As far as professional all-star games go,
the NHL affair is typically non-eventful since it isn’t really competitive when
compared to the NBA and Major League Baseball. The main reason for this is because
the physical aspect of the sport is absent as nobody wants to suffer an injury.
NHL stars usually engage in a game of pond hockey and rack up the score on the
poor goaltenders. However, the recent 2015/16 all-star encounter in Nashville
proved to be somewhat different as it created a controversy or two.
For starters, the NHL drastically changed
the game’s format from the regular five-on-five contest to a three-on-three
tournament. Each of the league’s four divisions was represented by an 11-man
team with each squad playing a 20-minute game. The two winners then met in the
final with the victors being awarded a prize of a million dollars. In case you
missed it, The Pacific Division edged the Atlantic 1-0 in the final. The
million dollars was controversial in itself since many fans felt it should have
been donated to a charity of the winning team’s choice.
The new format had many purists up in arms
since they believe three-on-three hockey is nothing but a novelty or farce and
even some of the players appeared to agree with them. The NHL needed to do
something to spice up the all-star event though as fans were getting a little
bored with the high-scoring shinny games of the past such as last year’s 17-12
result. And what better way to do liven things up than changing to a
three-on-three format, which is the same thing the league has done for overtime
games this season.
Another ongoing controversy leading up to
the game was the inclusion of enforcer John Scott. The NHL allowed fans to vote
in the captain of each team and to the league’s dismay, Scott was elected as
the skipper of the Pacific Division while he was still a member of the Arizona
Coyotes. Now fans either took advantage of this situation to show the NHL it
was a flawed system or they figured they’d just vote for Scott as a joke.
Either way, he was nominated to the squad and the league was left with egg on
The NHL tried to persuade Scott from playing
the game and suggested he show up for the weekend with his family, but simply
not dress for the tournament. Scott’s own team even tried to make things
difficult for the six-foot-eight forward by placing him on Waivers on December
18th. Arizona felt one of its young stars such as Max Domi or Oliver
Ekman-Larsson would be a better representative in Nashville. Scott was then traded to the Montreal
Canadiens on January 15th and sent directly down to the St. John’s
IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
This was another move which the NHL hoped
would change Scott’s mind about attending the all-star contest, but it also
failed. In the end, there was a fairytale ending for Scott as the career
five-goal scorer netted a pair of goals and added an assist in the all-star
tournament to help lead his team to victory. The fans also got their way again
as they voted the 33-year-old the most valuable player and Scott took home a
brand new Honda SUV as his reward.
But perhaps the most controversial event
during the all-star weekend took place a day earlier during the skills
competition. Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings set a new speed record after
skating a lap around the rink in 13.172 seconds to break the previous mark of
13.386 seconds set by a 36-year-old Mike Gartner back in 1996. However, many
fans believe the 19-year-old rookie Larkin received a decided advantage since
he a started his lap at the blue line and was as at full speed when the stop
watch began when he reached centre ice. Gartner’s lap started from a
standing-still position at centre ice.
In addition, it’s debatable whether or not the nets were
moved forward further this year during the skating event, which made for a
slightly shorter lap. Fans can judge for themselves by watching footage of both
Gartner and Larkin as the skate their respective laps.
Labels: Ian Palmer