Nobody likes the NHL All Star Game. In a year when even the risible Star Wars Prequels are finding some salvation in revisionist reviewing, hockey's mid-season "spectacular" continues to confound and cramp the styles of even the most ardent fans no matter what the chosen format is.
So from the studio that brought you North America versus the World and the Wild All-Star Draft Parties comes a four team 3-on-3 tournament featuring the NHL's best and brightest talents.
TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting that the league and the players association has agreed to change the game's format this season to something akin to a hockey version of the Scoobie Doobies versus the Yogi Yahooeys versus the Really Rottens in the classic Hanna Barbera Laff-A-Lympics cartoons of the 70's:
There will be four teams of nine skaters and two goalies, one team for each of the four divisions (Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East; Central and Pacific in the West). There will be a 20-minute mini-game - likely two 10-minute halves - featuring one division versus another in 3-on-3 action followed by another 20-minute game with the other two divisions playing each other.
The two winning teams would then meet in a third 20-minute session for the so-called "championship" game. The all-star Fantasy Draft, a show the players didn't particularly like but was needed and, at times, was an entertaining way to choose up sides, is no longer required with the players playing for their divisional teams.
An official announcement is expected as early as today. McKenzie's TSN colleague Darren Dreger has added that the new format will be one-year experiment for now.
The All-Star game has long been about anything but the game. It's an event for sponsors and cities and kids to celebrate hockey by buying and selling as much of it as they can. The actual contest is usually the worst part of the whole weekend, especially when a guy scores four goddamn goals in the game and gets jobbed out his rightful MVP trophy because of a vote only the host team even knew was happening. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
How many Islanders will make the Metropolitan Division's Top Nine? Probably safe to say John Tavares will be one of them. Will Jaroslav Halak make it back to the All Star Game? Will he even want to, considering the pretty good chance that he'll up staring down Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg and P.K. Subban on 3-on-0 at some point? Is this Frans Nielsen's chance to make an All-Star Team and show the world that no mere three-man squad can hold him back?
Sadly, the answer won't come via the best thing the All-Star Game has ever done: the bonkers Fantasy Draft, where professional athletes sat in a green room and got lit while waiting for their names to be called (and in some cases, mispronounced) by their peers.
The All-Star Fantasy Draft is one of the few places where players have shown the playful personalities they normally subdue FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME AND THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN. Whether it was making fun of Phil Kessel, filming strange and profane videos or making fun of Phil Kessel, that bizarre pre-game game show was gold each time for hockey die hards, a rare event for those of us in the lower 48 States.
Last season, Alex Ovechkin elevated his green room stay to incredible performance art. It's doubtful anyone would have topped that in January, so maybe it's for the best that the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft goes out on a high note.
And if the new 3-on-3 Non-Fantasy Tournament doesn't draw more eyeballs to Nashville than previous All-Star extravaganzas, we'll just wait a few years for them to come up with something else.