Stop hating on the All-Star Game!
In the past month I’ve heard many colleagues and contacts give the All-Star weekend a hard time. I’ve heard “the game is meaningless” and of course the obligatory “nobody cares” etc…
I can tell you from personal experience that these detractors are missing the point totally! I guess it comes from being jaded, and seeing the sport as the business that it has unfortunately become in many aspects. But to that end – the All-Star game is more relevant than you think.
Because of this ‘business’ mind that we now have in all professional sport – the NHL All-Star weekend and it’s festivities are geared for the people who support this business – the FANS! And it’s high time that all of us in the media stop begrudging any event that is designed for the people that are the gears keeping the engine of hockey running.
The best way I can explain it is the experience I had in Raleigh last year. The 58th All-Star Game was being held in North Carolina – and I had never seen Raleigh as a good ‘hockey town.’ I can now say with 100% accuracy that Raleigh is indeed a ‘hockey town’ and a very good one at that. The All-Star weekend was a celebration. There were markets dedicated to Hurricanes fans. Outdoor parties, beer gardens, fan-fests, bands playing for free, BBQ’s, booster club street hockey games – should I go on?! All of these events were teeming with hockey fans. In Gary Bettman’s vision of hockey in these different ‘non-traditional’ markets, you’d have to say that the All-Star event is built for success if the fans are served. Job done in Raleigh! There were banners, signs, jersey wearing folk aplenty, and NHL logos everywhere you turned. The city stopped for the event. The taxi drivers, the people in the coffee shops, the hotel staff – everyone knew about the event and were excited and proud to have it in their backyard!
Fast forward to this season. I will be in Ottawa for the 59th All-Star Game in a few days. Ottawa is a proud city. A fantastic city for visitors. It’s the Nation’s capital – a Nation that bleeds for the game. The All-Star event will be a huge focal point for everyone. People will jam the fan-fest, they will play shinny hockey on the Rideau Canal, they will drink and flood the market with incredible enthusiasm. They will live and breathe the All-Star weekend. How can this sort of activity and interest be bad?
I get the fact that the game is merely an exhibition. I get that the players may even rather be on a beach for a three-day break rather than play in that exhibition. I get all of that. But what I also get is how important the event is to the host city and the fans. That’s what’s important here. The FANS. They get to be around a festival of hockey. Many of the events are free to attend, and just be around other like-minded hockey brains. It should be recognized for what it is – a celebration of our game and it’s greatest talents.
Now, if celebrating the game and it’s players isn’t your thing – then I’m sure there’s a beach somewhere in Florida with your name on it!
You can follow Murph and all his ‘behind-the-scenes’ content from Ottawa here on the website, and on twitter: @MurphOnIce