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THN.com Blog: How to improve the All-Star Game

Martin St-Louis is back at this year's All-Star Game in Atlanta.

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Martin St-Louis is back at this year's All-Star Game in Atlanta.

The NHL is saying yes to razzle-dazzle, introducing a revamped skills competition at the All-Star Game that features an anything goes shootout battle, complete with celebrity judges.

It should be phat and sick, and not in the way I felt at Christmas.

Kudos to the league for open-mindedness.

Of course, there’s no need to stop there. In an upcoming issue of The Hockey News, we’ve proposed 56 ways to “jack up” what’s typically a lackluster event (in honor of the 56th installment of the game).

Some of the suggestions are more serious than others. Here, as a sneak peek, are three of my personal faves:

1.    Pit the 29-and-under all-stars against the 30-and-older all-stars. Pride would be on the line, especially for the old guys who may want to prove Sid and Alex ain’t necessarily all that.

2.    The biggest problem with the all-star game is the absence of any defense or grittiness, so provide incentive for at least some conscientious play. Award bonus points for blocked shots, takeaways (including on the forecheck), blocked passes etc. Once you accumulate a pre-determined number, your team gets a penalty shot.

3.    Scrap the conference jerseys. They’re meaningless and leave me cold. Instead, have the home team wear throwback jerseys from the city in which they’re playing (this year, it’d be the East in Atlanta Flames togs), while the visitors would wear old school sweaters as selected in an online vote by fans. My first pick would be the Oakland Seals.

Pick up the Jan. 22 issue of the magazine to see the 53 other suggestions. And don’t be bashful about letting us know what you’d like to see.

Philadelphia, 2008…B.C.
I told a colleague/friend recently that I appreciated the work Bob Clarke was doing as a commentator on TSN. His frank opinions, minus the volume or choreography that many analysts employ, seemed genuine and refreshing, even if his thoughts are often contrary to my own.

His recent support of Steve Downie reinforces my belief that Clarke’s voice is an important one.

I’m certain his “vigilante justice” mentality is reflective of a large slice of the hockey community – more than we’d care to admit. We need to hear those truths to help the game evolve, or devolve, as the case may be.

That said, here’s my truth.

Downie’s actions – sucker punching Jason Blake while the Leaf was being held by a linesman – actually strengthens Blake’s original point: Downie is a liability for the NHL.

Actually, Blake was a little stronger in his assessment, saying the fly-off-the-handle Flyer should have been suspended for life following his reckless and dangerous pre-season hit on Dean McAmmond. In Clarke’s world, and thousands of other hockey fans, that merits payback in the form of an on-ice, violent confrontation.

So Downie proceeds to perpetuate the notion that he’s a thug who’s willing to play outside the rules in order to get his own back.

In doing so, he completely undermines anything he may be trying to build.

In my world, a real man wouldn’t have thrown punches at a restrained Blake because he’d hurt his feelings a few months earlier.

That’s what an immature child does.

A real man would have ignored Blake (they were just words, after all) and started to prove him wrong by playing within the bounds of what’s legal and acceptable for more than three games in a row.

Jason Kay is the editor of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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