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NHL 1998-99 All-Star Game

1999 NHL  All-Star Game

Time to change All-Star Game format

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Posted: Sunday January 24, 1999 10:24 PM


TAMPA, Fla. (CNN/SI) -- All-Star weekend is drawing to a close and we're still waiting for someone to play a hockey game around here. The Heroes of Hockey matchup is fine (the former stars deserve a little feting) but it's nothing more than a well-meaning farce. And while the skills competition can be entertaining at times, it's all about skill and has nothing to with competition.

As for the All-Star game itself -- well, even the Tampa Bay crowd, conditioned to some pretty lousy hockey after all, was lulled into silence. Hockey just doesn't thrive in this kind of exhibition where no one plays defense, and the players don't check anything but the game clock winding down to party time.

What the NHL should do, and we've said this before, is stage the annual top prospects game at this weekend. The game is for the best players in junior hockey -- two teams of hungry, energetic teenagers. It's going to be in Calgary this year in the middle of February and you can believe that whatever the score the game will give off intensity throughout. NHL scouts descend on the prospects game en masse, which makes the players play like their careers depend on it. Fans could use something like that at a weekend like this.

What better way to usher the next generation of NHL stars into the limelight? The juniors could mingle with their heroes, which qualifies as dreams coming true. And if you put this game in the middle of All-Star weekend the NHLers would certainly come to watch -- they'd like to see some hard-fought hockey around here, too.

The league doesn't like the idea of bringing the prospects game to All-Star weekend because it would create some logistical difficulties and, more important to the bean counters, Who in a place like Tampa, say, is going to buy tickets to see a bunch of young Canadians they've never heard of?

Okay. But next year All-Star weekend goes to Toronto, where the top prospects game has been held before and where people know their hockey and want it bad. The prospects game would sell out in Toronto, no question. The NHL should do this. Bring in the top prospects and give fans at least one hockey game to watch at All-Star weekend.

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