Eastern Conference All-Star Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers and Western Conference All-Star Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames look on during the 56th NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, Georgia. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The night they played the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, a local cable channel was also airing a "classic," the 1970 affair in St. Louis.
I did some channel hopping to get a feel for how things have changed the past 38 years; what made the star-studded soiree so compelling three decades ago compared to the less-than-spirited product we get now. My conclusion? The good ol’ days weren’t that much better.
Sure, there was some body contact and slightly more intensity – and far fewer goals (it ended 4-1) – but nothing beyond my own reminiscences kept me plugged in.
And then the light went on. Yes, the All-Star Game has changed over the years, but so have I and my expectations surrounding it. My guess is thousands of others in my demographic have had a similar experience.
We are so saturated with entertainment options and tech toys that operate at mind-blowing speeds (not to mention more than 1,000 hockey games at our fingertips on TV) that instant gratification is the norm. And when we don't get it, we complain or get turned off.
I often wonder if I suffer from a tech-induced, Y2K8 version of attention deficit disorder, an affliction several of my friends and colleagues have joked about developing, too. Heck, on the rare times I opt to go to the movie theatre nowadays, I make my choice largely on running time: If it surpasses two hours, fahgettaboutit.
Admittedly, that puts me in grumpy old man territory, but I know I'm not alone. And perhaps therein lies the answer to our all-star dilemma.
The event isn't for the jaded, older generations who can remember “better days.” It's for the kids who still need mom or dad to lace up their skates and drive them to the rink; the ones who still hold an NHL dream.
When I was 10, I reveled in the All-Star Game, had it circled in my mind’s eye-calendar as must-see-TV. I wanted the player(s) representing my favorite team to win MVP and I wanted to witness the rival conference get smoked.
This doesn't mean the NHL should stop trying to improve the All-Star Game; standing still is a recipe for disaster. But if you've got a 10-year-old NHL fan in your world, ask them what they think about today's All-Star Game.
You may be surprised how much he, or she, loves it.