Inspired by Patty (in Dallas)’s kind words for the All-Star Game we now present to you our reasons why we aren’t joining the ranks of whiners and complainers trying to kill the midseason classic buzz.
1. The Superskills and All-Star Game bring out the very best in mic’ed up players. Between Marty Turco, Manny Legace, and Rick DiPietro, we’ve been treated to truly wonderful, off-the-cuff commentary in a relaxed hockey environment.
2. The consistently hideous uniforms. There has never been a cool all-star uniform in any sport, and that’s something many people would see fit to complain about. But you know what? We love the equalizing effect the ugly unis have. Every All Star team has its brightest lights and its “Her?”s, but the guys at both extremes, and all the ones in between, look evenly dopey in their dumb sweaters. There’s something incredibly charming about Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of standing next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer during player introductions, both of them knowing that in a few years someone will look at the tape of it and think, “Holy crap, but both those guys look ridiculous in those sweaters. Were those ever cool?”
3. The random mashup of players on the bench during games. It always seems remarkably silly and fun when they show shots of the benches during the ASG and we see Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of sitting next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer, interacting in an actual hockey-ish context.
4. Players we don’t normally pay attention to. We have massive tunnel vision when it comes to watching hockey these days; we can spend all day deeply immersed in hockey coverage and conversation online and never once venture beyond discussion of just the Devils. Sure, we watch other teams when the Devils aren’t on TV, but we’re often watching our designated secondary team instead. We’ll follow two or three teams closely during a season, and just ignore everyone else. So the All-Star events give us a chance to spend a couple of days being forced to watch a bunch of players we only know by name. And not just watch them in a regular “guys on the other team” way — no, we get to watch them chilling out, having fun, and often being surprisingly appealing. (See: Zdeno Chara last year.)
5. Players we do normally pay attention to doing well. When you spend the start of the season thinking the world needs to know that your favorite player is awesome, it’s nice to get some affirmation when said favorite player wins a plastic star for said awesomeness.
6. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to spend the next two and a half months watching stretch-run “every game is vitally important!” regular-season hockey, and then launch into the pressure cooker of the playoffs. It’s nice to have a weekend where we can sit back and relax.
7. The ridiculous player introductions. It’s not often we — fans who wax poetic about the lack of in-game entertainment at Continental Airlines Arena — are going to embrace laser lights and smoke machines. But when you pair them with a Mike Richards who looks like he’s going to die from embarrassment for how over-the-top the introduction is, we’re sold!
8. Cool superskills! Dude, the accuracy shooting is, like, the coolest thing we see all year. If they had accuracy shooting instead of penalty shots to decide OT winners, we probably wouldn’t hate the abolition of ties so much. What a wonderful world it would be if hockey games went to an accuracy shootout after five minutes of four-on-four OT…
9. Superskills down-time. Who doesn’t love seeing the guys sprawled out on the ice, waiting for their turn to do fastest skater or hardest shot? We get to see who forms cliques, who pays attention to the other events, and who pretends to have friends (Paul Kariya, we’re looking at you).
10. Foxy All-Star portraits. We’ve said it before and we’ll probably say it again — the portraits of the players in street clothes are a godsend. Every year we grouse that there aren’t enough hotties in the All-Star Game, then, come playoff time, we get a whole bunch of new playoff-only hockey boyfriends and Pookie decides to hone her mad reference-librarian skillz by researching them online. And lo and behold, every year, we discover our newfound dreamboat was at that year’s All-Star Game, we totally ignored him, but thanks to the portrait series, we have a treasure trove of pictures to use as our desktops on our computers at work. (And then, a few weeks later, when his team is eliminated from the playoffs and we go back to not liking him, then we’re all embarrassed to have that picture saved to our hard drives. But such is the circle of life when you’re cool like us.)
11. Mascot All-Star pictures. Every year finds a few photos interspersed in the Yahoo gallery of Foxy All-Star Portraits which show a giant mass of NHL mascots partaking of on-ice tomfoolery. Is it silly and stupid and should we be above it? Sure. Is it also totally awesome to see Youppi and Thunderbutt sharing the same ice surface? You bet it is!
12. It’s different. Look, we all know the All-Star Game isn’t going to be a classic game for the ages. It never has been and it never will be. But if you go in expecting just to see an assortment of great hockey players having fun in a low-key setting, interspersed with interviews and gushing sideline report stories about the participants, you’ll be duly entertained. It’s hockey, but it’s not. It’s a nice change of pace.
13. Saying, “There are the doors… There’s the seats…” as a guy starts racking up the points in the game.
14. Hoping this’ll be the year someone breaks the hardest shot record.
15. Watching the guys who think they can dog it on the puck-handling relay get burned by the guys who stay focused on the task at hand.
16. The passers on the accuracy shooting event. They’re a total afterthought, but without them, the sexiest superskill would be nothing. It’s fun to watch superstars like Sakic and Spezza sit back and enjoy a colleague getting to be in the spotlight, while they just go about their business of doing what they do best.
17. When offensive rushes break down during the game because the guys all try to be too fancy.
18. The plastic stars and uncool cars the MVPs win. We know they often give the cars away, but we love laughing at the end of every ASG about the unlucky recipient of the ugly car having to drive it for a year.
19. The red carpet. We owe Dallas big time for introducing the red carpet to the ASG festivities. It should be so wrong and so out of place but we can’t help but love getting the opportunity to fire up the TiVo of the pre-game stuff and then go all Go Fug Yourself on the NHL once a year.
20. “Mark Messier! FOUR FOR FOUR!” In Patty’s post she scoffs at sportswriters saying the ASG was better when they were kids because things are always better when you’re a kid. 1996 was the year we were essentially hockey kids, and the Superskills and ASG seemed impossibly awesome to us. And now we don’t want to be the people who whine that it was so much better then — we want to tune in every year hoping to see something that good again.