In case you missed the news, the NHL is overhauling the All-Star Game format once again. Here are the basics
"Details are still a little sketchy, but what we believe to be the case is that the fantasy draft will be dead, and that instead there will be four divisional teams -- nine or 10 skaters a piece, a couple of goaltenders for each team. You would have the two teams in the Eastern Conference play a 20-minute mini-game. The two teams in the Western Conference would play a 20-minute mini-game. And then you would have the two winners play a 20-minute mini-game."
Sadly, since each team will consist solely of members from one of the NHL's four divisions, it means the death of the All-Star Fantasy Draft, started in 2011 and popular enough for other sports leagues to rip off.
I'm not going to lie, the draft was fun. I'll let SB Nation's Pat Iversen explain the loss:
The draft broke up the monotony of the tired "conference versus conference" aspect that was an all-star game staple for decades across the sports landscape. For the first time, fans didn't know what to expect on All-Star Weekend. That player you hate? He could be playing alongside your favorite player and you'd have to put up with it. The 2011 All-Star draft broke up the Sedin twins for the first time ever.
It was unique, and it set the NHL apart from other sports for a few years in the best way.
But most of all, it put the best qualities of the league on display: the players' personalities. For whatever reason, hockey players come equipped with wry senses of humor. The All-Star Draft finally let the stars show it off.
It's true and it will be missed, but I have a feeling the reason fans liked the format so much was the same reason the NHL didn't want to keep doing it: the players are mostly 20-something bro-type athletes and the chances that getting them all together and plied with alcohol would lead to horrible results are astronomical.
Let's face it, the difference between Alex Ovechkin drunkenly trying to get picked last being a funny glimpse of personality and it being a disgusting display of drunkenness is razor thin as it is, it's only a matter of time before somebody sets off a firestorm.
We may like personality as fans, but the league can't chance you learning that their robots have feelings and coming to the conclusion that you hate them for it. They're professional fuddy-duddies. It's their damn job to make you like everybody you can and to not hate the rest of them in a manner any more severe than the cartoonish heel hatred that keeps people watching.
And you know what? We deserve it as fans. We earn this by doing things like constantly complaining about the All-Star Game.
It's a Gimmick! It's not Real Hockey!
Oh it's coming. The closer we get and the more we talk about it, the more the ASG-haters come out, waving their complaints about a midseason exhibition like animal farm stockbrokers all trying to outbid each other on barrels full of pig shit. Here's to you, ASG-Haters!
It's not real hockey! - No shit, Sherlock. Half the crap the Harlem Globetrotters pull is illegal under NBA rules too. It's called an exhibition for a reason. If you're at a Globetrotters game complaining about not calling traveling you're either a member of the Washington Generals or are one of the single worst people in all of human existence. I bet you watch cop shows and complain about how little time the shows dedicate to characters filling out paperwork.
It takes away from/needlessly extends/distracts from/detracts from the season! - Have you ever considered that the NHL season takes for-damned-ever and that adding an exhibition into the middle of the damn thing is a necessary step to making sure that people still like hockey by the time the playoffs are ready to come around? 82 games is a slog and it particularly becomes it's absolute sloggiest right around the time of the ASG. If you hate it all so much, feel free to take a few days off to go do things enjoyable to you, like eating Hydrox cookies and measuring the temperature of your urine.
The players don't even care! - Oh I know and that's great. The level of exertion is essentially on par with the players warming up to play a pickup game. AND THEY STILL DO AMAZING STUFF. Listen, this is the best players in the world screwing around trying to impress one another by doing the stuff they're paid to keep each other from being able to do during real game action. Watching people physically battle for the puck along the boards and denying space is a key part of real hockey, but it's not the fun part, and again, this isn't real hockey.
They don't even play defense! - Yeah, and there's not enough 18th-century dialogue in Michael Bay's films. I bet you've been kicked out of a D&D group for demanding Nathaniel Hawthorne-like detail be laid out for every single dungeon door you encounter. You collect stamps because you don't want to be the only thing to be denied its purpose of ever coming into contact with a human mouth. Defense is something to be appreciated for it's usefulness, but it doesn't belong in a celebration of fun.
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The NHL All-Star Game isn't for everybody, and there are always things that can be introduced to make it better. The 3-on-3 Division Tournament format looks like it will be a lot of fun. It doesn't look like it will be an approximation of what happens when you make all of the very best players in the world play real hockey, but that's what the NHL is trying to sell for nine months a year. You can give them a few days to have fun with hockey or you can take a few days off yourself.
Or, you can keep taking it too seriously and try to ruin everybody else's fun along with yours. That's your call.