This past weekend marked the 2020 National Hockey League All-Star Game, hosted by the Stanley Cup Champion, the St. Louis Blues. Friday night was the skills competition, followed by Saturday’s 3-on-3 tournament and both were a success but left something to be desired.
Friday was a huge success for NHL, as they rolled out two new events into the popular Skills Competition. They began with three familiar competitions, with Mathew Barzal winning the fastest skater, Jordan Binnington winning the save streak title and Jaccob Slavin taking the accuracy shooter crown. Then, they cleared the ice and made way for 20 of the best women’s hockey players in the world to play a 3-on-3 game. The game was nine skaters and one goalie for the US and Canada, playing two ten-minute halves of 3-on-3. The game was great, their skill was apparent, and having the best women in the world at a huge NHL event wearing the NHL crest on their chests was huge for the women’s game. The U.S. team is two years removed from their dramatic gold medal victory. The two teams are set to meet again multiple times before the 2022 Olympics as they continue to travel the continent playing the “Rivalry Series.” The second new event was the Shooting Stars, which saw eight NHL players and two players from the women’s game standing on a platform above the crowd shooting pucks into targets 30 feet below them, ala TopGolf. Patrick Kane won, but the event was marred by a gimmicky set up. It appeared that the 10-point target was the easiest to hit, and all the players were going for it and missing. The event could be a lot of fun if they made the targets more even and allowed the players to spread their shots around.
The game itself left a lot to be desired. As usual, the players were not trying at the level they do during 3-on-3 overtime. This is obviously because it doesn’t count, but the best players giving it their all in the 3-on-3 tournament would be awesome. There is much discussion out there about how to incentivize the players, because splitting $1 million clearly does not get the game to the level the NHL desires. While theories about that vary, the tournament was won by the Pacific Division defeating the Atlantic in the championship game 5-4. One of the top moments was Matthew Tkachuk from the Calgary Flames assisting on a Leon Draisaitl goal just a few weeks after the Flames and Draisaitl’s Oilers scuffle centering around the St. Louisan Tkachuk. After the game, Draisaitl said he would “get off the ice” if they ended up together in the All-Star game, but after this weekend said that he was “joking.” The Battle of Alberta is back in full force, and with both teams in the heat of the playoff race, hockey fans everywhere should be rooting for seven games between these two teams.
It will be interesting to see if the NHL makes any changes to the All-Star game to make it more competitive, but for now the skills competition takes the cake as the most entertaining part of the weekend.