Bobby Ryan (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ottawa Senators right winger Bobby Ryan said the NHL could do away with the All-Star Game, but he understands the necessity of showcasing the league’s top talent. But Ryan, who played in the game in 2015, said the event was “stale” and admitted he’s not sure if he’d ever want to play in another.
Ottawa Senators right winger Bobby Ryan played for Team Foligno at the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus, and it was the first such showcase of his NHL career. But Ryan said if 3-on-3 overtime doesn’t help spark some interest in the event, it might not be the worst idea to scrap the All-Star Game outright.
In an interesting interview with the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, Ryan was asked if he thought the All-Star Game should be eliminated. Ryan conceded that it might be a move worth considering, but he understands the fan desire to see all of the game’s stars in one place.
"Maybe with the World Cup coming in to infuse something new, it could change things,” Ryan told Garrioch. "But it's tough for me to say...I really don't know.”
For fans left wondering how the players themselves feel about the event, Ryan also helped shed some light on what the player’s experience in like. Ryan was at his first All-Star Game in Columbus this past season, but admitted to Garrioch he doesn’t know if he would really care to go to another.
"I said it last year, that was a great opportunity and a once-in-a-lifetime thing but I maybe don't need to go back," Ryan told Garrioch. "That's what I felt like when I got on the plane with my wife on the way home.”
He added that it took some time for him to get into the weekend's event and was in favor of doing whatever necessary to pump some excitement back into the game.
The league has tried for several years to pump interest — both for fans and players — back into the game, but nothing has seemed to work. The event has seemed to play well for young fans wanting to see stars make creative plays at half speed, but the game itself seems to have become a chore for the players. Some will recall that in 2009, the league even went as far as suspending Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk for their failure to appear at the game.
"You've to got to take it for what it is, it's an all-star weekend, nobody really enjoys the entire weekend,” Ryan told Garrioch. “If you could fly in for the game and then fly out I think that would be good, but you're never going to get it perfect for everybody.”
This season’s All-Star Game has the added incentive of $1 million in prize money for the winning team, but it seems likely the winnings will be donated to charity by whichever team wins the 3-on-3 tournament. Ryan told Garrioch the prize money and new format could help revive what he said was a “stale” game in 2015.
It’s impossible to say which direction the league will go should the 3-on-3 tournament fail to appeal to players. The format for the game has changed over the years from East vs. West to North America vs. World and back again, with the past three games pitting a hometown all-star’s fantasy-drafted team against another all-star’s drafted team. The draft has also been scrapped, though, so who knows what comes next. Whatever it is, though, Ryan is right: the league isn’t going to please everyone.