Calgary Flames

Discussing what the NHL can do about the All-Star Game in future seasons

The NHL offseason can be a long and uneventful wait for fans, especially after the draft and free agency. That being said, we’re going to take a look at how to bolster more interest in the game with rule changes.

This week we’ll discuss the importance of the All-Star Game and if its lack of fan engagement is something that needs to be addressed. Is it time to finally get rid of the NHL All-Star Weekend?

The modern All-Star Game

The NHL All-Star Game has been on its last leg for some time. Viewership of All-Star weekend increased by 31% from 2021–22 to 2022–23, but still had low ratings and poor feedback from fans. It’s been years of disappointing showcases, mainly lacking competition.

The current All-Star weekend features the NHL Skills Competition and the NHL All-Star game. The skills competition consists of accuracy shooting, the breakaway challenge, fastest skater, and the hardest shot. The game portion of the event features a series of 3v3 mini games played in a two-round playoff format.

The skills competition has gained decent reception overall in its history, first debuting in 1990. The event saw its peak in the mid 2000s with memorable moments such as Alex Ovechkin’s breakaway challenge outfits and Zdeno Chara’s record breaking slap shot. For Flames fans, Jarome Iginla’s shooting accuracy win in 2002 during his Art Ross season might ring a bell.

The All-Star game itself has followed a similar trend with fans. The biggest let down of the game being lack of competition. It’s understandable from a player’s perspective. You’re in the middle of a 82-game regular season with the hopes of playing four more seven-game series of hockey. The last thing you want to do on your only extended break until potentially June is play more hockey and risk an injury for the games that really matter.

The All-Star game has ran its course and doesn’t have enough incentive for the players. Fan engagement isn’t great and there’s bigger opportunities out there to try and draw in new fans while showcasing top talent.

Out with it all?

The NHL should follow suit with the NFL and get rid of the game portion of the event weekend. The skills competition could potentially remain in its current form and take on a more headlining role. The league could add more events or expand the amount of participants to make it a bigger event.

The more likely option is the league eliminates the event entirely. The league would still name an All-Star team at the midway mark of the season, recognizing the players but offering them a midseason break as well.

The All-Star Game is underwhelming as a whole and falls under the radar when other professional sports are still being played, competing with a meaningless event you can watch on your phone after the fact. Even some die-hard hockeys fans don’t watch the All-Star Game anymore.

Why would you if the NFL playoffs are on or your favourite NBA team is playing. The time of year is an issue unto itself. To cap it off, the competing markets are amplified in the the US.

With talks of the international competition on the horizon, upcoming Olympic play or World Cup play would likely take over the role of an All-Star game.

Last week I discussed the potential for an in-season tournament similar to what fans will see in the NBA this upcoming season. An event like this could also take the place of the All-Star Game. It would engage more fans, raise competition and also keep players interested without adding any actual games to the schedule.

Going supernova on the All-Star Game

There’s plenty of options going forward for the NHL but it seems All-Star Games in professional sports are finally seeing their inevitable demise.

If not for an All-Star Game, a World Cup of Hockey or even an in-season tournament could be solutions to continue drawing fans towards the NHL while maintaining competition.

All in all, the time to make a change is approaching quickly as the NHL looks ahead to keep expanding its brand and capitalizing on the American market space.

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