Why not make this into a REAL circus?
Combine trade deadline with all-star weekend to maximize the entertainment
It’s hard to understand all this consternation about which players will be chosen last when the captains pick sides tonight in Raleigh, N.C., for Sunday afternoon’s annual NHL all-star classic.
Surely, the humiliation factor is a key part of the show, if not the whole point. There’s obvious merit to the NHL’s latest attempt to goose up this mid-season pantomime of hockey.
Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal splitting up the talent does have some old-fashioned, neighbourhood rink appeal, and the NHL has the innovative Brendan Shanahan to thank for this.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin playing on opposing teams? Mercy, that’s not merely radical, it goes against nature.
Eric Staal possibly snubbing brother Marc as he assembles his defence? Nasty.
There are some possibilities for emotional content, I suppose, however tepid.
But, at the end of the picking, once some poor chap has been shamed by being the last man taken, things go smartly downhill from there, don’t they?
What? The Honda SuperSkills competition on Saturday night? Please.
The board of governors meeting on Saturday morning might be more exciting, especially when the still-in-limbo sale of the Phoenix Coyotes comes up for a “blood-on-the-walls” discussion.
No, what the all-star weekend needs is real gravitas, something with irresistible fan appeal and relevance to the upcoming playoff races.
The solution is as obvious as it is brilliant: Combine Sunday’s game with the NHL trade deadline. Why not?
It’s not as if there is no precedent. At the 1990 all-star classic in Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Kings swapped centre Bernie Nicholls to the New York Rangers for Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom the night before the game.
It certainly added something to a weekend that was conceived as a showcase for Mario Lemieux’s many offensive gifts.
It also meant that Nicholls, a newly minted Ranger, skated for the Western Conference in the actual game, which by NHL all-star game standards, was wild stuff.
But what if every player on the ice for the skills competition and the all-star game itself, not to mention anyone else currently under contract, were up for grabs, on the market and on the clock, the trade deadline coinciding with the end of the all-star game on Sunday night?
As Seinfeld’s George Costanza once opined: “That’s a show, there’s a show!”
Fans could still vote for the starters in the game, but NHL hockey operations could fill out the rosters with the most tradable assets under contract to NHL teams.
In this fashion, the skills competition and the all-star game would become actual talent showcases. JOHN MACKINNON IS A SPORTS COLUMNIST
FOR THE EDMONTON JOURNAL