The 2020 NHL All-Star Game was in St. Louis this year, and it felt like the entire city shoved their way into Union Station to participate in festivities. Outside of St. Louis, though, the NHL’s mid-season matchup gets a lukewarm reception.
Let’s face it, it’s not just the NHL’s All-Star Game that gets a decided “meh” from sports fans. Major League Baseball had to make the game worth homefield advantage in the World Series to garner any interest, and it’s debatable as to how well that’s worked.
A quick scroll through Twitter during the game on Saturday showed why people don’t like the ASG: it’s boring. People don’t try because people don’t want to get hurt - and who can blame them?
Goalies hardly bothering to break a sweat here. Can't blame them. Who wants to get hurt at an All Star game?— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 26, 2020
I love hockey. This is not hockey. I wish the NHL could figure out a better way to showcase the sport because this no-hit, no-try exhibition isn't it.— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 26, 2020
The resulting slow paced game is, well... it’s dull. People watch hockey for the hits and the fast-paced goalscoring, not folks lighting up goalies who barely move.
If you go into the game accepting that you’re not going to get some daring dos then it’s a good time. The fun stuff happens at the skills competition anyway, which is why it was introduced to begin with. For a way to capture the casual fan, or as a showcase for the sport - especially internationally - the All-Star Game isn’t going to cut it. Commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned growing the sport internationally several times during his press Q&A, but also believes that the Olympics are an interruption to the season.
I don’t think they’re any more of an interruption than two bye weeks and an All-Star Game with nothing to play for.
The Olympics sell the sport better. They’re more exciting to watch, and the absence of the NHL stars hurts the caliber of the sport being played. I tried, I really did, to watch the men’s sport in 2018 and I could not remotely bring myself to give a rip. If I were someone who had never really watched hockey before that, it still wouldn’t be appointment viewing.
So you have non-appointment viewing in the Olympics, and non-appointment viewing in the All-Star Game. Half of hockey fans and all of St. Louis cared this year, but is that enough to proclaim it a success?