The All-Star Selection Process Debate… New Process Alienates Fans

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

As you may have heard, the NHL has gone schoolyard with its All-Star Game player selection method. Basically, two captains select the teams. The fans are involved in the selection by, as far as I can tell, whittling down the list of players from which the captains can select. Before I totally and thoroughly confuse you regarding the selection method, go to NHL.com to get further details regarding the selection process.

OK, good to have you back. I’m sure all of you just clicked that link and you now completely understand the NHL All-Star Game player selection process. You don’t? See, I think that’s one of the main problems with the new process. I am a pretty involved hockey fan. I have a subscription to NHL GameCenter online, I have NHL Home Ice as a preset on the satellite radio in my car, and I even know where to find Versus on my cable box so I can watch hockey. Despite all that, I am a bit confused by the selection process… and I suspect I am not the only one. In a scarier trend for the NHL main office, it’s confusing and obscure enough where I am not really interested in heading to the website to vote. That seems like a major concern for the NHL. I am much more than a casual hockey fan and I could not care less about voting for the All-Star Game.

The broader issue, is that at a time when the NHL is trying to increase interest in its All-Star Game it has further removed the fans from the selection process. Sure, this new selection process is “innovative,” at least in the sense that it’s different and it’s never really been attempted before. From a fan’s perspective, though, this innovation generated a few days of noise in sports media and that is about it. From now until January 30th, nearly all sports fans will completely forget about the NHL All-Star Game. In fact, if I hadn’t just told you that the All-Star Game is on Sunday, January 30th, you might have forgotten all the way to and past the date of the game.

In my opinion, that’s the main problem – this new selection process does nothing to encourage casual fans to get involved in or watch the All-Star Game. It seems to me that the real innovation fans were seeking is something to make them want to watch the game. There’s a reason that the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season experienced positive viewership trends while the All-Star Game has been experiencing negative viewership trends for several years. The All-Star Game is nearly completely devoid of the drama and passion of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

I don’t intend to use this post to suggest that the NHL do something like what Major League Baseball has done and attach arbitrary significance to its All-Star Game. What I am saying is, rather than wasting time on this obtuse player selection process for the game, the NHL brain trust should have spent time trying to figure out ways to infuse the game with a portion of the speed, skill, and drama that fans see every night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

My point here translates to the broader world of sports fans. I own subscriptions to NHL media via the Internet and satellite radio. I own multiple hockey jerseys. I own beer glasses, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats for my favorite team. If this All-Star Game selection process has made me even less interested in the game – a level of disinterest that I didn’t think was possible – I don’t believe it will have any positive effect on the rest of sports fandom.

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