3-on-3 hockey and a million dollar payout is making the league look foolish this year
Sometimes a group of individuals come together and re-awaken a hunger for a once successful entity through ingenuity, perseverance and a groundbreaking idea. Steve Jobs, Apple and the iPod are the first examples that comes to mind. The Goosebumps movie however, is an example of how such an attempt can go horribly wrong.
The new 3-on-3 format of the NHL All-Star Game is somewhere closer to Jack Black’s abomination than Steve Jobs’ empire.
It has been a valiant effort of creative and outside-the-box-thinking from both the National Hockey League Players Association and the league itself.
The format is this: divisional all-star teams will compete, making season-long adversaries teammates for a weekend. Three 20-minute mini games will be played which should be a short enough span to hold the viewer’s attention.
In addition, $1 million will be awarded to the winning team in an attempt to get players to become more competitive. The money will be divided evenly amongst the players, however, the thought of giving a fraction of an extra million dollars to a bunch of multi-millionaires seems a little ridiculous. 3-on-3 at the all-star game ultimately seems like administering a shot of adrenaline to a dead parrot.
Sure, the 3-on-3 format is a way to promote scoring, but scoring in the all-star game has never been a problem. The all-star game lacks one thing: competitiveness. The level of competition is what fans love about sport. It is impossible to manufacture the desire to defeat the opposition when players know the game is altogether meaningless.
Players have to protect their own personal brand, which is why so many of them choose to skip the weekend rather than risk injury. The gimmicks of the last decade, such as the fantasy draft and the North America vs. The World game have all been ways to gloss over the fact that all-star games have become irrelevant.
There was a time before satellite T.V., ESPN and the Internet when these games were important to the league as a way to showcase their stars to the world. Today, anyone can compress the all-star game into a highlight reel and spare themselves the hour long snooze-fest it has become.
This is not an NHL problem; the NBA and the NFL have been unable to find solutions to create anything resembling excitement towards their all-star games. Even the NBA dunk contest, once a must-see television event, has now been greeted with apathy over the last decade.
Surprisingly, the tradition-adhering cult that is major league baseball is the only one of the North American sports leagues that has managed to make the all-star game meaningful—by making it too meaningful. As far as I’m concerned, determining home-field advantage in the championship series via an all-star game undermines the regular season records of the two competing teams.
All-star games are important to the cities they are held in. The weekend festivities are first class, and are important to growing the sport in non-traditional hockey markets such as Nashville. But trying to use a gimmick to generate an audience has proven to be futile and 3-on-3 is not going to change that.