Yes, I gave it my best shot, but I just couldn’t relate to the big hockey show in Toronto last weekend.
The hardest working people were the talking heads who laboured mightily to add some excitement and drama to the all-star goings-on. They tried to keep me watching, so I would see the commercials.
Back in the day, the defending Stanley Cup champions took on 15 or so “all-stars” from the other five NHL teams, with the winning side getting about 500 bucks each. The losers got half that.
Ostensibly, and in theory, any proceeds went to a pension fund that was administered by hockey czar Alan Eagleson. The players are still looking for those contributions.
Boom Boom Geoffrion, Rocket Richard, the Golden Jet, Tim Horton, and Carl Brewer could have used that money, and rightfully felt duped and cheated. Carl Brewer and Suzie Foster eventually got much of the money for the players, but the court battle was long, bitter and expensive. (Read, “The Power of Two.”)
In those days, the defending champs and the all-stars played hard, with a lot of pride and dislike on display. Shots were blocked, elbows thrown and hip checks delivered. Occasionally, fisticuffs and a donnybrook. Tickets probably cost about 10 bucks for the Saturday evening game.
Now, for big bucks, fans can sit in the chosen arena and watch a bunch of very talented and very wealthy young men display their awesome technical skills. The overriding emotion is love and respect for one another. “Ha Ha, powerful move, and nice facial hair.”
At the risk of sounding like an elderly curmudgeon, I think that All-Star Weekend should be sponsored by Gillette or Foamy. With only a few exceptions, the young superstars appear to have stumbled out of a nearby logging camp.
Couldn’t they at least get up a few minutes earlier and make the big effort to shave their chins and sideburns? Most of their faces look cluttered.
Please forgive me if I ramble off in a silly direction, but really, how about making the effort to tidy themselves up for one of the few times of the year when potential new fans might be watching?
The arena and the surrounding streets are appropriately tarted up for the weekend and a few B List celebrities make an appearance or two. Wow, Justin Bieber as a guest coach, doing his best to appear engaged, as a native of Stratford.
I wonder if he knows that Howie Morenz, the Stratford Streak, was from Stratford? (Actually, the Mitchell Meteor was from Mitchell, about 20 miles north of Stratford.) But I go on.
Back in my college hockey days, our magnificent coach wanted every player moving all the time. In practices and in pre-game warmups, every player was always moving, fast and hard.
Watching the poorly produced All-Star Skills Competition, I usually saw about 20 players watching one player skating, shooting, or passing. It took them forever to get around the rink, slowed down only a bit by their weird all-star logoed toques. Boring and repetitive.
The Breakaway Challenge really showed how adept the all-stars were at skating, but again, why not have two or three players in action simultaneously?
A friend asked me how I would do in such a challenge. Truthfully, I would have gotten my feet tangled up and fallen down in an embarrassing heap.
Why didn’t they include a punching contest? Who can hit the heavy bag hardest, or who can make the loudest noise while hitting the Plexiglass. OK, enough rambling about fighting in hockey.
The shooting accuracy contest begs for an appropriate sponsor. Instead of generic round Styrofoam targets in each of the four corners of the net, why not get Canada’s favourite franchise involved as a primary sponsor?
Surely their wise and high-energy marketing folks could come up with targets relating to their products. The aforementioned Tim Horton would be proud, eh?
Four circular Styrofoam targets, appropriately decorated. One Chocolate Glazed, one Maple Dip, one Sprinkle and one Cinnamon? And in the middle, how about a retro Dutchie? With raisins, please.
The winner of the All-Star Skills Competition got a million bucks. Hope he donated a fair chunk to a charity, or to the Players Association for the pension fund.
During the week, with laser like timing, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that NHL players would be allowed to compete in the next two Winter Olympics.
Apparently he outmuscled the International Ice Hockey Federation into paying for player travel and insurance expenses. Attaboy, Gary.
Did I mention the awful, pervasive focus on gambling now promoted and endorsed by the NHL? After all, the commissioner’s surname is Bettman.
It all makes sense, if you follow the money.