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COULD NHL DROP ALL-STAR GAME TO KEEP WORLD CUP TOURNEY?
Published March 3, 1998
While "no one" disputes the value of international hockey, the HOCKEY NEWS' Bob McKenzie asks, "[H]ow much is too much?" McKenzie: "That is the question that will be asked in the months to come as the NHL and [NHLPA] formulate a long-term international calendar almost certain to culminate with NHL participation in the 2002 Winter Olympics." But the "difficulty is that everything the NHL and NHLPA have done internationally in the last two years has been a raging success, but may be bordering on overkill, especially as it pertains to the health and welfare of the players." The NHL's All-Star format pitting North America versus the World "was a huge success. NHL post-event consumer polling revealed a virtually unheard-of approval rate" of 78%. What that means is a "variety of formats will be considered" for future games "depending upon the time and locale of the game." With the World Cup, the '96 event earned $14.7M, shared by the NHL and NHLPA. While the next event is projected for 2000, some players "have voiced concerns over the demanding schedule" (HOCKEY NEWS, 3/6). TWO-PRONGED PLAN: McKenzie writes the "challenge" for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "is to find a way to address the players' concerns and keep alive both the World Cup and Olympics." The league "is considering a two-pronged" plan: "First, in World Cup or Olympic years, do away with the NHL All-Star Game. Second, move the World Cup from a four- or five-week fall event to a two-week mid-season tourney resembling the Olympic format." The "impact of a mid-season World Cup shutdown would be minimized by doing away with the All-Star Game and its four- or five-day break." While McKenzie acknowledges that All- Star weekend is "valuable" to the league, its TV partner and corporate sponsors, the league "won't lock itself into an All-Star Game at all if that's what it takes to make the international calendar go" (HOCKEY NEWS, 3/6 issue).