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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

All Star Game Needs Revamp

I'm a huge hockey fan. I love to watch the NHL on TV. Though I'm not a Habs fan, I have a lot of respect for the Canadiens, their history, and the city of Montreal. And I didn't watch more than two minutes of the All Star Game this past weekend in Montreal, and I didn't miss it.

Something is wrong with this.

I have no memory of watching it last year in Atlanta either. I'm sure I didn't the year before when it was in Dallas, when for some inexplicable reason the league scheduled it in the middle of the week. Both of the two seasons before that there was no All Star Game. I didn't really notice.

Oh, I used to like the All Star Game. I was at the 1989 game in Edmonton as a kid, when fans gave Wayne Gretzky, who had been traded barely seven months previous, a massive standing ovation. For years after that the ASG had a soft spot in my heart; I watched every moment I could, from the skills competition to the player introductions to the last seconds of the game.

But ever since the NHL started to tinker with the teams in 1998 with it's failed "North America vs. the World" format, the game has desperately needed a revamp.

Oh sure, some people say the game is just for corporate schmoozing anyway, that unless you're there for the fan interactive exhibits you can't get the whole experience and the TV broadcast is really secondary.

That's all well and good, but when players are declining invites to the festivities en masse, injured or otherwise, and the league is responding by suspending players, well, something's got to be done. Instead of forcing guys to participate, the league should be looking for new ways to make the game fun for the players and relevant for the fans again. Here's a few suggestions:

1) Come up with a new format every year, unique to the city the game is in. The first idea that comes to mind, with the game in Montreal? French Canadian players vs. everyone else. That's right, we're celebrating cultural and language differences with the All Star Game. Fans all over Quebec would completely eat it up, and would go wild if the French team won. You could even give the French side Sidney Crosby, since he played his junior hockey in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, despite being from Nova Scotia.

For a game in California, you could have players from the three California teams against the rest of the league. Game in Buffalo? Players from teams in cities as cold or colder than Buffalo vs. players from everywhere warmer. In Colorado, play Joe Sakic's favourite players against Peter Forsberg's favourite players, and have the two icons coach the teams. Maybe not every venue would suggest an All Star Game idea very easily, but the point is, be creative and have some fun with it. Have five suggestions, and have fans vote for their favourite.

The game is in Phoenix, where Wayne Gretzky is coach and part owner, in 2011; why not have guys who idolized Gretzky growing up against guys who idolized Mario Lemieux?

2) Eliminate the All Star Game entirely, and have the Outdoor Game the centrepiece of the NHL's showcase weekend. The majority of players seem to like having a weekend in the middle of the season off, and the league's new annual outdoor hockey game, this past year held January 1st in Chicago, has already surpassed the ASG in many ways, including the amount of American TV ratings and goodwill it generates. Sure, only two teams play, but where's the downside in that? You'd still do the weekend the same way; shut down the regular NHL schedule for five or six days and include all the exhibits, events, and corporate schmoozing you would in a normal All Star Game weekend, and no players would back out because it's still a regular season game for the two teams playing.

You'd still do the skills competition, but it would be by invitation or fan voting, which might be better for the skills competition anyway because a lot of guys who could compete for titles in the individual events don't make the All Star teams. Imagine a fastest skater competition where the players invited are Calgary's Matt Lombardi, Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano, Columbus's Jason Chimera, and some of the other guys who are fast but don't have the hands to be All Stars. It might be lacking a bit in star power, but you might actually get an answer to the question of who's really the fastest skater in the league.

3) Pick the best 40 players in the league, throw their sticks in a pile in the middle of the ice, and divide them up shinny style, throwing one to each end until they're all divvied up. Sure you might get nine defensemen on one side and only three on the other, but man, would it ever be fun. Coaches would have to do some quick thinking and put their lineups together fast. You could tie the player introductions that always seem to take forever at the start of the game broadcast to the stick throwing and spice them up a little. And there could be a contest to be the lucky fan who's blindfolded at centre ice and gets to throw the sticks.

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posted by Brian P at | 0 Comments Links to this post

Monday, January 28, 2008

All-Star Game: Players and ShowBusiness

NHL hockey is a sport. It is also showbusiness. The players certainly master and understand the "business" part of showbusiness. After seeing the SuperSkills competition and the All-Star Game, it is clear that they need to improve the "show" part of showbusiness.

