25 January 2009
Ok so here's the confession. I love the NHL all-star weekend and game.
The hockey season is a long grueling affair filled with intensity, seriousness and playoff implications. By mid-January hockey fans can get a little on edge, and the fans of the teams who are inexplicably struggling can succumb to the overwhelming frustration and respond with biting cynicism, fiery anger, and crushing hopelessness. (Hat Trick for Jibbles!). All-Star weekend is a calm breath of fresh air where fans can relax and not get caught up in the trivial day-to-day over-analysis of their own team.
For fans so much of the season is spent with the spotlight on one team that most fans don't get a chance to focus any of their attention on the other stars of the league. The All-Star game is an opportunity for fans to learn a little about the best in the league. Ryan Getzlaf had the best move of the trick shot competition, but he was never going to win because he couldn't even crack a smile after doing it. That's why Ovechkin's over-the-top dorky shot won the day, and why Kovalev's effort was probably second. Ovechkin didn't inspire any awe with his moves, but the shot was the best because it made people smile. Most importantly he was obviously having fun, which radiated through the set and set the tone for the weekend. He was able to connect with fans through his pure joy of the event.
The breakout star of this weekend was Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins who did an excellent job as the on-ice correspondent for VS. The guy was affable, amusing and most of all he took off his regular season cliché shield and allowed us to see some personality. Joe Thornton seemed to be a completely different person as he was giving amusing interview after interview the entire weekend. I learned to really like Marty Turco because of his on-ice interviewing efforts in previous years.
And finally here's an event where someone finally thinks of the children. This is, by far, the weekend in which the best players are the most accessible. Not only does the format allow players to be available to the fans but the three day break and laid-back atmosphere allows the players to lighten up a little bit and be a little more affable than they would be in the regular season. That's why it's so important for guys like Lidstrom and Datsyuk to show when they are selected. They don't have to play if they are hurt but they should show up and be available to the fans, since the entire weekend is about the fans.
Yeah it's about sponsor's too, and I'm under no delusion that this event would be axed if sponsor's didn't like it, but it's an incredible break before resuming the long regular season.
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