LOS ANGELES – The NHL All-Star Weekend hit Los Angeles this weekend, which means another 24 hours of awkward skills competitions, occasional highlights and someone from the home team inevitably winning a car.
What do you most like about the NHL All-Star Game? What do least like about the NHL All-Star Game?
We fired up the Puck Daddy Roundtable and asked. Here are Greg Wyshynski, Sean Leahy, Jen Neale, Josh Cooper, Ryan Lambert and Steve Laidlaw of Puck Daddy on their All-Star likes and dislikes.
1 – What is your favorite thing about NHL All-Star Weekend?
WYSHYNSKI: Despite the Olympics and the World Cup and all the other national team events, there’s still something fun about seeing two rivals palling around on All-Star Weekend as sudden teammates. Seeing Auston Matthews and Erik Karlsson giggling over something in their phones. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby! – chilling out together during the skills competition. I’m all for rivalries, or the perception of them, in hockey, but it’s also cool to see them lay down their arms for a weekend.
LEAHY: Skills Competition, by far. While the game itself is very laidback, the Skills Competition allows for the players to show a bit of personality and relax and not have to worry about the rigors of the regular season. The introduction of the trick shot competition opened the door for some memorable All-Star moments like Johnny Gaudreau/Ryan Johansen, Superman Patrick Kane, Brent Burns as Chewbacca and P.K. Subban honoring Jaromir Jagr. We don’t get to see these players have that much fun during the year, so to let fans see that really helps create lasting images.
NEALE: The spontaneous moments that shows the players’ personalities. Most are robots when dealing with the media. Yet when they’re with their buddies or interacting with kids it makes them human. I also love seeing the excitement on the faces of young fans. It reminds me why I fell in love with the game in the first place.
COOPER: I like the hardest shot. For me it’s enjoyable to watch players blast pucks at incredible speeds. It’s also the only part of the skills competition that really gets players’ competitive juices going.
LAMBERT: I love that it’s 3-on-3 and there’s a cash incentive for players. One of the worst aspects of the All-Star Game was that people who talk all the time about how they want high-scoring hockey would then complain that these guys weren’t trying hard enough for a game that didn’t matter. Well now there’s more of a reason to try, and an excuse for the lack of defense. Plus, 3-on-3 is more fun and entertaining anyway.
LAIDLAW: Gary Bettman getting booed.
2 – What is your least favorite thing about NHL All-Star Weekend?
WYSHYNSKI: The decreasing fun factor. The NHL Fantasy Draft setup for the All-Star Game wasn’t exactly successful, but the fact that it was killed because the players didn’t like someone getting picked last was stupid. The Breakaway Challenge didn’t always work, but the fact that it was killed because the players didn’t like having to exhibit personality was stupid. How long before the 3-on-3 gets killed because the players didn’t like looking gassed by the third game?
LEAHY: The annual Debbie Downers who constantly either want to do away with the All-Star Game or merge the All-Star Game with the Winter Classic. God forbid the players take a few days off during the season to either get some rest for the second half or enjoy themselves at the All-Star festivities and interact with fans. Yeah, the games in the past have been yawners, but the 3-on-3 idea really inserted some juice into the weekend, even if you take out all the John Scott stuff from last year.
And you want to make the outdoor game as the All-Star Game? Don’t we have enough complaints about how outdoor games are overplayed and the hockey isn’t good. Now we want to use a showcase of the League’s best to boost it and worry about ice conditions injuring a star player? Come on, now.
NEALE: Meaningless hockey is boring no matter how many gimmicks you throw at it. The players really don’t want to be there and it shows. I also don’t like anything that requires Pierre McGuire and Jeremy Roenick to try to be clever in interviews.
COOPER: The made-up seriousness of the game. It’s an exhibition for the league’s best players to show their skills. Let them act playful. Let them show their personalities. Let them have fun.
LAMBERT: The fact that they got rid of the Breakaway Challenge because it placed too much pressure on the players to be in some way vaguely interesting is classic NHL. That was the only fun part of the skills competition since Chara’s slap-shot slowed down — because no one will touch that kind of velocity again any time soon — so yeah, it obviously had to go. This stupid League.
LAIDLAW: I can only pick one? At the end of the day, we all want a genuinely competitive game, and that’s not what we get.