Bring Back the All Star Game Fantasy Draft!
The annual NHL All Star Game fan vote is under way.
Hockey lovers have been asked to pick one player from each Division to ‘compete’ in Nashville on January 31st, with the winning players set to Captain their respective Divisions in the new 3-on-3 tournament the league hopes will revitalise the weekend.
Current vote leaders include superstar Alexander Ovechkin, leading scorer Patrick Kane, elite blue liner PK Subban, legendary winger Jaromir Jagr and, err, John Scott?
No really – there is a fully fledged campaign to get the Arizona tough guy to Tennessee, whether he wants to be there or not.
The movement even generated a full blown ‘get off my lawn’ moment from The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell:
Note the use of ‘fans’ there…but I digress.
Campbell followed up with a second tweet which cut to the heart of the matter far better than his original curmudgeonly prose:
Give people an ASG that’s a joke long enough and that’s how they start treating it.
But then the All Star Game has been a joke for long enough in many fans eyes, with defence largely optional and a format, no matter how many times they jumbled the selection process, becoming increasingly unappealing.
Whether it was East vs West or North America vs Europe, no one cared.
And so the tournament format was born, with the NHL even stumping up a $1 million prize pot for the victorious Division.
The idea split opinion, but was at least an attempt to spice up the increasingly maligned event – though, sadly, it cost us one of the few decent elements of the old format: the draft.
From Phil Kessel’s indignity to Alexander Ovechkin’s attempts to secure himself a new car, the idea that a team Captain would pick his side hearkened back to the days of ‘sticks in the middle’ and touched on the strange emotion any fantasy sports player has when so carefully selecting his team for the year.
That and the players were allowed near the bar, so we got to see some rare moments of genuine humanity and candour from some of sports most robotic respondents.
No, this year we’d get to pick our Captains – but the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department would pick the rest. Ensuring all thirty teams were represented, and, despite fans best efforts, some kind of weird integrity was brought to the event; even if some were completely honest about their lack of desire to take part:
Bless you, Jags.
But it needn’t have been this way – we could have had both. We could have voted for our Captains, AND had the draft. Oh yes.
Simply put – we vote for the Captains, and they pick their squad.
That’s it. So easy.
Make things a bit of a tongue-in-cheek. Embrace the madness (or farce if you prefer) that the All Star Game has come to represent. Set up a mock draft floor! Televise it, let fans buy tickets (or heck, hold a ballot and let the winners in for free!).
And when each the Captain approaches the podium:
“With our first selection, Alexander Ovechkin and the Metro Tunnel Snakes select Sidney Crosby”
*crowd cheers and/or boos as appropriate*
Yes I said Metro Tunnel Snakes – Team Metropolitan Division is lame. Think up your own cool team name if you don’t like my Fallout pop culture references. The point is, Captains just need to ensure they pick from their own Division, and have at least one representative from each team within that Division.
Really not that difficult. At all.
It’s not perfect. There might be some logistical challenges in holding a draft where literally anyone could be selected (“Jonathan Toews and the Central Snipers select Colin Wilson!”). But if the NHL is serious about ensuring the All Star weekend remains some kind of glad handing, fan fest to show off the best facets of the league, then go out of your way to ensure stuff people did seem to genuinely enjoy stay a part of the event.
There’s something decidedly dull about ‘Hockey Ops’ picking 40 of the 44 participants. It needn’t be that way.