Monday, January 26, 2009

The Biggest Joke in Sports

My ears are still ringing from the incessant blaring of the airhorn at Montreal's Bell Centre. That's because I watched the NHL All-Star Game, which produced a laughable 22 goals in regulation time.

The goal orgy is merely an extension of the trend: in the 1970's, the All-Star Game produced about 7 goals on average (combined total); by the 80's, 11 goals per game; and since 1990, the total has jumped to 16 goals per game.

Just for comparison's sake, the average NHL regular season game produces about 6 goals. In other words, the All-Star Game produced roughly 3.7 times more goals than a typical NHL game.

If this happened in baseball, we'd see All-Star Games with scores like 19-17. An NFL Pro Bowl, using the same factor (3.7 x regular season scoring average) would wind up looking like this: 85-80.

And some people would probably love it. But I'll submit that the real problem with the NHL All-Star Game is that the way the game is played is so radically different from the regular season.

Consider: the 2009 All-Star Game included exactly one hit (St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk must have forgotten where he was). And the hooking penalty taken by Montreal's Mike Komisarek in overtime was the first All-Star Game penalty called in 9 years!

Look. I'm not claiming that NFL players display the same ferocity at the Pro Bowl that they employ on any given Sunday. Nobody plays much defense in the NBA anyway, and they sure don't ratchet it up for the All-Star Game.

But the NHL's "midseason classic" is way out of whack. Every time I looked up, another forward had parked himself in the crease, ready to slide in another goal. During the regular season, that sort of campout is an invitation for a mugging.

I love a gorgeous pass as much as the next hockey fan. I marvel at the offensive skills of the game's greats. But hockey is much more than a pass-and-shoot exhibition. It's a bit of a fraud to call that event in Montreal a "hockey game".

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