Every year we are subject to the same old All Star Game in all four of the major sports. There are minor tweaks here and there but they all still come from the same mold. The NHL decided to break from that mold this season, as they put their own twist on the event which took place in Raleigh and it paid off as the league saw a 33 percent ratings increase from 2009, the last time the event took place due to the Olympics last year.
The process for players to get to the All Star Game was a bit confusing as there was fan voting, the league nominating captains and a pool of who to choose from. In the end it came down to a fantasy draft to decide who would play on which team – Team Staal, named for Carolina’s Eric Staal and Team Lidstrom, named for Detroit’s Niklas Lidstrom. The two captains got to choose their players one by one in front of a live TV audience.
A fantasy draft where the players picked actually compete for their team? Well that is every sports nerd’s dream!
The game went off without a hitch as Team Lidstrom won 11-10 over Team Staal on Sunday night. Despite the loss for Team Staal they did get one consolation prize as Chicago’s Patrick Sharp was named MVP of the contest after he had a goal and two assists.
The 18,680 who were on hand at the RBC Center were treated to an exciting game as Team Staal trailed 11-9 with under a minute left but scored with an extra attacker with 34 seconds to play. They added more sustained pressure with the extra attacker but just could not find a way to score on Boston’s Tim Thomas as time expired. It did not start out so good for Team Lidstrom as they quickly found themselves down four but did not panic and turned the tide when they connected on four goals on their final 10 shots of the first period.
“We started to think, ‘Gee, I hope it won’t continue,’” Lidstrom told ESPN. “Once we got the first one, we started playing better, too. It wasn’t the start we wanted, but it was the end we wanted.”
The highlight of the weekend, however came during the pregame buildup as children acted out an old-fashioned way to choose up teams, by throwing your sticks in the middle and having a captain pick them out one by one. Two of the selections reveal longtime Hurricanes Rod Brind’Amour and Ron Francis, who were both former captains of the franchise.
The event had a 1.2 rating, the event proved to be as successful as the NHL could have hoped for and now we will just have to wait and see if they start a new tradition and continue to due the fantasy draft.
How long before we see another sport tries the same idea?