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There's precedent for scrapping the All-Star Game in favor of international play. In 1979 (Challenge Cup) and '87 (Rendez-Vous) exhibitions between all-star teams from the NHL and the Soviet Union were played instead.
It's natural, even laudable, for players such as Alfredsson and Modano to put the Olympics and their teams' playoff drives first—it's the league that's at fault for asking too much. "These kids are tired and looking for a little break," says Pat Quinn, coach of the North American All-Stars and the Canadian Olympic team. "Ordinarily, the All-Star game is something to look forward to."
All-Star Goalie Omissions
Here's a conspiracy theory: With Canada's first Olympic match 13 days after Saturday's All-Star Game, against Sweden on Feb. 15, it's convenient that Curtis Joseph, Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour—Team Canada's goalies—aren't on the North American All-Star roster. Because NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell is responsible for filling out the rosters of the All-Star teams after the fans have elected the starters, it's reasonable to wonder whether..."Since I'm Canadian, I want as much rest for the Canadian guys as possible?" Campbell said last week, before laughing heartily. "I used that same [criteria] for Mike Richter, Mike Dunham and Tom Barrasso." Campbell was referring to Team USA's goaltenders, who also were omitted from the All-Star Game.
Because there are no strict criteria for selecting All-Stars ("Ever play darts with a blindfold on?" Campbell asked), it's tough to knock the North American backup netminders (Patrick Roy of the Avalanche was chosen by the fans): Through Jan. 16, the day on which selections were announced, the Coyotes' Sean Burke (2.26 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) and the Canadiens' Jose Theodore (2.15, .927) were having statistically superior seasons to Joseph (2.27, .903), Brodeur (2.36, .899) and Belfour (2.60, .899).
Nonetheless, it's a nice break for Team Canada, especially because the top netminders for three of its main rivals in Salt Lake City—the Czech Republic's Dominik Hasek, Russia's Nikolai Khabibulin and Sweden's Tommy Salo—are also World All-Star goalies. Probably just a (wink, wink) coincidence.
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