by pcoffey on 01/13/12 at 07:22 PM ET
A little advice to those who get upset about the NHL All-Star Game and its
B) Selection process
C) Lack of competition
Relax! Take a deep breath. It’s all good. really, it is. During a lifetime spent either watching or working in hockey, I always enjoyed All-Star Weekend. It marked the chance to meet a lot of players you didn’t normally get to talk to in a relaxed environment and the inclusion of either former NHL greats or top rookies also added a dimension that I enjoyed.
Yes, I know, the vast majority of hockey fans weren’t “on the inside” and able to speak to players and the like. Very true. But that still doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the skills on display. Passing is often overlooked during the course of a game and in a free-flowing, offensive game like the All-Star Game, there is some sick passing going on. Enjoy it. Skating also is overlooked as an art form when cheering for your team, but watching the All-Stars, you get to appreciate how these guys make a skill that caused me countless bumps and bruises without any degree of success, look so damn easy.
Yes, there is no hitting. Yes, no one is going balls to the wall. Yes, there is no snarl. And that’s fine, because that’s what we have the Stanley Cup Playoffs for. All-Star Weekend is a chance for the NHL to take a breather, meet-and-greet with sponsors, and let Alex Ovechkin do goofy stuff during the skills competition . That’s not bad and it’s not worth getting upset over. If your favorite player wasn’t selected, relax, that means he gets some time off. With the stretch drive and playoffs upcoming pretty quickly, that’s not a bad thing.
Remember, the other sports respective all-star festivities aren’t terribly life-like either. Only in baseball do you see something akin to real competition and the revolving door for pitchers takes away from that. Especially with Tony LaRussa now retired. So while you might consider the NHL All-Star Game bad, relax, take a break and give yourself a respite. It’s all good. Really.
Detroit will be a ‘Classic’ host—While the next Winter Classic is widely rumored to be the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in Ann Arbor, you knew Detroit would have more than a smattering of events simply because Mike Ilitch wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the great things about Ilitch is his devotion to Detroit during good times and bad. He and the Wings know the team is important to the city, so there will be plenty for fans to see and do when the “circus” comes to town.
That may well mean building two outdoor rinks, which I’m sure will stretch Dan Craig’s good nature to the limits. But it may well also mean a chance to see the legion of former Wings greats—I’m pointing to you Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay!—take a twirl around Comerica Park. It may also mean a college game or two, maybe a junior game. It may mean a lot of things, all of them good.
The WC game itself will pack in over 100 grand in the stands and give the NHL plenty to crow about.
I’m not even going to think what a labor dispute could do to what would be a great time for hockey.
Speaking of labor—The 2004-05 lockout was one of the worst times of my professional career. Virtually everyone who worked at the NHL offices in New York were sent packing and those of us who remained tried to be optimistic, but when the season was lost for good those who remained felt lost too. So the first salvos in the negotiations that were fired last week over realignment were not welcomed. But they are inevitable.
The NHL will almost always win the PR battle here, so fans need not make assumptions and look beyond the press release or the interviews. The last work stoppage was at the behest of the owners. It was a lockout, not a strike. And remember, the league demanded—and got—a salary cap as well as a 24 percent rollback in player contracts off the top. The laundry list was supposed to provide cost certainty to the owners, but now there is grumbling on the management side that more is needed. You can be sure there will be talk of dropping the revenue split closer to 50-50 than the current 57-43 split in light of the new NBA CBA. And there will be plenty of other issues that will rear their ugly heads as this all progresses.
And while there has been some optimistic that the powers-that-be are too smart to lose another season to a labor dispute, unfortunately I’m not so sure, A) that a season won’t be lost and B) that they’re that bright.
Flames ‘going for it’—“Iggy is going nowhere and we are going for it.”
Those words, in a text message from Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster to ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun pretty effectively sum up the Flames’ plans for the remainder of the season and that trade rumors involving Jarome Iginla can be ignored. Another sign was the deal for Mike Cammalleri, who had struggled in Montreal this season, scoring just nine goals, while alienating his teammates when he said—quite accurately as the record shows—that the Montreal Canadiens have been playing like losers.
Cammalleri is one of those guys who thrives under pressure and that’s exactly what Montreal is come playoff time. Cammalleri scored 16 goals in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games during his time in Montreal. That kind of gritty, prolific play is prized in every organization. That brings up another point about the trade. How come other general managers around the league are saying they didn’t realize the Canadiens were so close to dealing Cammalleri? Pierre Gauthier got a decent return in Rene Bourque and others, but you would think a little auction might have squeezed out a few more assets along the way.
Unless, of course, the deal was a direct reaction to Cammalleri’s frank comments to the media about the state of the Habs. Feaster, who has always been a honorable man to deal with during my time at NHL.com, said the deal had been discussed for a while, so that is good enough for me. But Cammalleri’s words may have quickened Gauthier’s call to say yes to the deal.
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About Iced Coffey
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.