Now, I'm a fan of a team that didn't have a rep at the All Star Game. This gal whines that Kessel is picked last? And does so trying to sound convincing? SHE EVEN SAYS "THE HUMANITY! in a serious tone even!" No wonder people laugh at Leafs fans...
NHL's all-star gimmick leaves bitter aftertaste
By JAN MURPHY
Posted 2 hours ago
The National Hockey League took a stab this past weekend at freshening up its all-star game.It held a lottery-style draft that saw its all-stars essentially pick teams. Other than that, it was a lot of the same. Snooze-worthy hockey.
And after having sat through the entire draft, which certainly sounded interesting enough to give up some of my Friday night, I pray to the good lord that it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
The idea was certainly interesting. The captains and co-captains would hold a lottery-style draft to select the teams.
OK. That had my interest.
As I researched it, I discovered that there were rules in place to ensure fairness.
First, the captains/co-captains had to have at least one defenceman per side.
Second, both clubs had to have selected all three goaltenders by the time the 10th round ended.
And third, both clubs had to have selected all six defencemen by the end of the 15th round.
So essentially, eight of the first 15 picks would be either a goalie or defenceman.
OK, so be it.
Immediately following the announcement of the draft system, the subject of being the last player drafted surfaced.Players discussed how unpleasant an experience it might be to be drafted last.
Steps were taken to counter that. More on that later.
So there I sat, on my couch, on a Friday night no less, giving my precious spare time to the National Hockey League.
What unfolded before my eyes was a trainwreck that even I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams.
First, Eric Staal drafts Carolina Hurricanes teammate Cam Ward with the first pick.
I get the loyalty thing, but with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Alexander Ovechkin and the Sedin twins ripe for the picking, not to mention five goalies statistically better in most categories than Ward, it was clear from the get-go that Staal was not out to pick the best team, but to play favourites.
In fairness, both teams made some absolutely ludicrous selections on a bunch of occasions.
Staal would later make more head-scratching picks, including when he selected his brother Marc, who arguably was the worst player selected to the allstar team, in the seventh round, ahead of the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, etc., etc., etc.
He again made a baffling pick when he took teammate Jeff Skinner in the 11th round, ahead of guys like Martin Havlat, Anze Kopitar, Corey Perry and others.
I understand picking players to please the home crowd. I get the idea of picking buddies so you can play together, but this was my problem with the whole thing. It was a popularity contest from the beginning and it played out exactly that way.
The problem, from my perpective at least, was I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth after about 10 rounds.
That bitter taste turned to disgust as the gong show neared its conclusion.
By the end of the 16th round, there were four players left.
All of the other chairs were removed and they were singled out, like losers for lack of a better term, and made to sit there while TSN overanalysed the event to death.
There were commercial breaks, interviews and any real suspense was overshadowed by the pity you began to feel for these four guys.
Many have argued that these guys are professionals and allstars, therefore being drafted near the end didn't diminish the fact that they were all-stars, but I have to tell you, I didn't feel that in the least.
By the time Staal, in his most classless move of the weekend, took a shot at Toronto while shunning the Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel in favour of Colorado's Paul Stastny, I was feeling sick for both.
Just like that, Kessel was left there, sitting in a chair, with the cameras pointed at him and Team Lidstrom was forced to verbally select him, even though he was the last man.
Now, I'm a Leafs fan, so clearly I was hurt by this. But I'm a human being first, and by the time there were four guys left, I was feeling for them all. Heck, I even felt for Anaheim's Jonas Hiller when he was the final goalie selected and for Ottawa's Erik Karlsson when they were the final picks at their respective positions. Both are great players. Hiller, in particular, looked like he too was affected by being the final goalie selected. And why wouldn't he? He has more wins than the other five, a better save percentage than all but Thomas and is third among the six allstars in shutouts.
But when Kessel's name was uncomfortably announced, I felt just disgusted by the whole process.
Here was a guy, a cancer survivor no less, who has scored at least 30 goals in back-to-back seasons and who will do so again this year, who was selected to play in the all-star game for the first time in his career (he played in the Young Stars game in his rookie season with Boston).
This past weekend was supposed to be spent soaking up the limelight with the game's best players. He was supposed to be celebrated as one of the game's top players.
It was supposed to be nothing but a positive and uplifting, perhaps confidence-building, experience.
Alas, thanks to a silly gimmick, he was ostracized by his peers and left to be humiliated in front of millions on TV.
I don't care what you say, that was the feeling that was conveyed through the TV.
There was Alexander Ovechkin, supposedly one of the game's ambassadors, snapping a photo of Kessel as he was announced as the final selection.
To his credit, Kessel kept his head high as he slipped on his sweater and attempted to slither up the step to the final seat.
If that weren't enough, TSN's James Duthie wouldn't let Kessel quietly take his seat. Instead, he kept calling him. Kessel was seated before he realized he was being summoned for an interview.
The man is singled out on national TV, in front of all of his peers and TSN needs to rub a little salt in the wound by interviewing him for good measure.
Kessel was humble and classy, something this Leafs fan will not soon forget, as he was told that the NHL was giving him $20,000 to donate to a charity of his choice -- he chose cancer research -- and a new car, which he said he plans to drive.
I'm sure the donation and the new wheels took away a little of the sting and sourness of the allstar draft for Kessel, but it did little for the bitter taste I was left with Friday night.
My thoughts immediately following the draft, at least the ones that can be published, are that the NHL prides itself on being a league of professional hockey players, the key word being professional.
The "gimmick" they staged on Friday night was anything but.