I have a confession: I only watched a fast-forward-heavy hour of the skills competition at the 2018 NHL All-Star game, out of an entire weekend of festivities. It isn’t that I have some holier-than-thou mentality towards the weekend or that I’m judging you for watching every second of it. I didn’t even boycott it because of Kid Rock or purposely shun it out of anger that the NHL is having an All-Star game instead of going to the Olympics. I just didn’t watch. I had “things to do” or something. I did get to see Flo Rida awkwardly dance to his own songs without providing any vocals during the player introductions though. I think I won.
The game itself bugs me. I think the format is fun. It might be the most progressive thing this regressive league tries to do on an annual basis outside of the half-hearted Hockey Is For Everyone Month. (Remember that? The month is February. It’s now January 29th. Tick tock.)
It bugs me because of the way rosters are structured. I’m cool with four teams based on four divisions. It makes for a pretty fun mini tournament. I do wish they would go back to a draft and completely randomize the teams, but it is what it is. Drafts are fun. You put it on TV and let fans get in on watching it. The publicity is good and people get to see the personalities of the players. I’m getting sidetracked on something that doesn’t matter now.
My real axe that needs grinding is that I don’t understand why on earth each team has two goalies. Eight goalies are in the All-Star game. Mike Smith was named as an injury replacement for Jonathan Quick, meaning nine goalies were selected or picked as replacement players.
There are 31 teams in the league and each one has one starting goalie. That means 29 percent of all starting goalies in the league, and 10-15 percent of all goalies in the league, period, are in the game. If you did that with skaters, there would be 98 All-Star forwards and defensemen. No one would suggest that is a good idea, so why does the NHL blindly stick to bringing as many goalies as they can to the game?
Take six goalies like the old format called for. Goalies being weird is no secret. Let them be as weird as possible. Make goalie assignment in the game random. Let goalies wear special jerseys. (NHL: that means more merchandising opportunities.) Make the team they’re assigned to into a gimmick. Have the captains before the game draw straws to see who will be in goal for them. No goalie can repeat unless there is an injury. There are three games and each has two goalies. Six goalies. Done.
If you really want to trick it up, before the game make the goalies compete to see who goes where. Make them do a shootout contest. Have them shoot for it by shooting on an empty net from the full length of the rink. Make them spin plates while riding a unicycle. Do something interesting to make them find a team. Just do anything that makes it more fun and limits the number of goalies.
I don’t have an anti-goalie agenda. I have a pro-offense agenda. We live in a world where Vladimir Tarasenko and Jamie Benn aren’t in the All-Star Game. Alex Radulov isn’t there. What I’m saying is this is the NHL’s one fun event where fun is the full focus and they are missing a lot of really fun players at the expense of middle-of-the-pack goalies. It seems like an easy enough fix.