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February 6, 2016
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
All-Star Weekend is upon us. Can you feel the excitement? Yeah, me neither. But it's sure gonna be great watching Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Zetterberg oh wait, never mind.
Even though many of the league's biggest superstars are skipping the game, the NHL has done what it can to spice up All-Star Saturday, completely revamping the Skills Competition (7PM EST Versus, CBC, RDS). The YoungStars Game has now been incorporated into the mix, and the final event will be a breakaway challenge similar to the NBA's Slam Dunk Competition.
Because if anything should be emulated, it's the thrilling Slam Dunk contest, which pits some scrubs you never heard of against some other scrubs you never heard of in a spectacle featuring lengthy delays sandwiched around repeated failed attempts to put a ball through a stationary hoop. It's great fun.
Anyway, here's the complete rundown for the 2008 All-Stars Skills Competition. Please hold your applause until all the events have been announced.
EVENT 1 OBSTACLE COURSE RELAY
The race starts with one player coming out from behind the net and skating the puck through a series of colored pucks stationed in the faceoff circle. That's right, colored pucks. It's like Easter.
Once the first player makes it to the top of the circle, the second player, who's positioned at the faceoff dot outside the blue line, will attempt to make four saucer passes over a barrier and into a net along the far boards. Gary Bettman volunteered to be the barrier, but the players requested something taller.
When the fourth puck goes in the net, the third player will leap to action. He'll be positioned just inside the blue line in front of the goal. The first player will feed him four passes from the boards, with the third player trying to one-time shots at targets in the net. Really it's not confusing at all. Honest.
Once the fourth shot is taken, the third player will race to the other faceoff circle while a goaltender takes position in the high slot. The third player will then give four passes to the goaltender, who will attempt to score on the net at the opposite end of the rink.
The players will have 45 seconds to complete the course, which is about 40 seconds longer than it will take most people to realize they don't give a damn.
This year, they'll be playing 3-on-3 in two six-minute periods with a running clock. A faceoff will open each period, but otherwise things will keep on truckin'. If a goal is scored, the puck gets dropped behind the net, and the scoring team has to retreat back to its own zone. The same basic thing applies to offside, icing, and all other stoppages in play. All penalties will result in penalty shots. I don't know, it sounds good to me. I'm willing to give it a whirl.
Just looking at the rosters, I'd have to give the edge to the West. While Letang and Backstrom are the two best players, I really don't know if Lucic and Clarkson are cut out for 3-on-3 hockey. The West has nice balance throughout the lineup. Perron could put on a show.
And in case you're wondering, the goaltending chores will be handled by two of the legit All-Stars. No word yet on who it'll be.
But here's the best part: a panel of celebrity judges will score each attempt. And the NHL pulled out all the stops, getting George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Keira Knightley to serve as judges. Hold on, I'm sorry, I read the press release wrong. The judges are actually Scott Mellanby, Dominique Wilkins, Bill Clement, and Taylor Kitsch.
Yeah, don't worry, I have no idea who Taylor Kitsch is either. But who better to judge spectacular goals than a basketball player, an obscure actor, and two guys who never scored a highlight reel goal in their lives? Really, this is going to work out just fine. Don't sweat it.
But the lineup of shooters is certainly spectacular. The East is gonna go with Martin St. Louis, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alexander Ovechkin. The West will counter with Ryan Getzlaf, Marian Gaborik, and Pavel Datsyuk. That's good stuff. Put your money on Datsyuk. I still hate the Wings.