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How to Fix the NHL All-Star Weekend

NHL All-Star weekend

The 2023 NHL All-Star weekend is over and what a disaster it was. What should be a showcase of the best hockey has to offer turned into a mess from start to finish. The players looked awkward and bored for most of it, and none seemed to want to put on a show. Maybe outside Fall Out Boy, who was one of the few memorable moments from the event. Not Connor McDavid, Kirill Kaprizov, or Sidney Crosby, but the music. An actual disaster for the NHL and those wanting to see the best the league has to offer.

So, what went wrong during the NHL All-Star weekend and how should the NHL look to fix it? In short, everything did, as it was confusing and lacklustre in every sense of the word. The skills competitions were confusing, and the events’ structure was nonexistent. It seemed like no one knew what was going on. The confusion of the event was perfectly illustrated when Kaprizov dropped out of the fastest skater competition with no explanation five minutes before the event competition started.

So how should the NHL fix the All-Star weekend to avoid another disaster in 2024 without changing the structure of the event and keeping the divisional teams? Below are a few ideas on how to create buzz and excitement among both the players and the fans.

Reward the Winners

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The first change the NHL should make to the All-Star Weekend is simple, but effective. Find a way to increase the All-Stars’ willingness to try their best. It’s not exactly a secret that the All-Star weekend isn’t going to be a competitive event. Players aren’t going to risk injuries or give it their all to win, and I don’t believe that can be changed.

However, there are ways to increase the effort levels enough to make them seem like superstars. One of which is by giving the winner a meaningful reward. This could for instance be that the winner of a skills competition wins 100,000 dollars to a charity of their choosing. Something that matters to them, and that makes them willing to try to win the money to help the charity. Playing for something that matters would instantly make it worthwhile to win and compete in the All-Star Games.

Goodwill for the Players and NHL

The players would also be able to explain why they chose the given charity, and why it means something to them. This gives the players a chance to show their personality to the rest of the world. It would show that they aren’t robots or have a personality about as bland as oatmeal. This would also give the players a platform to tell their stories to the world. It would also create some much-needed goodwill for the NHL.

During the actual All-Star game, the teams play to win one million dollars. That’s a fine prize pool, however once again it would be great if it went to a charity of the division’s choosing. Making winning the entire thing matter far more than now, where it’s split between the players and coach. Imagine seeing the Central play for cancer research against the Atlantic playing for the ALS Association. I almost want to bet my house on the fact it would give enough incentive for the players to play to win. It would more than likely eliminate the lazy backchecking and overall lack of effort skating and make it a much better match to watch.

Making the Skills Competition Fun

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With the players hopefully getting to play for something meaningful, a lot of the issues of the NHL All-Star Weekend would be solved. However, there are still a few things that need changing to make it a perfect experience for the viewers. Especially the Skills Competition, which was a disaster this year. One of the reasons for this was the amount of new and gimmicky challenges. The Trendy Tandem, The Splash Shot, and The Pitch ‘n Puck competition were confusing and neither really worked. It was the same when Vegas tried too many new things at once.

For those reasons, a simple way to improve the experience is to find four or five challenges that are constant each year. It could be the fastest skater, hardest shot, accuracy shooting, Breakaway Challenge, and the Save Streak challenge. After that, each city can add one new gimmicky event to represent the location. This creates structure, and while allowing for some creativity without overloading fans with new information and rules.

Another way to fix the skills competition would also be to allow for the rookies to join in as a fifth team. The rookies tend to have a bit more fun with it all, and showcasing the next generation’s skills would be wonderful to market them to the fans. There is also the option to let the women take part as a team for it on their own. Making it 6 teams, and a representative for each. After seeing Sarah Nurse do the “Forsberg” on Andrei Vasilevskiy, I don’t see why not.

Fixing the All-Star Game

With the Skills competition done, it’s time to focus on the All-Star game itself. I personally like the idea of 3-on-3 for the games. The main issue the past few years has been the effort levels the players showcase for them and rewarding the winners should help that. However, another change I would love to see would be adding two more games to the event.

The first is to reintroduce the women’s hockey match between Canada and USA from the 2020 NHL All-Star weekend. This match rocked, and it was the highlight for me during that entire event. Having Canada and USA playing in a bragging rights match in front of the world would be the perfect way to show the skill of women’s hockey. I wouldn’t change it at all, since 3-on-3 hockey for 20 minutes is the ideal break between the first two matches between the divisional team.

The second match would be a match between draft-eligible players that could start off the event with a bang. 20 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey between the top prospects for the next 2-3 drafts. The reasoning behind this is simple. It would be a great window for the top prospects to showcase their skills to the public and scouts. This would mean the game would be far more competitive as the players would want to make a great impression of themselves. It would be more akin to a proper hockey game, and something the All-Star weekend desperately needs. Imagine a showstopping game with Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Zach Benson to start the event. It would be the perfect start for the All-Star game and would create hype before the draft.

With these changes, the NHL All-Star weekend would be a fun, exciting, and must-watch event for hockey fans.

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