Published January 28, 2011
The NHL this weekend is "pushing the envelope" during its All-Star Game in Raleigh, as teams will be chosen by a televised draft on Friday, but the draft is "such an interesting concept, the NHL is running the risk that it will overshadow the game," according to Ira Podell of the AP. Play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick, who will lead Versus' coverage of All-Star events, said, "Maybe the draft will wind up being a bigger headliner, but I don't think that there's any harm in that because people will be watching with their lists. It's not cracked up to be anything but a celebration of the sport" (AP, 1/27). Emrick added, "My first thought was, 'What a fresh idea, what a great idea.' It will appeal to the players a great deal, and it will also appeal to the fans. That’s one of the things that people will be amused with" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/27). In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted, "Hockey fans stopped caring about the NHL All-Star Game long ago, so the league turned to" VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan, its "go-to-guy for fixing whatever ails the game." His solution: take a "page from the schoolyard pick-up handbook." Now fans are "talking about All-Star weekend, although it's not Sunday's game in Raleigh, N.C., that intrigues so much as the televised choosing up of sides that will take place Friday night" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26).
ADDING SOME SPICE: In Denver, Terry Frei writes about the All-Star Game draft under the header, "New Format Adds Spice To NHL All-Star Game" (DENVER POST, 1/28). In Illinois, Tim Sassone writes, "The NHL deserves a pat on the back for at least attempting to jazz up Sunday's game" (Illinois DAILY HEARLD, 1/28). In Philadelphia, Sam Donnellon: "The NHL is the league that tries harder now, that thinks outside its penalty boxes. It isn't afraid to fail, or look foolish, or invite criticism" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/28). In Calgary, Randy Sportak: "Hand it to the NHL for trying to make the all-star game more interesting" (CALGARY SUN, 1/28). CBSSPORTS.com's Wes Goldstein: "If nothing else, give the league credit for trying. No pro sports league gets anyone excited with their All-Star games, and chances are the NHL's spectacle Sunday in Raleigh won't either. But it may not matter if an imaginative lead-up that has become the focal point of the weekend's festivities makes the game more compelling than it probably deserves to be" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/27). In Raleigh, Luck DeCock wrote, "Having players choose sides may not encourage any more physical play or create any more incentive to win, but it certainly creates, out of thin air, a compelling made-for-TV event on Friday night" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 1/25).
CHOOSING SIDES: SI.com's Michael Farber wrote, "When hockey scholars look back a half century from now at the 2011 NHL All-Star game, they will identify Friday ... as the day the event, a staple of the calendar since 1947, officially jumped the shark." To Shanahan's credit, the "run-up to the game has been more visible than usual." The All-Star Game, despite its "significance as a business venture, has been running on fumes for years as far as most hockey consumers are concerned," and the Shanahan "gambit smacks of inspiration and desperation." Hurricanes C Eric Staal and Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom were chosen as captains of the All-Star teams, and Farber wrote if the NHL "wanted name recognition or personality ... well, it can do better next year." The "Lidstroms vs. the Staals does historical disservice to the game" (SI.com, 1/27). In Edmonton, John Mackinnon writes, "There is obvious merit to the NHL's latest attempt to goose up this mid-season pantomime of hockey." 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" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/28).