by Jason Howard Kelly
“Are you guys excited for NHL All-Star Weekend?!?!?”
*one lone Maple Leafs fan meekly raises his hand*
Before any of you scoff at this I’d like to point out that I was once a huge fan of the NHL All-Star Game… You know, when I was 12 years old. Now, at the age of 26, I simply can not be bothered to tune in. This is not a feeling I hold exclusively towards the NHL. I feel this way about all of the in-season All-Star Games. I especially feel this way about the Pro Bowl — Has there ever been a more colossal waste of time than that dumpster fire of a game?
I know that I am not the only person who feels this way. Many fans across the country has also expressed their apathy towards the event. To the NHL’s credit, they have tried to mix things up this year to make the game more entertaining. They switched it from a traditional 5-on-5 game to a 3-on-3 tournament, which all hockey fans universally agree is faster paced and extremely exciting to watch. But is that enough to make the All-Star Game worth watching? Not for me, and not for a large portion of the 18-35 demographic that the NHL is desperately trying to hang on to.
As I said before, this is not just an NHL problem. The MLB, NBA, and NFL all have the same problem — They’re All-Star games are mind-numbingly dull. The MLB All-Star Game is, quite simply, way too long. Regular season baseball games are long and slow-paced as they are, but the All-Star Game is a whole different monster. Pitching changes every inning, pinch hitters every inning, defensive replacements, etc… I’ve seen politicians filibuster in less time than it takes to complete an entire MLB All-Star Game. Beyond that, all of these All-Star Games, minus the NFL, take place in the middle of the season which is just about the worst time for such a pointless event. The athletes are banged up, tired, and they certainly have more important things on their minds, such as trying to make the playoffs, than playing an exhibition game.
There is only one aspect to All-Star weekends that is worth holding on to, and that is the skills competitions. By that I mean let’s keep the Home Run Derby, the NHL Skills competition, and the NBA Skills Challenge. These events are actually entertaining and worth tuning into, even for the casual fan. I may have no interest in an exhibition All-Star Game, but I would love to see which NHL player has the hardest slap shot, or which MLB player can hit the most home runs in a four-minute timed challenge. The NFL should seriously consider adopting some form of skills challenge in lieu of an exhibition game. Think about it, the quarterbacks could participate in an accuracy challenge where they have to throw a certain about of football through tire holes in a timed challenge. There could also be a 40-yard dash challenge to see who the fastest NFL athlete is. Fans would be more apt to tune into a skills challenge than watch a boring exhibition game that means nothing.
However, in order for any of this to work all of these professional sports leagues must recognize one thing — These games can not take place in the middle of the season. It’s too much of an awkward interruption in the middle of the season. Honestly, I hate that I’ve had to go almost a whole week without being able to watch any hockey, and I’m sure there are other fans that feel the same way. Put these events at the end of the season when the players are well-rested and the fans are actually interested in it.
Image courtesy of http://www.thetennesssean.com