opinions of former and current NHL stars to come up with the new format will debut at the RBC Center, the home of the Carolina Hurricanes.

“Yeah, I think just because of the general idea of having the players’ input and the players involved in it,” said Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom about the changes. “It’ll make it something different. I think players want to be a part of something like that.”

The players finally are now involved in the selections and teammates will be split.

Why shouldn’t the players have a say in who they play alongside? This will certainly add passion to the game itself as players who play in one conference who never had the opportunity to play alongside someone from the other conference might now get the chance to play on the same line.

How about New York Rangers fans who would get the chance to see how would win out on a breakaway… Marian Gaborik or Henrik Lundqvist? Maybe even the Sedin twins would face each other on opposing teams for a change. How would Chicago Blackhawks fans cheer for, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane if they were split up? There are so many interesting possibilities that could happen now due to the “fantasy draft.”

Which leave the question… what will the teams be named?

During Thursday’s NHL Live broadcast, Shanahan came on to speak about the new changes to the All-Star format and the thought process that went into making a “fantasy hockey game” a reality. The show’s hosts Don La Greca and E.J. Hradek discussed various ideas but there was one remaining question that wasn’t answered.

I sent a tweet which La Greca read on-air, “We’ve got a tweet here from Sean. Any idea on what the All-Star teams will be named? Will it be red or blue, named after the captains or something more creative?”

“It will be interesting,” Hradek responded. “Maybe they’ll name them after legendary players. You safely say it won’t be East versus West.”

La Greca came up with a great idea that the NHL should adopt for their upcoming All-Star game.

“Off the top of my head you could have an old-time player as an assistant coach on the bench,” he said. “Team (Bobby) Orr against Team (Gordie) Howe.”

Remember the famous “Pond of Dreams” promo?

I remember watching the “Pond of Dreams” promo that began the 2000 All-Star game where Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure and Paul Kariya were joined by legends Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux. Just the sight of the collection of the greats of the game together on a remote sheet of ice in Canada gave me goosebumps.

Hockey is a sport that carries great nostalgia and I could imagine the another promo with a collection of current stars like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin, Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane playing a game of street hockey. All of a sudden, a pair of veterans like Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne emerge and shout out, “Mind if we join you?”  Ovechkin would then say, “Yeah sure, you two old-timers can play captains.” The veterans would then play “rock, paper, scissors” as Selanne would show disgust as Lidstrom’s “paper” beats the his “rock” for first pick.

Lidstrom would point in Crosby’s direction, “Okay Sid, you’re coming with me.” Then Selanne would call out, “Hey Ovie, come over to this side.” One by one, the players would skate over to their respective teams but then Patrick Kane would then ponder aloud, “Eight guys isn’t enough… we don’t even have any goalies.” A line of cars would then approach the roller rink as various stars appear grabbing their equipment as Crosby shouts, “I think we’ve got a game!”

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