Kristen ShiltonESPN NHL Reporter6 minutes read
NHL All-Star Weekend returns to its roots and brings back old favorites.
When the showcase is held in Toronto this February, it will be an expanded three-day event with the addition of NHL All-Stars on Thursday, ahead of the usual Friday skills contest and Saturday’s All-Star Game. The highlight of Thursday’s festivities will be the league’s first All-Star draft in nearly a decade, with four All-Star captains and their celebrity captain partners preparing for Saturday’s contest live in front of fans at Scotiabank Arena. Draft a team.
Following the draft, which begins on Thursday, February 1st at 6:00 PM ET, the NHL will hold a memorial service to honor its 1967 members. They will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 3-on-3 event with the Women’s Professional Hockey League.
There’s also a completely revamped skill format on Fridays.
The NHL has been considering revamping All-Star Weekend for years. They have held player drafts three times between 2011 and 2015, but have discontinued traditional division-based tournaments in recent years.
This time, the league’s host city, Toronto, provided the perfect backdrop to finally introduce some changes.
“The hockey-crazy crowd that’s out there just wants more,” NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Meyer said. “We joked around about other ideas and decided, ‘Let’s see if we can add another day.’ We had a player draft years ago, and it was great. But we’ve moved away from the draft, and for the past few years we’ve been talking about bringing it back as an additional element of the weekend, and we’ve heard Players and fans said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we brought it back?” We think this will only increase his week of activity overall for the All-Star, and hopefully that’s something that’s here to stay. ”
Meyer said the league will decide on four All-Star captains based on a combination of celebrities. The NHL is targeting “passionate hockey fans” for these positions, some of whom may already have relationships with certain players or with certain clubs. The captain will work together to choose from the available All-Stars until there are only four players left. A special guest then assigns those players to their respective teams.
Starting in early January, there will also be a fan voting element, allowing fans to choose 12 players to play in the All-Star Game. The league plans to announce captains of players and celebrities as early as January. We hope to enliven the entire event with unexpected and interesting partnerships.
“That dynamic [of player and celebrity] “This is going to be really fun and really unique,” Meyer said. “We’re looking for humor in these events, we want to bring out the personalities of the players, and we’re looking for something great and memorable.” We learned from doing the same thing in the past. ”
Hockey fans may remember that at the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina, then-Maple Leafs member Phil Kessel was the last draft pick in the NHL’s first “fantasy draft.” The league then decided that the last player would be eligible for a car in the next player draft, encouraging Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin to plead not to be selected and bring home a new wheel.
It’s that kind of energy that the NHL hopes to harness again.
“Events like this show the personality of the players,” Meyer said. “They’re talking. They’re either putting their hands up to get drafted, or they’re putting their hands down to not get drafted by a certain team. Former teammates, current teammates, and the draft has these guys. There are all great dynamics. It’s a great opportunity for players to draft guys they know and build their own teams.”
Meyer said the NHL sought feedback from the players’ association on how to upgrade the players’ own All-Star Weekend experience. It made sense to go back and look at the draft. That’s no surprise, especially since one of the original authors of that draft happens to be Maple Leafs chairman and governor’s pro tem Brendan Shanahan.
Shanahan came up with the idea for a fantasy draft of players in 2011 while working for the league with fellow former NHLer Rob Blake. When Toronto agreed to participate in the All-Star Game this year, it made sense to also bring back the player draft.
“Originally, the idea was to take hockey back to its roots and let the players choose their teams,” Shanahan said. “We all remember playing road hockey and standing in a large group and a few people starting to pick a team. It brought excitement and anxiety to both the picker and the pickee. .The motive behind it was just a little bit of fun.”It’s a lot of fun and asks players to go back to their roots. [All-Star Weekend] I’m in a warm climate [which guys like]But if you have the opportunity to go to an Original Six city and celebrate the history of the game, I think that’s important too. ”
The league will spotlight Toronto’s background during a ceremony honoring the 1967 Leafs. All living members of Toronto’s last Stanley Cup-winning team will be in attendance, and Meyer expects an “emotional” reaction from the crowd. And from there, the NHL was eager to not only add a few players to the mix on Friday or Saturday, but also give the newly formed PWHL its own standalone 3-on-3 showcase this year.
The NHL Skills Competition is also being revamped, with details still being finalized. The event itself will be more of a hockey skill rather than more recent competitions like the dunk tank at last year’s NHL All-Star Game in South Florida. The evening is also expected to focus on superstar athletes.
“Some of the skill changes come after conversations with the players. We just don’t want to think we’re good,” Meyer said. “We always feel like we can be better. So we talked to the players, we talked to the fans, we talked to the broadcasters, we got a lot of feedback. We don’t have to change for the sake of it. It’s important to change, but… Sometimes, especially when you accomplish something, it just feels right. [so many] For many years in a row. And this year, it felt just right. These are not dramatic changes. We believe they are subtle changes that will ultimately improve the event. ”
“The NHL is responding to player feedback,” Shanahan said. “From what I’ve heard, I think players all over the league have offered it.” [their thoughts] And I think part of the excitement is that they’re going to help redesign the All-Star Game itself. ”
Meyer credited the league’s teams for brainstorming behind the scenes and ultimately crafting a reimagining of All-Star Weekend that players and fans were confident in embracing.
“We’re not satisfied with the status quo. We’re always trying to get better, we’re always trying to be a little more interesting,” Mayer said. “You’re going to see a general theme, it’s the addition of Thursday nights, a new skill format. The games are going to be different because it’s not just division versus division. It just motivates all of us because the teams that drafted us are going to play each other.” All these format changes energize us. ”
Tickets for NHL All-Star Thursday will be available for purchase via Ticketmaster starting Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. ET.
ESPN Senior NHL Writer Greg Wiszynski contributed to this report.