Tuesday, January 08, 2008

NHL All-Star Starters Announced

The NHL released the names of the starters to the All-Star Game to be played in Atlanta on January 27th. Here they are:

Eastern Conference:

F - Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
F - Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa
F - Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay
D - Andrei Markov, Montreal
D - Zdeno Chara, Boston
G - Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

Western Conference:

F - Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
F - Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit
F - Jarome Iginla, Calgary
D - Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
D - Dion Phaneuf, Calgary
G - Roberto Luongo, Vancouver

Caps fans will note that Alexander Ovechkin is not on the Eastern Conference roster of starters. This is not surprising, and frankly isn't that big a deal.

Starters are selected by fan vote. And while hockey fans are just as intelligent as fans of other sports, they are probably just as parochial. Look at the cities from which the starters hail. These are cities where hockey is followed closely, and in the case of Crosby it is a matter of his iconic position in the sport that transcends geography (how could it be otherwise?...the league markets him 24/7). Looked at another way -- as a function of total attendance -- the three teams represented in the Western Conference have the top three overall (home and road) attendance averages in the Western Conference. Fans pay attention to these clubs.

Ovechkin will appear in the All-Star game. So will Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley, either of whom also have a case that could be made for their selection as a starter among the forwards for the East.

The All-Star game is a "fans" game. Since they pay the freight in the NHL by buying tickets and snatching up merchandise, I fail to see a problem with their picking who they want to start this mid-season exhibition. That Ovechkin failed to garner enough votes to merit a starting position is more a reflection of the state of the Capitals -- and their inability to draw much interest (15th in home attendance in the East, 14th in overall attendance) -- than it is a reflection of Ovechkin's stature as a player or as a celebrity in the league.

Ovechkin isn't a starter, but he'll be there. I suspect he'll be just as entertaining to watch as if he'd been selected a starter.