Two days ago, I was pretty harsh in my critique of the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s version of the All Star classic.  I criticized it for a number of reasons, most notably for the absolute lack of defense.  If I remember correctly, I used the word ‘underwhelming’ a few times in my description of the game, which was painfully boring to watch. 

I had fully intended on ripping the NHL for their equally boring game in today’s post.  However, at the last minute I decided to sit down and watch both games again, just in case I missed something the first time. 

So I quickly breezed through the Pro Bowl, just to be fair.  If I came away with a different point of view than I had described to you already, I would have freely admitted it.  Not to worry.  If anything, I was too kind in my assessment of the game.  But I’ve already said enough about that game. 

Let’s talk hockey!  I turned that game on for the second time.  With the Pro Bowl now very fresh in my mind, I was certain that the similarities would become eerily apparent.  That’s when something strange happened.  The similarities were few and far between. 

Okay, so both games had some major rule changes from the regular season, mostly designed to avoid injuries in an otherwise meaningless game.  The most obvious ones in the hockey all star game were no checking, fighting or ridiculous penalties.  I’m not sure which ones are written rules and which ones are merely understood by all, but the physical aspect of the game was greatly diminished. 

That’s when the strange thing hit me.  Even though the brutality of the game was taken away, the excitement of the game was still there.  Sure, there were 21 goals scored between the two teams, something that just doesn’t happen in the regular season or the playoffs.  In fact, if the goals were one inch wider, there would have been six more goals scored, with the Chara team winning by a score of 14-13 instead of 12-9.  This is because of the shots that clanked off the goal posts, missing the net by about ½” each. 

So how could have the excitement of the game still existed?  Because the players still played the game, that’s why!  Okay, so when the wing was flying along the boards with puck in tow, he didn’t get knocked into the third row by a guy in the other colored jersey.  But he was still contested and, more times than not, had the puck taken away from him.  In fact, there were about six absolute pick-pocket caliber steals within the first six minutes of play.  That doesn’t happen when there is no defense being played! 

The fact that there were so many goals scored is a testament to the level of physicality in a game that has real meaning (and all of the normal rules in place).  Most of the goals in this game were scored with two or three assists.  I remember seeing one scored with four assists, although I’m not sure all four guys received credit.  When the defensemen are allowed to protect the crease, this simply does not happen.  During a real game, any opposing player that gets that close to the goalie ends up on his hind quarters before he even gets close to touching the puck. 

In addition, every time someone touches the puck, they are fair game to getting hit from nearly any direction.  As a result, they are literally sprinting every time they are on the ice.  This didn’t happen in the all star game.  Since there was no fear of getting clobbered for controlling the puck, the players with the incredible puck-handling skills were allowed to dominate possessions.  As a result, there were some mind-blowing moves made that left the defenders wondering how the heck the puck got past them.  By the time they figured it out, it was already on its way to the goal. 

Now when the score was getting run up in the Pro Bowl, it was boring because there was no defense being played.  If you don’t believe me, go back and watch the game.  When the ball was snapped, nine times out of ten the defensive lineman made initial contact with the offensive lineman, then stood up straight and didn’t move.  If a ball was thrown down field, the secondary would only make a play on it if they did not have to actually jump. 

In the NHL all star game, the defense was still there, just toned down because they weren’t allowed to check the opposing player.  But they didn’t stand by and watch them skate uncontested to the net every time!  They still offered up resistance, which led to a game that was actually fun to watch. 

One other thing surprised me.  Normally I’ve been a critic of the way this league selects their teams.  It isn’t Western Conference versus Eastern Conference.  As a result, they end up with teammates on opposing all star teams.  This just doesn’t sound right to me, but after watching the game a second time, I realized that this actually added motivation for the players to beat their teammates.  I mean, if you’re a top scorer in the league, but you’ve never had the chance to play against your all star caliber goalie, this offered you the opportunity to do so.  The winner gets bragging rights in the locker room for the rest of the season! 

All in all, I’m glad that I went back and watched the games again before putting this post together.  Otherwise I would have written something that would not have been accurate or fair to hockey. 

It is ironic, though.  The most brutal, physical game played professionally is still an exciting game to watch, even with the brutality removed form the game.  What’s that say about the game?  Go watch a game in person and you’ll be able to answer that for yourself!!


2 Responses to “HOCKEY — ALL STARS –PART 2”

  1. 1 Patrick

    As for your comment in this post and the one from your blog a week or so ago about hockey players being the toughest athletes in sports and those people that don’t agree head on over to Yahoo or the NHL channel and look at the legal hit by Pittsburgh Penguin’s Brooks Orpik on Boston Bruins Daniel Paille.

  2. Some truly prize blog posts on this internet site , saved to fav.

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