Game has become nothing but a popularity contest


"Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered."

        - Oscar Wilde, ( 1854 - 1900 ) -


        The All-Star Weekend is here once again, coming to us from hockey-mad St-Paul this year.  My list of positives is short for this weekend, but one good thing worth mentioning is the Wild have averaged over 18 500 fans this year (7th out of 30 teams), and are proving hockey should never have left Minnesota.  The city is a great host for the event, and I'm sure the fans will pack the Xcel Energy Centre to its rafters.

        The purpose of this game has never quite been explained.  What bothers me most is commissioner Gary Bettman makes his little speech every year on how great the game is, how great the weekend is, how great the fans are, and fails to see the obvious.  Why not use the weekend as a way to showcase the sport ?  Hockey has to be the only sport where the All-Star game is nothing like what the game is played like it is during the rest of the season.  It's almost like it's the NHL's way of reminding us how great the game could be if skilled players were allowed to play the game without risking impalement and decapitation every night.  Sure, this is my humorous view of the state of the game, but the fans aren't without their own sense of humor.

        Voting - the fans way of making sure the All Star game remains a big joke.  This is where the fans drop the ball each and every year and continue to disappoint.  Consider the following results from fan ballots:

- Mike Modano was voted as the starting center for the West.  Modano is going through his worst season, with just 8 goals and 17 assists at the time he was named to the starting lineup.  Even more laughable: his -19 rating.  This is the fans' choice as best centre in the West ?

- Finishing 5th in voting for centres in the West is Jason Allison of the LA Kings with 47 833 votes ( more votes than Pavel Datsyuk, 9th overall in scoring ).  Allison has yet to play a game this year, but is not alone in players with 0 games played getting votes.  Atlanta's Dany Heatley managed to garner 38 158 votes for crashing his car, I guess.

         The fans aren't the only ones with suspicious nominations.  The NHL managed to nominate a few players whose All Star status is well behind them:

- Keith Primeau.  Total goals this season: 6.  Total points: 21, ranking him 9th on a Philadelphia Flyers team behind guys like Handzus, LeClair, Amonte & Gagné, who are all getting some time off this weekend.  Sure, Primeau has been praised for his defensive role this year, but is defense really what we are looking for in an All-Star game ?

- Mark Messier.  Another player who has yet to crack 30 points this season.  I know he just became the NHL's 2nd scorer of all time, but let's face it, the bulk of those points were amassed years ago.

- Filip Kuba.  I know the host team needs representation, and Minny have that in Dwayne Roloson, so can someone explain this addition ?  A defenseman with a +/- rating of -12 ( the worst on his team and only player for the Wild to post double-digits in that category ).  Offensive output of 5 goals, 19 points will get you to the All-Star game now ?  Ridiculous !

         Sometimes, the NHL gets it right, and there are positives to this weekend.   A few players going for the first time deserve the recognition for their efforts this season.  Players like Shane Doan, Adrian Aucoin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sheldon Souray, Roberto Luongo, Glen Murray, Rick Nash, Dwayne Roloson, Thomas Vokoun, have all had career seasons and truly define what an All-Star should be.  A special tip of my hat goes to Gary Roberts, a constant competitor whose career almost ended with a neck injury a few years ago.  This player should win the Masterton trophy every year for what he's done, and how he still continues to show up night in and night out at 37 years of age !

         Finally, whether the All-Star Game is a way to reward fans or a chance to get new ones, shouldn't all teams be represented ?  This is another tweak the NHL has managed to sneak in without much attention.  Although the teams who aren't represented are the ones struggling most, aren't Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago and Anaheim fans the most deserving of some recognition for standing behind their respective teams in hard times ?

         Enjoy the game.


-                           Rivalry Defined (Sens vs Leafs):  I've said it before, and it's worth repeating: Ottawa fans are ... unexplainable.  Double goes for Leaf fans, but this rivalry is alive & well.  After much debating & hashing it out this week, I've come to realize what separates these two:  belief.  No matter how tough things get in Toronto, no matter who's in or out of the lineup, win or lose, their fans always believe they have the team to win it all.  In contrast, as soon as the going gets tough here in Ottawa, the airwaves are flooded with fans calling for everyone's head.  Sens fans act like they are always a piece of the puzzle away from being contenders.

-                           Out Of Bounds (Don Cherry):  The CBC has announced it will use a 7-second delay during broadcasts of Coach's Corner, Cherry's segment on Hockey Night In Canada for comments he made January 24th regarding French hockey players.  I have never been a fan of his, and seldom agree with anything he says, but have come to realize Cherry's popularity comes only through his controversial remarks.   I am French-Canadian and was far from offended by Cherry stating French players are the predominant ones to wear visors.  It's just merely an observation and opinion from a man who's lost touch with today's NHL.  By making such a huge deal out of this, not only will it increase Cherry's popularity, but will also boost ratings for the CBC.  A win-win for everyone, unless you're one of the viewers who took offense.

-                           Hot Dog (Sidney Crosby):  The guy Don Cherry (unjustly) blasted for being a hot dog is on a record-breaking pace in the QMJHL.  Crosby had a goal and 5 helpers for Rimouski in an 8-6 loss to #1 ranked Gatineau (formerly Hull) on Friday night.  Crosby now has 101 points on the season, with 15 games remaining.  The Quebec league record for most points in a single season by a 16 year old is 125.  Start believing the hype in this kid.

-                           Silver Lining (Sergei Fedorov):  The struggling Mighty Duck needs only 3 more points to become the first Russian-born NHL player to reach 1000 career points.

-                           In Need Of Attention (Tie Domi):  Put on a visor for last Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast and hasn't worn it since.

-                           Quote of the Week (Owen Nolan after Toronto's 5-4 comeback win vs the flu-ridden Senators at the Corel Centre):  “Boo-hoo.  So what ?  I don't care.  We were tired too.  But we found a way to battle back.  I'm sure they've got their excuses ready to go.”



Agree ?  Disagree ?  Comments ?  Questions ?  Hate Mail ?  Mail me here: