The All-Star game is one of the main events in the NHL calendar for every season, but like everything else, it might need a refresher from time to time.
For this reason, the league changed the format to three against three five years ago. But as we saw last weekend, the game still needs an incentive to get players to treat it like more than just a game day skate.
The following ideas are not a criticism of the current game, but ways to improve the experience. Change is difficult, but sometimes necessary.
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Rules are important. They keep everyone in line. But in an all-star game where everything should be fast and entertaining, there are a few rules in the way.
For example: Offside. There isn't a single reason why offside is still popular in the all-star game, but at the 2020 event, several teams lost their chances to score.
Frosting, hand passes and points without using the stick are other rules that should be ignored. And if players know beforehand that they can get away with this stuff, they may get more creative in their game.
Speaking of creativity: skaters should be able to customize the look of their equipment. The modern NHLer is more fashion-conscious than previous generations, and many players would certainly like to show their style on the ice. Imagine what Auston Matthews would do if he could design his own pair of ice skates. Or what Matthew Tkachuk's gloves would look like if he had full control over the colors. The possibilities are endless.
Goalies may already adapt their helmets and pads. Why shouldn't skaters show their creative style?
Of course, if you don't want to wear custom gear, you don't have to. The NHL must at least give the skaters a choice.
This is an idea from the EA Sports NHL games. The all-star game would benefit greatly from bonus pucks that give special rewards to the team that scores with them.
Some examples of bonus pucks could be:
• The team that scores a goal receives two goals instead of one.
• The team that scores and the team that scores lose one.
• The player who scores a goal receives a penalty shot with a chance to score again.
• The team that scored on must play a shorter game in the next minute.
The league could have special colored pucks for each bonus, and the in-game presentation could include special graphics to tell the entire building which puck was in play. Changing the value of a goal would give players more motivation to ensure that their team scores. Nobody wants to give up two goals at once.
The skill contest and the all-star game are currently not connected in any way, but should be. One way to do this would be to wear golden helmets like the scorers of the Finnish Liiga.
This is how it would work: Every skater who wins a skill competition event receives a golden helmet in the All-Star game. This golden helmet would then give them special bonuses, for example that every goal they score is worth two points.
It would also make them a visual target for opponents to try to stop. No defender wants to be beaten by someone with a golden helmet.
The ideal scenario would be to retrieve the all-star game draft, but since this doesn't seem likely, the league could still get creative as it divides the players.
For example: Why not divide up the teams by age and restore the tension that the young North America team showed at the 2016 World Cup? A team of over 30s would probably like to remind who the boss is.
Or the teams could be split internationally, as indicated by Gary Bettman, could happen in Florida next year. If we can't win Olympic Games or World Championships, an international game in the All-Star game could give fans their international hockey focus.
After all, the teams could be random for most chaos. The night before the skill contest, the captains divided sticks into teams for each player, just like children play street hockey. Which team will Connor McDavid get? Leave it to chance.
That would be difficult, but not impossible. The NHL could have retired players, mascots, or other celebrities leading the all-star game that has the potential for all kinds of antics.
The special guest should of course be on the microphone. But it would be fun to see someone out of their element trying to keep up with the players and keep them in line while playing.
The NHL would also benefit from adding more celebrities to the show. This has led to some memorable moments in the past.
Take the game outdoors
This would be a big question of a host city, but the NHL All Star game should take place outdoors. The Winter Classic and other outdoor games are always something special for everyone who takes part. As a result, fewer players will likely miss the chance to leave. Being outdoors would also create a special skill contest environment where the tension of each contest hangs over a much larger crowd.
But most of all, it would make every game unique. The all-star game looks too much like a normal game, which harms the presentation. When players play outside of their comfort zone in a different environment than in a standard game, the moment becomes much more memorable.