NHL All-Star Weekend Features Many New Events, Women's Tourney
The NHL continuing to integrate more women into its All-Star Weekend in St. Louis is "another milestone for their game," with planned events such as a women's three-on-three tournament and a competition pitting two female players "head-to-head against NHL players in a shooting drill," according to Donna Spencer of the CP. A total of 20 players -- 10 Americans and 10 Canadians -- were "selected to play" in the three-on-three tournament. All of the players are "aligned with" the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association, which has "organized tournaments and exhibition games" in both the U.S. and Canada this winter. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman previously has indicated that the league "isn't interested in running a women's league while one still operates." The NHL's inclusion of the PWHPA and "exclusion of the NWHL gives the PWHPA the upper hand in a power struggle over which entity will drive the future of women's pro hockey" (CP, 1/22). In Tampa, Diana Nearhos wrote the "best part" of All-Star Weekend "will be the women's USA-Canada three-on-three." For hockey fans, this is a "definite win," but for women's hockey, "it's more complicated." Playing a game, "even three-on-three, in front of an NHL audience is great for exposure, but there is a larger question around what it does for women's hockey" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/21).
BUILDING ON LAST YEAR: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league sought to create an "even bigger platform for women during All-Star Weekend" after last year's event in San Jose drew praise for its inclusion of Americans Kendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker. Daly said, "Sometimes All-Star Games are challenged in creating something new, something special, something different, something that will generate interest. The announcement of this event seems to have created a little buzz that is a real positive." In N.Y., Seth Berkman notes the league "will not pay prize money to participants." Instead, Daly said that players will "receive appearance fees." The NHL also will donate $100,000 to girls' hockey organizations, and Daly noted that that donation "would exceed the $30,000 an NHL player could earn by winning a skills event." Berkman notes this is part of the league's efforts to "capitalize on the rapid growth the game is experiencing among girls and women" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/24).
We're just hours away from the first-ever @Gatorade Shooting Stars challenge! 🌟— NHL (@NHL) January 24, 2020
Don't miss 2020 #NHLAllStar Skills presented by @NewAmsterdam tonight at 8 ET on @NHLonNBCSports and @Sportsnet. pic.twitter.com/OT5dYecter
FUN IN SPADES: In Boston, Matt Porter wrote the NHL's addition of a target shooting competition is "one of its best All-Star ideas in years," though it might not "make for good TV." Players will "stand on a platform in the lower bowl" of Enterprise Center and "fling pucks at a variety of targets on the ice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19). ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski wrote this shooting competition is "part Topgolf, part Dude Perfect." There are "many ways the skills competition could increase the fun factor even more" at All-Star Weekend, including Country vs. Country competitions; an "American Gladiator"-style obstacle course; getting nostalgic by bringing in former players; scoring competitions; human bowling; having goalies compete in traditional skills competitions; fastest skater relay races; NHL Jam, multi-puck edition; and dodgeball (ESPN.com, 1/23).
WHAT DO YOU MEAN? SPORTSNET.ca's Elliotte Friedman wrote the NHL "tried to make the Justin Bieber/Jordan Binnington showdown part of All-Star Weekend," but it "just didn't work at this time." Bieber and the Blues All-Star had been going back and forth on social media about a shootout showdown (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/22). Binnington on Thursday said, "It's likely the breakaway challenge will happen sometime during the offseason." He added Bieber bringing up a charitable component to the event was a "great move by him" (KMOX.RADIO.com, 1/23).
STEPPING UP TO THE HOSTING CHALLENGE: St. Louis-based KSDK-NBC's Corey Miller said the host city is "always a good hockey town and the Blues run has really increased the appetite" for the NHL All-Star Game. KSDK Sports Dir Frank Cusumano said the Fan Fair during All-Star Weekend already has "sold 30,000 tickets," while the alumni game is "absolutely sold out." Miller added with the market hosting NHL All-Star Weekend, the Winter Classic, a PGA Championship, Stanley Cup Finals and gymnastics championship, St. Louis has the "ability to host a big event, because it seems like just one after another we're getting these huge sports events in our town." Miller: "How impressive is it that everything just seems to be a hit? ... St. Louis is really establishing a footprint as a city that can host big events" ("KSDK's Sports Plus Podcast," KSDK.com, 1/22).