Recently, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the NHL was looking into making some changes to the NHL Skills Competition for the 2020 All-Star Weekend this January in St. Louis. Some events — looking at you, updated Puck Control Relay — have resulted in not exactly making players look all that great. (Who wants to try and flip the puck through small holes on a handful of lit up gates?)
One of those tweaks to the event that is being considered, per Friedman, is incorporating alumni, especially with a large number of ex-Blues still living in the St. Louis area. Last year, women’s players Renata Fast, Rebecca Johnston, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Brianna Decker demonstrated each event before the NHL players took part. Coyne Schofield ended up stealing the show when she filled in for Nathan MacKinnon during the Fastest Skater competition. Having women’s players involved for the 2020 event seems like an obvious move after last year’s success. Working in alumni would spice it up even more, though it’s unclear yet how they would be involved, whether as full participants or team captains.
A 53-year-old Al Iafrate, skullet and all, firing pucks using one of his old KOHO wooden sticks? Al MacInnis launching lasers? Sign me up.
Scott Niedermayer, Mike Gartner, Peter Bondra, and Sergei Fedorov repping one of the four divisional teams as part of Fastest Skater? Let’s go.
Chris Osgood, Blues alum Martin Brodeur, and Ron Hextall in some sort of goalie shooting challenge? Come on, now!
They may be a step slower and their slappers may have dropped a few mph’s, but it’s All-Star Weekend! The entire purpose is for the players to have fun and to entertain the fans. It’s a light-hearted couple of days where the stresses of the regular season are put on hold.
The Skills Competition has always been the highlight of All-Star Weekend, and some events take the crowd out of it as we wait for the Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot competitions. Why keep that lull in the night when there could be consistent excitement?
While we’re at it, let’s get the NHL and NHLPA on board with opening up these events to non-All-Stars as well, as I wrote before the 2018 Game. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara in the Hardest Shot competition every year until they retire, no matter if they’re worthy of an All-Star spot. Make it happen.
NBC will present coverage of the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo., home of the Blues, on Jan. 24-25, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 25, in primetime on NBC.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.