If you didn’t tune into the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend, hosted Friday and Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., you missed seeing Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner dress up as Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett on a breakaway challenge, the hard-nosed Tkachuk brothers perform a beach-themed on-ice skit and the “Great 8” Alex Ovechkin’s 4-year-old son, Sergei, offer a glimpse into his hockey future.
Other than that, you did not miss much.
Yes, as the above snapshot depicts, All-Star Weekend — once a fun way to showcase the top athletes on skates to viewers who don’t normally get to watch them play — has turned into a gimmicky weekend of activities with zero buy-in from players. Despite the chance to promote the game on a rare non-football weekend, the NHL failed to captivate a new audience.
Friday’s skills competition was creative but goofy. Meaningful contests like “hardest shot” and “fastest skater” were lost in the shuffle of the breakaway skit circustry and other thematic acts that felt like time fillers. Sponsors and fans left their seats in under an hour.
Saturday’s All-Star Game consisted of, yes, hockey, but hockey unlike any that’s played in actual NHL games. Whether it was botched 2-on-0s or sloppy passing across the rink, it was blatantly obvious that the players would rather be spending the week off at home with their families rather than traveling to Florida to exert themselves or risk injury.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The All-Star Game used to be fun for fans and players, after all. Could we see a switch back to the “captain” format, where mini all-star teams are drafted? What about something so ludicrous that it’s a laugh, like goaltenders as skaters and skaters in net? If the NHL wants to save the tradition of All-Star Weekend, they must improve the current format.
A few thoughts from around the league as the break comes to a close:
- Release the Kraken! How about the NHL’s newest franchise? After a disappointing inaugural season (with expectations absurdly high due to the success of the Vegas Golden Knights), Seattle is sitting pretty in second place in the Pacific Division.
- While most teams were hibernating during the off-week, the New York Islanders and GM Lou Lamiorello were not, executing a trade for Canucks captain Bo Horvat. The Isles needed more scoring, and Horvat — who signed an eight-year extension shortly after the trade — gives them that.
- The loser’s race for Connor Bedard is on. If Commissioner Gary Bettman claims that teams don’t tank, he must not be watching the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Ducks who all have sub-.400 point win percentages. It’s hard to blame them. Bedard is the best prospect since McDavid, and he may be even better.
Enjoy this week’s slate of games!