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Notes from NHL All-Star Saturday January 26, 2008

Posted by Amy in sports.
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Okay, so here’s what I don’t understand. You’re the NHL. Nobody cares about you except for me and like four other people. You insist on signing a three-year extension to continue wasting away in the sightless oblivion known as Versus instead doing what any league that really cared about reaching a wider audience would have done, which is crawl on hands and knees back to ESPN2 and beg them to squeeze you in around the Spelling Bee & drag racing.

Alright, so you say on Versus, you’re their top priority so you’ll be showcased more and get as much airtime as you want. But that hasn’t been the case at all. You’re still only showing games a couple of times a week. There’s no nightly highlight show in the vein of the great NHL2Night. And All-Star Weekend, an event specifically designed to showcase your biggest stars, receives the same limited coverage it always has.

What, do they need to keep the airways open for bass fishing and the rodeo?

Anyway, here are a few notes from Saturday’s SuperSkills Competition and Young Stars Game:

  • There were some improvements from the retooled skills competition—I like the new elimination shootout format a lot more than last year’s scattered version—but they’ve somehow made the Fastest Skater even less exciting than it already was. The race is now so short, there’s no time to build up any kind of suspense because it’s over almost before it starts. How is this better?
  • And then, absurdly, they work up the fans a little by pitting hometown favorite Ilya Kovalchuk against Shawn Horcoff in the final, only to pull Kovalchuk at the last minute for Brian Campbell. Really? Are we kidding, NHL? Nobody, and I include Campbell in this sentence, nobody cares if Campbell was like 0.1 seconds faster. If you have the chance to put the hometown guy in the final, you do it. God. It’s like they want to be unpopular and irrelevant.
  • The new Young Stars format at least limits the pain. The intros were horrible—seriously? They couldn’t at least put music behind that video? Also, the graphics look like they were done by an intern using PhotoShop poorly.
  • No stoppages, 3-on-3, penalty shots instead of power plays…it’s like they’re slowly gleaning us off the Young Stars game. Like next year, it’ll be 2-on-2, then no goalies the year after that, until finally, there’s no game at all. Apparently the NHL isn’t aware that nobody would mind if there was no Young Stars game. Seriously, why couldn’t they just name an All-Pro rookie team at the end of the year to honor the young stars instead of put us through this debacle year after year?
  • I do love the mic-ed up goalies. Last year was awesome, with Marty Turco mic-ed up during the actual game. This year, both Manny Legace & Rick “Will Never Live Up to His Contract” DiPietro were actually pretty entertaining. Goalies are always such personalities. I didn’t actually know much about DiPietro—my entire perception of him was prejudiced by the ridiculousness of his contract—but he actually totally won me over by being so charming on the mic. The line of the night was when he was talking to Ilya Kovalchuk about the slam dunk competition-style breakaway challenge. “Here’s what I want you to do. Light yourself on fire….” Hee!
  • Alexander Ovechkin ends up winning the breakaway competition despite not actually scoring. It was like he won it just for trying something different, a move similar to the Tiger Woods-style bouncing the puck on the stick & swing that Sidney Crosby tried in the Winter Classic. He holds his hand up to his ear, trying to get the crowd louder. And that is exactly why I keep saying that, as great as Crosby is, Ovechkin is the player this league should rally around and market. Because Crosby is great, but he’s quiet & politically correct & will always give the lines that Crash Davis would say to give. In a word, he’s boring. And it’s not like Ovechkin isn’t PC, but he manages to have personality. His interviews are as interesting as his shootout moves. You actually want to hear what he has to say. You can tell his teammates love him. He has fun, on & off the ice. He actually wants to commit to an organization and a city. You look at his big grin and you can’t help but like him. The league needs guys like him a lot more than it needs guys who are just good on the ice.
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