January is upon us. The deep freeze is settling in. There is nary a bird in sight, and both men and woman are bundled up so tight, that one could think that they are auditioning for roles as either a) the Michelin (wo)Man™ , b) the Kool Aid (wo)Man™ c) the Stay Puft Marshmallow™ from Ghostbusters. While I readily admit this article would probably more interesting if it were only about gigantic, evil, terrorizing marshmallows, unfortunately this column is about another winter tradition, the annual snooze fest that is the NHL All Star Game. This year the NHL’s annual extravaganza is taking place in La Belle Province, hosted by the Montreal Canadiens. The most storied franchise in the NHL, rightfully takes centre stage during this year’s all star weekend, as this is also the centennial anniversary of the Habs. Seeing as how the game is in Montreal, and the All Star Game starting line ups are determined by fan balloting, the fans in Montreal followed suit, and stuffed the ballot boxes in favour of getting their Habs heroes into the starting line up. It is this ballot box stuffing that has gotten some people in an uproar.
After the starting line-ups were unveiled and it was announced that four (Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, and Carey price) of the six Eastern Conference representatives were Montreal Canadiens, the squawking was loud, immediate and over the top. Bruce Boudreau, head coach of the Capitals referred to the voting, as “dumb”. Other columnists, media personalities, and talking heads echoed his statement. What all of these insightful members of the commentariat fail to realize, is that it should come as no shock that the host city’s fans want to see their own players. These are their heroes, their superstars, their idols. If I was a young boy in Montreal, who would I rather see—one of the players I watch every night, and have the poster on the wall, or Ilya Kovalchuk and other random names they never get to see firsthand? It’s a no brainer that I would stuff the ballot box and do everything in my power to ensure my idol gets to play.
Very little involving professional sports in the twenty first century is fan friendly. Most of it is strictly business, bottom line, and profit margins. Allowing the fans to vote for the starters in an all star game is one of the last bones that the NHL throws to their fans. I readily admit, that had the Jets been able to host an all star game during their tenure in Winnipeg, I would have stuffed the ballot box to the nth degree to see my team’s players in the game. If that resulted in the likes of Randy Cunneyworth, Brent Ashton, and Mike Eagles starting, so be it. Ultimately, we are talking about one shift of hockey. Fourty seconds. If all the NHL fans have left to their control is the first fourty seconds in an exhibition game, the NHL has more serious problems, and can leave alone the one area left in the NHL that allows the fans control. To change the current system, would be as Bruce Boudreau so articulately described it, “dumb”.
For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell.
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