The All-Star Game is one of the marquee events on the NHL’s calendar every season but like anything else, it could use a bit of freshening up every now and then.
That’s why the league changed the format to three-on-three five years ago. But as we saw this past weekend, the game still needs something to incentivize the players to treat it like more than just a game-day skate.
The following ideas aren’t criticisms of the current game but instead are ways to improve on the experience. Change is hard, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Rules are important. They keep everyone in line. But in an All-Star Game where everything is supposed to be fast and fun, some rules get in the way.
For example: Offside. There isn’t a single reason for offside to still be called in the All-Star Game, but the 2020 event had multiple instances of teams losing scoring chances because of it.
Icing, hand passes and scoring without using your stick are other rules that should be ignored. And if the players know before hand that they can get away with this stuff, they might get more creative in their play.
Speaking of creativity, skaters should be allowed to customize the look of their equipment. The modern NHLer is more fashion forward than previous generations, and many of the players would certainly love to show off their style on the ice too. Imagine what Auston Matthews would do if he could design his own pair of skates. Or what Matthew Tkachuk’s gloves would look like if he was given full control over the colours. The possibilities are endless.
Goalies are already allowed to customize their helmets and pads, so why can’t skaters be allowed to show their creative style too?
Of course, if someone doesn’t want to wear custom gear they don’t have to. But the NHL needs to at least give skaters the choice.
This is an idea lifted from the EA Sports NHL games. The All-Star Game would greatly benefit from bonus pucks which give the team that scores with them special rewards.
Some examples of bonus pucks could be:
• The team that scores is credited with two goals instead of one.
• The team that scores gets a goal and the team scored against loses one.
• The player that scores then gets a penalty shot with a chance to score again.
• The team scored on has to play the next minute shorthanded.
The league could have special coloured pucks for each bonus, and the in-game presentation could have special graphics to let the whole building know which puck is in play. Changing the value of a goal would give players more motivation to make sure their team scores. No one wants to give up two goals at once.
The skills competition and All-Star Game are currently not connected in any way, but they should be. One way to do it would be with gold helmets, like the ones worn by the top scorers in the Finnish Liiga.
How it would work: Each skater that wins a skills competition event would then get to wear a gold helmet in the All-Star Game. That gold helmet would then give them special bonuses, such as making every goal they score worth two.
It would also make them a visual target for opponents to try to stop. No defender wants to be beat by someone wearing a gold helmet.
The ideal scenario here would be to bring back the All-Star Game draft, but since that doesn’t seem likely, the league could still get creative with how it divides the players.
For example: Why not split up the teams by age and recreate the excitement young Team North America brought to the 2016 World Cup? A team of 30+ year olds would probably love to remind those youngsters who’s boss.
Or the teams could be divided internationally, something Gary Bettman has hinted could happen next year in Florida. If we can’t get Olympics or World Cups, pitting countries against each other in the All-Star Game could give fans their international hockey fix.
Finally, for the most chaos, the teams could be random. The night before the skills competition, have sticks from every player sorted into teams by the captains, just like kids do playing street hockey. Which team gets Connor McDavid? Leave it up to chance.
This would be difficult to pull off but not impossible. The NHL could let retired players, mascots or other celebrities officiate the All-Star Game, which has the potential for all kinds of antics.
The special guest would of course have to be mic’d up. But it would be funny to see someone out of their element try to keep up with the players and try to keep them in line during the game.
The NHL would also benefit from adding more celebrities to the broadcast. That’s led to some memorable moments in the past.
Take The Game Outdoors
This would be a big ask of a host city, but the NHL All-Star Game should be outdoors. The Winter Classic and other outdoor games are always special for everyone who attends, so fewer players will likely decline to pass up on a chance to go. Being outdoors would also create a special environment for the skills competition, with the suspense of every competition hanging over a much larger crowd.
But most importantly, it would make each game unique. The All-Star Game looks too much like a normal game, which hurts the presentation. Putting the players outside their comfort zone in an environment different from a standard game would make the moment much more memorable.