I've heard rumblings that the NHL might add a shootout skills competition to its All-Star Festivities. It would be judged, similar to the NBA's dunk contest.
I love the idea. I know the dunk contest has sucked lately, because everything has been done, and when guys try to push the envelope, the dunks are too hard and it takes them 15 tries to do it. But it used to be great. The league got a bunch of attention for it and it was a big thing for awhile.
This contest will never get to that level but I still think it could be really fun, and if nothing else, it gets the league a little more attention because crazy goals draw it. It might not be a long-term event, since, like the dunk contest, there's only so many things that you can do. But I think for a couple years it could be an entertaining competition.
For added fun, they could let Hasek be the goalie in the skills competition and allow him to randomly Gaborik someone. Might I suggest Paul Kariya.
But I have a better idea. One that would draw a ton of attention to this great game:
Play the All-Star Game outside.
Think about it. A Penguins/Sabres game--two teams that even the masses who like hockey don't care about beyond Crosby and Malkin--just drew the highest ratings of any NHL game in the last decade because it was outdoors. They packed 70,000+ into the stadium, and I bet they could've sold twice that many tickets if the facility would have accommodated it.
They've already got the date: The off weekend before the Super Bowl. Meaning no NFL Playoffs to deal with. The eyes of the world would be on that game. They drew a nice audience for a fairly meaningless regular season game that was up against a couple of bowl games. I've got to believe a lot of eyes would be on the All-Star Game in that situation. And what would they see? A game that caters to the masses, because it's usually high scoring. A game which showcases the best players the NHL has to offer--at least offensively. They'd see a huge crowd on hand. Presumably the camera angles would be designed to show the huge crowd on hand a little more than the game in Buffalo did. And the players would absolutely love it.
The other thing that would be great? Get mics down by the ice and mic a lot of the players. You'd have to have a small delay, but it would be outstanding to get to hear the players communicating. And there'd probably be a lot less profanity in a game like that.
Maybe you're not going to convert everyone in the country into a hockey fan. Maybe some would bail after watching a few more regular season games, seeing that not every game is wide-open like that. But some would likely stick. And I sure as heck guarantee that it would do more for the league than a weakly-publicized game that airs on Versus, as the ASG is currently.
The downer to this plan is that a weather cancellation would be an absolute disaster. But the only real threat is if it's too warm to play. And if you hold the game in late January in a Northern city (Montreal has it next year), if the weather is too warm to hold the game, then it's proof that God just doesn't want this league to succeed.
Tell me that wouldn't sell out the Big House in a heartbeat.