The NHL All-Star Game receives its fair share of backlash and negative reinforcement. “The All-Star game has no real meaning” tends to be a common theme among those who share their opinions regarding the star-studded event. However, I disagree with such comments. Here’s why:
For the Youngest Fans
Firstly, think about when you were a little child, glued to the TV screen watching your favorite players from your hometown team. Watching them go up against the league’s superstars grows an attachment from a young age. You passionately cheer for your local hero and playfully boo rivaling stars throughout the weekend. The All-Star game, simply put, serves as a catalyst during a young fan’s life, ultimately growing their love for the game of hockey.
Additionally, if you re-watch this year’s (and past) All-Star game(s), observe how many times the camera cuts out to the fans. Then, notice how many of these shots contain children with smiles bigger than the arena itself. Kids love the event because of the unique and personable experience that comes with it.
For the Players
While the best players take part in All-Star weekend, it serves as a crucial break for over 90% of the league. An 82-game schedule is grueling and the associated travel schedule only adds to that element. Consider 2017: fitting in 82 games between October 12 and April 9 has created one of the most condensed schedules the NHL has ever encountered. Having 4 days off almost seems like an anomaly for these players.
On top of resting, the players can take this opportunity to spend time with their families. Let’s look at Cam Talbot, for example. The Oilers goaltender had twin daughters at the beginning of the season in October. Number 33 ranks first in Minutes Played, Games Played, Shots Against and Saves among all goaltenders. Surely, he appreciates having a 4-day break to spend time with his wife and newborn babies. It can be assumed this leads to an increase in player morale and should theoretically allow for improved play. It’s important to remember that these athletes are humans too!
For Team Personnel
For General Managers, Team Presidents and other executive personnel, the All-Star break serves as the unofficial half-way mark of the season. It is a popular time to conduct team assessments and hold important meetings for the second half of the season.
Teams in playoff positions or fighting for the wild-card can begin preliminary talks regarding the NHL’s trade deadline. Identifying team needs and conducting formal assessments allows the executives to put the best product on the ice.
It also serves as a popular time to assess prospects eligible for the upcoming Draft, without missing NHL action. For example, the CHL Top Prospects game occurred on the Monday following All-Star weekend in 2017. Many executives were able to make the trip down to Quebec City to watch the showcase and strengthen their draft reports further.
All In All
So, before you make that “there is no real meaning” comment towards the All-Star Game, know that it directly serves a purpose for the NHL on many different levels. As seen above, it grows the game and engages young fans early, allows the products (players) to be properly maintained and allows the best minds in hockey to strategize and put the best product on the ice.