RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 29: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning competes for fastest skater during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I have a confession to make: I have no watched the NHL Super Skills competition in years. Years. During the 1990's, while the broadcasts were on ESPN, I watched routinely because I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the skills, I enjoyed the players fooling around on the ice while hanging out. I enjoyed the interviews.
But as time passed, things got boring and too gimmicky with camera work - both at ESPN and on its replacement, the Versus network here in the US. I did everything in my power to avoid the Super Skills competition, with thanks to their dependence on motion-sickness-inducing camera work:
2009 Breakaway Challenge:
2008 Breakaway Challenge:
I remarked last fall how fixed cameras were actually a friend of sports television (even if producers believe otherwise), and singled out the above incidents as hockey at its worst on television.
A funny thing happened on the way to Raleigh, however: Someone got the memo. Someone got the gist that maybe it'd be wiser to show things from the traditional angles, or a stationary on-ice angle, and not the "more intimate" (sic) angle of trailing a player and focusing on their back more than the puck.
Could you imagine a cameraman dragging behind the Canadiens PK Subban (wearing the Jeff Skinner sweater), trying to actually record his antics during the Breakaway challenge? You think a trailing cameraman could have accurately captured Dallas Stars foward Loui Eriksson's incredible triple wrap around? And don't even get me started on Alex Ovechkin....
2011 Breakaway Challenge:
Of course, the telecast wasn't perfect. How many are? But this was a sight better than what I've dreaded in the recent past. And for this, I thank producers and Versus for finally getting it right.
Below the jump, you'll find video of the complete Super Skills competition. Enjoy!
2011 Fastest Skater:
2011 Accuracy Challenge:
2011 Relay Challenge
2011 Hardest Shot:
2011 Elimination Challenge: