The NHL All-Star Game is a tradition that has been around for a long time. The first game was played back on October 13, 1947 (Canada’s Thanksgiving Day) at Maple Leaf Gardens, where the defending Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-3 to the NHL All-Stars.
A lot has changed since then.
The League and the NHL Players’ Association wanted to spice things up for the 2011 All-Star Game. Their goal: To make things more fun for everyone involved. They did just that by replacing the conference vs. conference style with a player draft.
As part of the new format change fans were able to select six players (three forwards, two defencemen and one goalie) regardless of their conference. The balloting ran from November 15 to January 3 with more than 14.3 million votes registered.
The remaining 36 players were named by NHL Hockey Operations and the team captains were chosen by the group of 42 All-Stars.
Here is a list of other firsts occurring at this year’s Game:
1) The NHL All-Star Game is being held in Carolina for the first time. The RBC center has been the site of two NHL Entry Drafts. The 2004 Draft drew the largest opening-day crowd in over a decade.
2) The Game features a new Fantasy Draft: Team Captains Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal were able to choose their own teams from the pool of players. The teams were selected on Friday.
3) The Canes’ very own Jeff Skinner will become the youngest player in any of the four major professional sports to be on an All-Star team. The 18-year-old leads the NHL amongst rookie scorers with 40 points. Steve Yzerman, also 18 when he appeared in the All-Star game in 1984, was eight days older than Skinner.
4) Identical twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin were selected to opposing teams; Daniel to Team Staal, Henrik to Team Lidstrom. This marks the first time in their careers they will face each other on the ice.
5) Meanwhile brothers Eric and Marc Staal will be playing together for the first time. Captain Eric Staal didn’t choose his little brother until later in the draft, leaving him up for grabs until the seventh round.
6) The NHL’s leading goal and point scorer, Steven Stamkos, was not chosen first for once. Stamkos, who was drafted first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was also drafted first overall in the 2006 OHL Entry Draft.
7) 20 of the 42 players are All-Star Game first timers. This includes Paul Sastny who was named to the Western Conference team in 2008 but missed the game after having an emergency appendectomy.
The 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft was supposed to have a schoolyard feel to it. While it certainly brought back memories of hoping to not be chosen last in gym class, it did not have the classic road hockey game feel Brendan Shanahan was looking for.
In a real pick-up street or pond hockey game everyone’s sticks go in a pile before they are tossed to each side (or team).
Maybe that can be the format of the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.