x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Draft the ideal way to spice up the NHL All-star game

The NHL adds some spice to the All-Star Game by having the captains conduct a "fantasy draft" of the players to select the teams.

Under the leadership of its vice-president Brendan Shanahan, the league has shaken things up in the hopes of making the meaningless game at least somewhat relevant again.

The All-Star Game, for the past 20 years or so, has mostly been dismissed as a contest completely lacking in passion. Nobody hits, nobody plays defence, and opponents would help each other up off the ice if they accidentally ran into each other. Hockey, at its best, combines top-end skill with physicality and an element of danger.

There is no guarantee that the radical changes to the 2011 event will increase the amount of body-checking or result in a modicum of defensive play, but there is no denying there has been a quantum leap from a fan-interest perspective. At the very least, this year's game should be fun.

The good times start in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday night, when team captains Eric Staal (also captain of the host Hurricanes) and Nicklas Lidstrom conduct a "fantasy draft," on live television, picking teammates, one-by-one, until all the stars are selected. There's a good chance this personality-driven process will be the most entertaining part of the weekend. Who'll be picked first? More fun, who'll be last?

If handled right, this made-for-reality-TV process will enthral fans from the casual to the hard-core, providing humour and insight into the players' personalities and off-ice relationships.