2012 NHL All-Star Weekend: Cheers and Jeers

Right before the All-Star break Alex Ovechkin got nailed with a three-game Shannaban, and in a brilliant move he proclaimed himself “unworthy” of attending the NHL weekend of festivities. Whether Ove was really so upset about his suspension from a marginally bad check that he wanted to “stick it to the man”, or was relishing a five day rest from league responsibilities it was a well-played move by the mad Russian. So with that we start the “All-Star Cheers and Jeers” which since the host city is Ottawa Ontario this year we shall re-name them the “All-Star Beauty Eh? and Hosers” awards.

The first Beauty Eh? goes to Alex Ovechkin for continuing to be the hard-hitting, trash-talking, beautiful tennis star-dating, Russian superstar he ought to be, and the Hoser goes to the NHL for not sticking up for itself and forcing Alex to go to the All-Star game anyhow. Suspensions have been levied in the past to players who have decided to skip the festivities so why not now?

As a full disclosure I will have to admit that I have been working in Ft. Lauderdale all weekend so my attention to the festivities has been somewhat diverse. I didn’t watch the Selection show which is no big deal, I was able to lobby a local bar into turning a couple of TVs to the Skills competition and I was forced to watch an audio-free web feed of the All Star game on my computer as I was working. So the next Hoser award goes to me for missing all of the miced up segments and joshing around by the players as I was forced to watch muted broadcasts.

The next Beauty Eh? goes to whoever came up for the concept of the playground rules selection process for the All-Star teams. Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara were named captains by being representatives of the host city and defending Stanley Cup champions respectively and got to literally draft their teams from the players who were voted All-Stars. This means the potential for regular season teammates playing opposite one another without the North America vs. The World awkwardness.

First Pick – Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk

There wasn’t a strong Hoser candidate from the Draft Selection Show except that Chara took Kessel before Seguin and Alfredsson took all the Swedes and Senators, but I have  a separate Hockey score to settle so I will give an extra large Hoser award to the NHLPA for rejecting the NHL re-alignment program. Remember the NHL’s plan to change the conferences in a much more regionally friendly way? Well apparently the NHLPA shot that idea down and there isn’t enough negotiation time for next season so we won’t be seeing any re-alignment until 2013 at the earliest. [Boooo!]

The NHL All-Star Weekend continued Saturday night with the Skills competition, another pretty cool and diverse set of contests unique to the NHL. Let’s just give one big Beauty Eh? award to the Skills competition in general and mention the highlights. The fastest skater competition of course came down to young legs as rookie Carl Hagelin beat out rookie Colin Greening by less than one tenth of a second.

The Breakaway Challenge, the NHL’s version of the Slam Dunk contest, garnered Patrick Kane (above) a lot of attention for his Superman stylings, but I was more impressed that goaltender Brian Elliot didn’t allow any of the pieces of Kane’s exploding puck by him, and the creativity of Corey Perry’s “mini-stick” goal (right). Much like in the NBA though, the flashiest guy, Kane, got the fan vote.

The other big highlight of the Skills Competition was the Hardest Shot segment although new hockey stick technology have made the hardest shot a legal version of “corking the bat”. Zdeno Chara, as always, was dominant and set a new NHL high water mark with a 108.8 mph slapshot. I was most impressed however with Daniel Alfredsson who’s not only Swedish but also 39 years old and still was able to consistently shoot over 100 mph. It should also be mentioned that Chara has about 8 inches of torque height over Alfredsson.

Not amused.

The Hoser award for the Skills competition goes to the confusing scoring system and the bias towards individually scored points. I really enjoyed the Skills Challenge Relay which involved 32 different players showing their skills in shooting, passing (over barricades!), puck handling and speed, but the total segment was only worth the maximum of two points. So the competition that involves almost everyone is pretty much worthless when all of the head-to-head competitions were worth 5-6 points? Meh. The only other Hoser award goes to Patrick Kan’s hair which is twice as light on top than on the sides. If he’s not careful he’s going to wind up looking like Dr. Phil…

Moving on to the All-Star Game. Since I was watching the game on the web I was catching the CBC feed which involved the obligatory Don Cherry appearance. Although this has nothing to do with the All-Star game I am going to have to give a Beauty Eh? award to the genius who came up with the Don Cherry piano desk.

The NHL All-Star Game was the standard high scoring affair you would expect from what is essentially a pick up pond game with the best players in the world. Let’s give a Beauty Eh? award to all the goaltenders who come out to get a good natured drubbing. At the very least maybe facing such a high number of shootout opportunities allows the goalies to pick up on some of the super stars tendencies which may give them an edge next time a game goes beyond overtime this year. Marion Gaborik got a well deserved MVP award for his hat-trick plus an assist performance and Chara (+7) and Alfredsson (2 goals) both performed admirably as their teams Captains. Gabby also gets extra props for his nod to Anisimov’s “shoot the goalie” celebration that was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7 series earlier this year, which followed scoring his first goal on teammate Henrick Lundqvist.

Not much to complain about when it comes to the All-Star Game. You get what you expect: a lot of passing, a lot of scoring and no defense. I will have to give one big Hoser award to the All-Star jersey’s however. On the whole the jerseys weren’t too bad, but I couldn’t help but be super annoyed by the giant numbers directly under the collar on the front side of the sweater. Give the fans a little credit. The NHL has been ramping up player recognition by adding shoulder numbers and numbers on the top of the helmets but those chest numbers last night were just plain obnoxious. I was much more impressed with the jersey that Drake wore for his performance between periods.

One final Hoser award to hand out and we’ll conclude this years NHL All-Star Weekend review. I just looked up the location of the 2013 All-Star game and it’s going to be in lovely Columbus Ohio. Oh. Well. Let’s just hope for Jackets fans that Columbus is still playing in Ohio next year.

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