Monday, January 26, 2009

Hey Now, You're An All-Star

Over at ESPN, Scott Burnside writes about Lidstrom and Datsyuk’s decision to skip the ASG: The punishment has nothing to do with whether Lidstrom has been a great ambassador for the game as a whole and a tremendous supporter of the All-Star event after playing in it 10 times. He is not only one of the finest defensemen of all time but also one of the classiest individuals ever to play the game. But this event is fighting for its very life. Never particularly relevant at the best of times, the NHL All-Star Game is even less so when you hold it up against the likes of the Winter Classic, which has become a showcase event for the NHL after successes in Buffalo and Chicago the past two seasons.

That’s true. So maybe the Wings were making a statement; maybe they’re saying what so many said over the course of this weekend … the ASG isn’t that great. Maybe the die-hard fans and the players find the game a dull distraction. But the Bell Centere was packed all weekend and I’m willing to bet the NHL won’t/can’t let go of the marketing revenue that this thing brings in. Yeah, the Winter Classic is much more exciting considering it, you know, actually counts. It should be the premiere event of the season, and probably will be in another few years. But until the NHL has teams that can pay their own way (cough, Phoenix, cough) and can get itself back into the hearts and wallets of a wider audience, the ASG is here to stay.

So why don’t the players see that and work their tails off to give the fans a good time? All people wanted was a little flash, some laughs and some trick shots. Give up your weekend for the good of the game that has made you a millionaire. Sure, I understand why they didn’t want to go. Why waste your time and energy playing in a game that doesn’t matter, especially when the playoffs are looming? But the fans voted for you, they wanted to see you, and you let them down.

I don’t know how bad Sid’s knee is – I think that he tends to overplay some of his injuries -- but at least he showed up. He gave interviews and waved to the crowd and you have to respect that. He understands how important that stuff is and he made the effort. If Lidstrom and Datsyuk didn’t want to play, they could have at least showed up to glad-hand with the fans. And hey, here’s an idea, if you think you’re going to be too tired, or too banged up, ask to be kept off the ballot. There were some great players (Mike Green) who would have loved be in Montreal this weekend.

But in the end, I think it was better to replace the surly stars than force them to attend. It was nice to see the enthusiasm from some of the guys who might not have otherwise been there. And you know, the players seemed to really be enjoying themselves – with the exception of Vinny, who looked like he had stage fright the entire time. Not re-thinking your impending move to Montreal, are you VLC?

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