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NHL gets it wrong…again
All Star Game no classic with imposters starting
1/7/09 - By Mike Lee

The 2009 All Star Game is right around the corner, but rather than showcase the world's best players, the league is highlighting its ineptitude. Allowing fans to vote the starting lineups into the mid-season scoring-fest is something the league should allow. Having the system that allows fans to make those picks get abused as it has is simply a farce.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have impressed many in their 1+ seasons, but they've done nothing to warrant starting nods in the All Star Game. Noting. Nada. Period.

You notice that I don't use the term "mid-season classic", because the NHL has yet to make it a classic.

Alexei Kovalev? Meh.

Andrei Markov? Seriously?

Mike Komisarek? That one's so far out in left field that even Rory Fitzpatrick seems like a more viable selection.

The NHL couldn't even come up a highlight to call out for Markov on its website page which showcases each player.

"Led all Eastern Conference defenseman in fan balloting for the second consecutive year."

Now, I suspect that it takes some semblance of intelligence to run a business as complex as a professional sports league. What I find baffling, is that those same people haven't figured out that there are some pretty smart technicians out there who have figured out how to rig the ASG balloting.

Now, before anyone starts spewing accusations of homerism, I'll say that this all surfaced the year the league started online balloting during the 2000-01 season. That year, Sharks Teemu Selanne, Owen Nolan and Vincent Damphousse were voted to start the All Star Game held in Los Angeles.

That was just as big a farce.

I'll give the league a mulligan for that fiasco, because they had no experience with the internet, and it was the first year fans were allowed to cast ballots electronically. I'm not saying it wasn't a joke, because it was. What I am saying is that the league really couldn't be expected to predict that fans would be that cunning.

Eight years later though, it's inexcusable.

The funny thing is, fans are allowed to vote for 6 players per team. The other 15 are selected by the league. So the league collects millions of votes for 12 roster spots. Fans have a say in 28% of those players that even suit up.

In a sport where players are allowed to police themselves, why not allow them to select those that should be called out as the league's best. Heck, they let the players select the real MVP each season (the Lester B. Pearson Award). Why not let them choose who should be playing in the All Star Game.

Allow each player to submit a ballot which is devoid of all players on his own team. Who better to decide who the best players in the league are. I for one certainly trust their judgment in assessing hockey talent, especially when the alternative is a drunken slob sitting in the rafters, or worse some 16-year-old hacker who simply wants to prove to his friends that he can get Mike Komisarek voted in.

Unfortunately, everything sports leagues tend to do these days are dictated by money. Yet, the league fails to recognize that it's doing its own product a disservice by failing to exploit the game as a pure marketing opportunity.

They should be selling their game by putting the best two sets of players on the ice in order to assemble a 60 minute highlight reel. I'm guessing Toews and Kane will be more star struck than prepared to propel this game into the spotlight.

Hockey can't even get air time if there are options like NASCAR or poker available to the national networks, so the league should be making it something fans want to see.

This year's balloting is just another misstep by a league still floundering to figure out how it can become relevant.


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