First, the SuperSkills competition and its last event, the Breakaway Challenge. This is a new event where a panel of judges award points on the artistry and creativity of a player on a breakaway. Scoring doesn't cut it. Fancy doesn't even cut it. We're talking about creativity, here. Something totally out of the ordinary. Kolvalchuk tried a little, shooting while on his knees. St. Louis at least tried something spectacular but totally failed. Getzlaf had faint attempts and once skated behind the net before shooting. Others barely tried to be fancy. Luckily, Alexander Ovechkin was there to spice things up. The bottom line is that the players generally didn't seem to get the point of that Breakawat Challenge and the NHL obviously didn't brief them properly. Next time, hopefully, they'll do better.

Second, the players' presentation before the All Star game and before each event during the Superskills competition. They barely cracked smiles, let alone show any emotion, acknowledge that they were being presented, or try to connect with the crowd and viewers. When they are presented during the playoffs, they have the excuse that they are in their zone before an important game. The All-Star game is a party, though. Wave at the crowd! Nod! Smile! Something. Anything. Again, you'd think that the NHL would give some directions to the players, asking that they at list show that they're alive when their name is announced.

We'll give it to Scott Gomez who said "Hi Mom!"

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posted by HockeyZonePlus at | 0 Comments Links to this post

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fortune Accumulated by 2008 NHL All-Star Game Players = $870 Million

Based on its extensive Salary History Database, estimates that the aggregated accumulated fortunes of the players participating in the 2008 NHL All-Star game is almost $US 870 million.

The Western Conference players have a total of $473,670,000 while the poor Eastern Conference players tally up $395,920,000.

Nicklas Lidstrom leads the pack with $73 million, followed by Chris Pronger, with $66 million and Martin Brodeur with $52 million.

Paul Stastny will be the poor man on the ice with an accumulated fortune of $1.22M. Guess who'll be asking for a doggie bag at the All-Star Game VIP Dinner Party!

Details are provided below with 2007-08 salaries followed by individual accumulated fortunes. Clicking on a player's name will lead to his specific salary history. The Database provides salary history information from 1989 to the present on over 2,600 past and current NHL players.

The Small Print: Salaries paid in Canadian currency by Canadian teams, in the early 90s, were converted to $US as per the January exchange rate of the given seasons. Some players have two-way contracts and have received lower salaries than those listed when playing in farm clubs. The listed salaries were gathered from different sources and while they closely reflect reality, they are not necessarily exact. Of course, that is from their NHL salaries only and it does not take into account any other revenue streams such as endorsements, summer jobs, business ventures, being a Mary Kay independent consultant to supplement revenues, etc. Base salaries are usually shown as bonuses are generally not made public. Totals do take into account the fact that players received only +/-58% of their salary during the 1994-95 season because of a strike (48 games played instead of 84). Some players possibly had contracts stipulating that they were paid despite a strike but we have no information in that regard. During the 2004-05 lockout, some players joined various teams in North America and Europe and were paid to do so. It is not included in the Grand Total because we have no information about the salaries they made in those leagues. Still reading? Tax season is coming up soon. How is your 401k/RSSP doing?

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posted by HockeyZonePlus at | 0 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NHL: $2.5 Billion Industry Looking for Volunteers!

The NHL, with projected revenues of $2.53 billion (as per Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal) for the 2007-08 season, is looking for people who will work for free as volunteers during the All-Star game festivities.

Why not! There's a sucker born every minute, right?

The league generates $2.53 billion for the season, hundreds of “employees” make millions per year, owners sit on their sound investments and the league doesn’t have the decency to pay people $10/hour to work during the All-Star game festivities!

Why would they, though, given that people apparently line up to work for hours for free (or a cap and a shirt) for them? Ever seen people react to t-shirts thrown in the crowd during a sports event? Obviously, a free t-shirt goes a long way.

Rubbing elbows with the rich and famous? Maybe. There’s nothing like being the dork working for free, wearing a NHL shirt, driving Sidney Crosby from the Airport to a restaurant you can’t afford. Or showing Ovechkin’s dad where the bathrooms are at some All-Star game party. Or having a glimpse at Vincent Lecavalier walking the red carpet, far away, while you keep the autograph seekers away.

Long Live the NHL!

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posted by HockeyZonePlus at | 1 Comments Links to this post



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