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The NHL all-star weekend was great for the league

Colin Buchinski
Contributor

The NHL all-star weekend is a fantastic display of the league’s talent that gathers the league’s most marketable players into one place to show their skills off. The 2011 festivities were held in Raleigh, North Carolina last weekend.

This year’s edition featured a brand new format in which the players would decide who played on what team. Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom were named captains and a draft was held on Friday night. The captains had a task of picking players schoolyard style.

As a result of the new format, the game was widely publicized – it got people talking about the game of hockey. The NHL needs this type of publicity, especially in the U.S. This year’s game did the trick. It was more than a game; it was a showcase for the NHL and a treat for all fans of hockey.

As the weekend unfolded, many story lines arose. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were drafted on separate teams and forced to play against each other for the first time in their hockey lives, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs was selected last in the draft, and Lidstrom was praised for his fantastic drafting skills. Nobody really gave Staal’s team a chance to win at all.

The skills competition was held on Saturday. Some of the most notable events included the hardest shot, fastest skater and accuracy competitions. The real highlight, though, was the Breakaway Challenge. Similar to the slam dunk competition in basketball, the players were judged on their creativity. The fans were given the opportunity to vote for their favourite shootout moves. This year, Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin won once again, but all eyes were on Canadiens defencemen P.K. Subban, who Hurricane fans gave rave reviews after snagging forward Jeff Skinner’s jersey and wearing it in the shootout. Some other winners included Michael Grabner in the fastest skater competition, Zdeno Chara with a record blast of 105.9 MPH in the hardest shot event, and Daniel Sedin winning the accuracy competition.

The skills competition was absolutely fantastic this year. It gave the fans a chance to see just how good these guys really are. They are amazing with the puck and extremely talented offensively. This was apparent in the all-star game on Sunday, where as usual, the goalies had a very tough time and there wasn’t much displayed in terms of defensive prowess. On Sunday, Team Lidstrom came away with an 11-10 victory and Patrick Sharp was named the game’s MVP with three points.

All weekend, the media coverage was fantastic. TSN and CBC gave you an inside look at the game and showed the players for the people they really are, not just the players. In-game interviews and an inside look at the draft really showed off the great personalities of our game. Viewers got to see that the players are just like you and me. They are out there because they love the game and they are having loads of fun playing it.

The all-star game is a great part of NHL history and absolutely belongs in our game. The entire weekend is all about interacting with the fans and having fun. It’s a great marketing tool for the league and allows the players to get more involved with the current fans and possibly attract new fans to the game.

Some people say we should get rid of the all-star game completely, but why? What is it really hurting? It gives the league’s players a much-needed midseason rest, while at the same time moving hockey to the front page of the sports section and showing the general public what our great game is all about.

I say keep the all-star game and continue building on it. Over the last few years it has been awesome and it is only getting better.

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