Boy, now wasn’t that a bit of fun? With the all-star game and its showcase passing this weekend, it might be a good idea to highlight the showcase and shed some light on the spectacle of hockey skills we get treated to each year at the mid-season point.
The All-star game, as it’s known has been around since the beginning of the NHL, and in a manner of speaking actually predates the NHL itself. There are multiple cases of respected Canadian hockey clubs hosting benefit games, notably for deceased, injured, or retiring players. For example in 1908 an “all-star” game was held in Montreal featuring the Montreal Wanderers and all-star players from the Eastern Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. This game was held for Hod Stuart, a Montreal player who drowned only months after winning the Stanley Cup in 1907. There are three more instances of “benefit” games being played for players or their families, and one of the last benefits was actually played to the same cause as the first, as Babe Siebert, a player for the Canadiens at the time, would drown in Lake Huron in 1939.
The first official annual NHL All-Star game took place in the 1947-48 season in the Maple Leaf Gardens. The format at this time is just a little different from what see nowadays. The previous Stanley Cup champions actually played this game against an all-star selection of players from the other 5 original teams, rather than having two all star teams. Additionally this game was held before the season, rather than during. This format stayed the same until later in the 1950’s. For one game, the defending Stanley cup champions (The Detroit Redwings during the 1950 season specifically) crushed the all-stars by 7-1 and the completely one sided game made the NHL try something different. For a number of future iterations the NHL would adopt something a little more similar to what we know, having an “American” and “Canadian” NHL all-star teams. The games were actually told to be boring, and most of which ended in 2-2 or 1-1 ties. Because of this, the NHL went to their original format of the Stanley Cup and second place team all-stars playing with additional all-stars from other teams. It wasn’t until the 21st All-star game in the 1960s that the NHL would adopt its current “East vs. West” system that they currently have now.
Years later, the All-star game was opted out for a “challenger” series to promote international hockey. The NHL would pit its all-star team against the best the soviet union had to offer in a 3 game series. The NHL would actually lose this series, and there were many issues and much scrutiny surrounded with this game, and the many all-star games to follow. However this was the first time fans could “vote” for who appears on the all-star team. The format changes and additions would be made heavily in the 80’s with better divisions being made and shifted, and for the first time we had a more realistic East vs West system. Additionally honorary captains were named for these teams, and fans were directly allowed to select themselves who appears on the teams. In 1987 the all-star game was opted out again for a second challenger series against the Soviets named “Rendez-vous 87″. This was only a 2 game affair however to prevent further NHL embarrassment.
In 1990 we got closer to seeing what we see today with the introduction of the “Heroes of Hockey”, better known as the “Alumni Game”, and the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. There were some changes during this period, and the 94-95 lockout period would not allow for an all-star game to take place, and was rescheduled for the 96-97 season. In 1998 the NHL decided to create a North-America vs World team, to promote the upcoming NHL participation in Olympic hockey.
After 2003 we saw the All-star game take the shape of what we have seen today, with a skills competition and alumni game as well as a game of sorts. Fan votes determined player appearances, and the venue of the game was chosen at random. However it was the early 2000’s where we saw the least of the All-star game. There was no game held for the 04-05 season due to the lockout and again in the 06-07 season due to the olympic games. This would happen again just recently with no game happening in 2012-2013 season and again in the 2013-2014 season due to another lockout and the Olympics.
Currently the NHL uses a “Fantasy Draft” system where fans get to pick 6 members of each team (3 forwards, 2 Defense, 1 Goalie) and the NHL selecting the remaining 36 players for each team. The game that just passed kept this format and was played in Columbus for the first time. It appears the NHL wants every team to host it at some point as the next game will be held in Nashville, which hasalso never seen an All-star game.
With that being said, whats your thoughts on the All-star game? Do you find it good fun, or something we should abolish and allow players to rest up for the more important games? Which format do you like the best, East vs West, the older North America vs The World? Do you think the game will have many changes in the future as it has? Let us know!
Cover Photo Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports