How about these outdoor games, Gongers? I hope they’ve helped you, your friends and families start off 2014 the right way. Apart from the Rangers and Devils being delayed by excessive sunshine, it’s hard to imagine them playing out much better. The Winter Classic was arguably the best since 2008; 100,000+ people gathered to celebrate the game and enjoy a picturesque finish. I’m not even a fan of the shootout and I thought the way it ended was awesome; Tyler Bozak putting a wrist shot home that would’ve been a goal in any game of pond hockey ever played. The Dodger Stadium game was very well received, despite some lulls in the action, and there has already been a lot of speculation about where the league will go next.
And now we have the Olympics coming up in just a matter of days. No one is more thrilled about that than Edmonton Oilers’ fans, I imagine, but I think we can all agree that it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable than the average All Star Game. Getting to see all of the best players in the league is neat, but the game doesn’t ultimately mean anything. The most exciting part of it (for me, anyways) has always been the skills competition. If I’m the only one then I’ll never bring this up again, but the draft and skills competition have always seemed to provide more entertainment than the All Star Game itself.
I’ve been kicking around an idea for a while that I’d like to see the league implement. Instead of an All Star Game, have an All Star Tournament.
Four teams consisting of nine skaters and a goalie would be selected via an All Star Draft similar to the current system. The tournament will follow a round robin format. A win is worth 3 points, a tie is worth 1 and a loss is worth nothing. The two teams who earn the most points will move on to the championship. Games will be 15 minutes long, 3 on 3 with no icing, no offsides and all penalties would result in a penalty shot.
The game, as it exists now, is a glorified drop-in session and it isn’t really debatable. Why not embrace it? Open the play up and have fun with it. I want to see someone throw some sauce the length of the ice to a teammate cherry picking at the far blue line and have them finish Linus Omark style.
It would be fun to explore the idea of having the All-Star Game / Tournament outdoors as well. The success of the Stadium Series in Los Angeles shows that outdoor games don’t have to be limited to a handful of locations. The league and broadcast partners would probably go crazy over the idea of putting all the best talent on the ice at an outdoor event – weather permitting, of course. No one wants to sit outside on a cold, rainy February evening and watch exhibition hockey. Still, if you could get some decent conditions – let’s say 25 degrees and light snow flurries – I could see it being a very memorable outdoor hockey moment.
We don’t have to worry about that this year, though. We have something much better. The Winter Olympics are just days away. Getting up before the crack of dawn to watch hockey is going to be tough, but if it plays out anything like 2010 then it’s going to be well worth it.