Tuesday, January 06, 2009

All Star Shame

When the Prince of Wales and Campbell...oops, Eastern and Western Conferences take the ice at Bell Centre for the All Star Game on January 25th, the best player on the planet will be sitting on the bench when the puck drops.

Alex Ovechkin finished out of the money among the forwards in the Wale- oops, Eastern Conference voting. That's as much as we'll add to the chorus of "Ovie should start" sentiments.

The shame in all of this is the fabricated enthusiasm for the event perpetrated by the NHL. Their web site proudly proclaims that "Fans Have Spoken: Record Voting Numbers for Crosby, Malkin, Four Canadiens."

Record voting numbers? Well, OK...if you're standard for voting integrity is a Chicago alderman election. And in fact, maybe that is the standard for the league, which announced on that same web site that "Fans vote early AND often (emphasis theirs)."

Let's be plain about this. While the NHL states for the record that 34.7 million votes were cast for the All Star Game, the number of "fans" voting was far less. The outcome was more the triumph of technology, of automated voting programs that digitally stuffed ballot boxes, than of reawakened popularity in the event.

To be honest, we like the idea of fan voting for all-stars. Fans pay the freight in this league, and they were horribly abused in the lockout. This is their opportunity to see the players they want to see on a big stage. But if the voting lacks honesty, of what value is the event it begets? It starts to look more and more like the NFL Pro Bowl, itself a joke of a contest.

But to have the league bray about setting overall voting records or Sidney Crosby "obliterating" the top vote-getting record of Jaromir Jagr is just so much transparent nonsense. It isn't even a good "popularity" contest of the sort that has become the NFL version of the all-star event. It's numbers with no meaning. Making voting an online process is, we suppose, an effort to appeal to the tech-savvy younger fan. Fine, but then don't tap dance with a turn of phrase to suggest without saying plainly that there were 34.7 million "fans" doing the voting. Voting should be an effort, not a click (or a program). If a fan wants his or her favorite to step onto the ice as a starter, then have the fan make the effort to make that preference known. Make it mean something, even if you're going to allow fans to cast multiple ballots. We'd sooner see the league go back to punch or fill-in cards as repeat this travesty.

Ovechkin will play in the event. Someone will represent the Sharks -- perhaps a Joe Thornton or a Devin Setoguchi -- the best team so far in the West. And the Bruins will be represented, too -- maybe a Phil Kessel or a Tim Thomas -- as befits the best team in the East in the first half of the year. It doesn't do much, though, to suggest that the event has any integrity.

Shame on you, NHL.


zelda said...

Well said, Peerless! I think the NHL should adopt a policy that the MVP from the previous year is automatically slotted as the starter in the subsequent year's All Star Game.

Argi said...

Hello from Greece !!!
Nice to meet you

Shaggy said...

The Emperor/Count/Twerp esconsed in the NHL offices in NYC truly has no clothes.
How many calamitous blunders can he make and keep his job, from the ASG travesty, to the salary cap issues that have not kept player salaries from rising, to the embarrassment of the financial shenanigans with the Ducks and Preds? He has to know he is loathed.

DMG said...

How many calamitous blunders can he make and keep his job, from the ASG travesty, to the salary cap issues that have not kept player salaries from rising

I wouldn't call the all-star game a travesty. I agree with Peerless on this one - the voting and starting lineups themselves really aren't that big a deal but it's obnoxious to see the NHL promoting the way they are.

As for the salary cap, to goal was not to keep player's salaries from rising, it was to ensure the total amount going to player salary was correlated with total league revenues. Ergo, as the league has brought in more money, player salaries have gone up.

Jimmy Jazz said...

Oh darn, AO can't start in an exhibition game. It would have been interesting to see Malkin as his center, but I'm not too torn up about any of it.

Jimmy Jazz said...

Also, AO is the first player since Sawchuk to be voted to the POSTSEASON first all star team in his first three seasons. No one else on either all star roster can make that claim.