The NHL did one thing right – it had the best All-Star Weekend

Adam Fox, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby celebrate during Team Metropolitan and Team Atlantic during the Honda NHL All-Star 2023 match at FLA Live Arena on February 4, 2023.

Adam Fox, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby celebrate during Team Metropolitan and Team Atlantic during the Honda NHL All-Star 2023 match at FLA Live Arena on February 4, 2023.
Image: beautiful pictures

You know what it feels like to hear a new song you like from an artist you’re not sure you like? The first run was filled with skepticism. So tempting, you don’t want to admit that you like it. Then you listen to it again, and it’s like, well, damn it, I guess even Post Malone can have a moment of clarity. It’s NHL’s All-Star Weekend for me. I’m serious. It’s really good. It may be the best of America’s big four professional sports.

I realized this on Friday night as I sat stunned during the skill competition and realized that a year ago I was sitting at the same bar and couldn’t take my eyes off it either. One season ago, players tried to assemble the best poker hands by playing cards. Around this time, they spilled surfboards and a gas tank lever was the ultimate target. only one golf challengeand the boys played a hole with a stick and a ball.

Let’s say the sound is off, and I don’t know what led Alexander Ovechkin’s son flying the V with dad and Sydney Crosby, but everyone seems to like fan service. And that’s what All-Star weekends really are.

What the NHL does right

The formula the NHL has adopted – possibly with some help from its new TV partner ESPN – is essentially an X Games model. There are events that happen continuously, and downtime is filled with pre-recorded segments.

This new trickshot, breakaway challenge has been awesome. Last year, a guy scored a goal with a blindfold on, and the Ovi, Ovi Jr. and Crosby moment can make the most bitter bloggers smile. Although I know very little about hockey, I know Crosby is polarizing and he is very likable. (He’s also on the wrong end of the dunk tank.)

The competition itself was a 3v3 tournament with lots of scoring and high-paced gameplay. The NHL even found a way to give meaning to divisions, at least for a few hours, by organizing teams by their sect. (Dylan Larkin led the Atlantic to victory.)

For a sport that having trouble getting out of his own wayThis new fun-house approach to All-Star Weekend was welcomed as well as surprising.

Other leagues should try NHL’s formula even if it doesn’t work

We’ve come to a point with the Pro Bowl that the entire weekend is a contest of skill. It was fun to watch Saquon Barkley play dodgeball. However, most of the big names don’t show up or decline or participate in the Super Bowl (or, in Josh Allen’s case, on the golf course). And if they show up, they’ll play anything but football.

The NBA has failed to fix the pitching contest for years, the three-point shootout was fun before everyone turned into Glen Rice, and god only knows why the skill challenge persists. (Wait, right?) The best drama of the weekend is when the captains choose the team and we’ll see who gets picked last on the playing field.

If it looks like the NHL is just throwing balls against the wall (or a card, surfboard, or putting green) to see what sticks, that’s exactly what’s happening. There are obvious variables for each tournament, and the move is to try different things until you find or stumble across the one that works.

It’s not hard to create an interesting all-star gathering. Maybe seven out of seven will do it, or maybe put the QBs in sumo suits and let them get in the way of the attacking guides. I do not know. Creative.

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