January 28 2012 02:00PM
People can't stand All-Star weekend. The game is often called listless, boring, and apathetic. Personally, though...I love the whole thing.
In the old, old days, the All-Star game was held as a once in a while benefit for the families of players who had been severely injured or killed. Since then, the game has undergone a couple of changes-becoming a yearly occurrence in 1948, format changes in 1959 and 1967, and the introduction of the skills competition in 1990. Today, it's made up of three main parts:
I will fully admit that TSN's coverage of it (and, well, almost anything hockey-related) is overblown, but that's not the point. It's just inherently fun to watch people be picked for something. There's no reason for it to be 2 hours long, but the anticipation of seeing who's going to be picked last and what the teams will be gives the whole event a fun, innocent feeling. It's a chance to see the players, often adorned in equipment, away from the game and in a casual enviroment. Sure, they still give somewhat canned interviews, but it's interesting to see how these guys interact with one another outside of the confines of the rink.
The Skills Competition
Like the draft, the skills competition has that kiddy feel to it-when I was growing up, it was always fun to see who was the fastest skater, who could shoot the hardest, et cetera. It taps into that competitive spirit all of us have, plus all of the events are easily measured, making it easy to say who's the best of the best.
There's also the sense of awe that I get when seeing the raw skills on display-sometimes it can be hard for me to comprehend just how fast a player really is or how much control someone really has with a puck (the results of being a defenseman, I guess; shoot hard and skate backwards). It's also quite funny to see someone screw up (like falling in the corner during the fastest skater competition) while still realizing they’re among the best in the world at what they do: these guys are still human, and I think we fail to realize that from time to time.
I do have this nostalgic feeling when it comes to the All-Star weekend-coming home from hockey on a Sunday morning, cookies in the oven and on the couch watching my favorite players just score and score and score.
The main complaint people have about the game is that there’s no defense and the game isn’t physical enough, it’s not raw. I often hear the phrase “not real hockey” when it’s talked about, and this pisses me off to no end. “Real hockey” isn’t a romanticized version of the 1950 glory days with Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. No, real hockey is what you do on the frozen pond, where the only objective is offense, and lots of it. That’s where the game started and that’s why we take to the ODR every winter.
I get why some people want to see the defensive side of the game on display, but that side of the game is, by it’s very nature, stifling and boring. Sure, I like big hits just as much as everyone else, but I like the environment created by the game that allows us to be wowed by things we may otherwise never see more. For me, as a hockey fan and as a player, seeing those things is what makes the whole experience enjoyable.