I'm not going to lie: I don't care about the All-Star Game. I do enjoy the skills competition, which is the one place shootouts belong, but aside from that I think it's all a bunch of self-promotion for the NHL and a bunch of back-patting for the players. There's no motivating factor to actually play a game. Some folks think that the fun in the ASG is watching a bunch of grown men play shinny. I understand why some might enjoy that, but I enjoy games where the outcome means something. I know people hate the fact that the MLB ASG has it set up where the home field advantage goes to the winning league, but at least it makes the game worth watching.
The All-Star Game, therefore, is a PR and marketing cash-cow for the NHL. Are the players contractually obligated to attend? The league seems to believe so, placing their attendance above the well-being of the player and the player's club. Note the great "old man wants to rest" flap of 2009, where Nicklas Lidström and Pavel Datsyuk were both suspended a game because they elected to skip the Montreal game in favor of resting up nagging injuries. Sidney Crosby that year also had a knee injury and a bruised hand, and was replaced by Martin St. Louis. Sid wasn't suspended, though -- as the league's unofficial poster boy he was all but required to be there to promote the game in the off-ice activities. He looked uncomfortable for multiple reasons, but the league got what they wanted out of him. They apparently wanted his face for off-ice money making than him on-ice 100% for the Penguins to make cash there.
Fair enough. After the flack they got for suspending Lidström (or Lindstrom, as NBCSN would prefer) the league backed off. It's not like there's a shortage of players to replace injured guys. Heck, when that happens sometimes people who actually deserve to be in the game get in there -- witness Kris Letang getting in since Dustin Byfuglien's been out.
Injury is one thing, attitude is another. Alexander Ovechkin was suspended three games for a nasty hit on Matt Niskanen the other night, and then pulled out of the All-Star game despite the fact that he was eligible to go. Why?
"My heart is not there. I suspended, so why I have to go there?" Ovechkin said. "I love the game; it's great event. I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. If I suspended, I have to be suspended. That's why I give up my roster [spot].
Aww, his feelings are hurt. He didn't want to be a target? Of what? People pointing out that this is his worst year by far in his career? Was he scared of getting the Phil Kessel Chevy of Shame? Or wait -- perhaps he didn't want to be a target of people constantly pointing out that he has a nasty habit of leaving his feet on big hits.
What's the league's response to a guy presumably picked because he's an uber-star? "Meh." They're not punishing him one bit. Of course, what's the point in punishing a guy whose reaction to the suspension was this:
"I was disappointed, actually. You know, the most bad thing is that, all my career, it’s going to be like that. My game is to play physical; my game is to play hard. I don’t think it was a bad hit, a dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt, I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was a three-game suspension."
So, what say you guys? Is it ok to beg out of an ASG simply because you don't feel like going because of whatever reason? Any league punishment necessary? If there are reasons to not go to the ASG, what would you consider them to be?