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The NHL All-Star weekend is about the stars of the sport, not the competition

Often the league tries to find a new bell and whistle for the weekend when it should be positively embracing all thsoe involved.

Lightning team captain Steven Stamkos talks to the media on Friday, January 29, 2016.
Lightning team captain Steven Stamkos talks to the media on Friday, January 29, 2016.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest mistake the NHL seems to make regarding its annual All-Star festivities is that the NHL All-Star Game is about the competition and that should be the draw to the weekend. That's probably the most disconnected take that someone could have regarding an event that's promotes the sport and its assets - the players who perform within it. It's become an annual rite of passage with the league twisting the game or adding quirks that play more toward a fad in the league of the moment than courting general audiences and highlighting the sport in consistent fashion.

The whole NHL All-Star Game weekend is about the talents in the league, their personalities, and the actual sport itself. It is about the fans in general, not one sect or another, who influence the All-Star rosters. Public ties to the game help draw in interest and how fans highlight their favorite players is an influence on the event weekend.

I don't know which is the grander failing by the NHL when it comes to the 2016 All-Star game: another gimmick that's supposed to bring zip and wow to the game, or the fact it fought against a fan-driven All-Star selection in John Scott. The former -- a 3-on-3 tournament this year - only follows a trend of the past 20+ years for the league to change the game itself in order to draw interest to the event. That in itself marks the failure that is epitomized by the latter on Scott: The game competition doesn't matter as-so-much the connection with the fan base and the personalization of the entire event.

John Scott, a left wing who stands about the size of Ben Bishop at 6-foot-8, is not Steven Stamkos, or Alex Ovechkin, or Tyler Seguin, or Patrick Kane, or any other of the caliber that would classify to casual fans or the general public audience as an All-Star. Fans voted for Scott to the game as Pacific Division team captain. That in general (voting for team captains for divisional teams) highlights the gimmicks tied to the game (that'll be changed next year, and the year after, and the year after that...). The fact it was Scott who got voted in - he had all of 1 point with the Arizona Coyotes this season - ruffled feathers in the league office to the point the left wing got traded to try to force him out of participation.

Maybe it wasn't intended but by way of the NHL being cold, they've drawn more interest toward Scott and the event than any of the bells and whistles that they attached to the game this year. Oh, John Scott isn't going to woo in any casual fan or general observer to the game, and the most votes in his favor came from diehard NHL fans who wanted to insert a quirk of their own into this weekend of events. The thing is that John Scott gets highlighted in coverage - not for his skills but for his personal tale and the drama leading up to this weekend of Scott (and fans) versus the NHL. That in itself is how these events are supposed to operate; not by way of league-versus-selection but a selection in the spotlight beyond on-ice performance.

I'm more drawn to the All-Star skills competition on an annual basis, and this applies to the Major League Baseball home run derby as well as the NBA's skills competition, because it'll highlight the players in both a competitive and casual fashion. The guys are hanging around and just having fun with each other. Teams - standard NHL brands - are prominently displayed to go along with the talents taking part in the game (Steven Stamkos will be participating in the hardest-shot contest as well as a shootout competition on Saturday night), so it's a double sense of pride - a player you love and a team you love - in the evening of skills competition. It might not be a fierce competition between the players, but it's also not the annually-changed-around format of the game itself where the score is run up but no one playing is treating it like there's importance in the outcome.

I'm tired of the distractions that the NHL seems married to with the All-Star Game. While certain quirks - like drafting teams, which played out a few years ago - creates an interest and a show of its own (and can highlight personalities and some character), other gimmicks like this 3-on-3 tournament thing, or "North America versus the World" from days-gone-by just come off as desperation for attention; it plays as if the NHL has no confidence in itself to draw for a standard game of hockey with fan selected stars play against fan selected stars. The inconsistency of the game keeps attention and a general public draw at a distance. For a league that crows about tradition left and right, to have a tradition of inconsistency in a weekend that's supposed to highlight the sport seems to thwart respect for those in charge of the league's marketing and direction.