It’s been no secret that team rivalries within the NHL have been dwindling. Games that used to mean something, and that could not be missed by fans for any reason, seem to have all but disappeared (Toronto/Ottawa) and the few that still exist rarely get to be seen (Vancouver/Boston). The proposed realignment was supposed to change this by scheduling more regional rivalry games as well as assuring each team played each other at least twice – once at home and once on the road. But with the NHLPA objecting the plan, holding it off indefinitely, the NHL now must think up ways in the interim to create more passion within the sport and they already missed the boat on their first opportunity.
The announcement of Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara as team captains for the All-Star game brought down any hope of a Battle of Ontario captains war. Of course, it’s the players that vote for the captains, so the NHL bodies aren’t solely to blame. However, the NHL ‘higher-ups’ could have overruled the voting system in order to bring the fans a more heated battle – making the All-Star game just as passionate, if not more, than a regular season – or even post-season – game.
It was no secret that Daniel Alfredsson was going to be a captain. The game is being held in his team’s town during their anniversary year. Eric Staal was named a captain last year in Raleigh, so Alfredsson made sense. We all knew it was coming. But Chara? Sure, he is probably the top defenseman in the league but no fan out there, especially in Ontario, would have denied that an Alfredsson/Phaneuf captains match-up going into Thursday’s draft would be less than mind-blowingly spectacular.
The crowd at the Scotiabank Place venue is expected to be split between Ottawa and Toronto fans (with a few assorted fans scattered amongst them). Why not cater to them? The Battle of Ontario has been a dying rivalry due to the fact that neither team has been in playoff contention for years. That has changed this year. Ottawa sits in fifth in the East as the Leafs are in ninth, a spot that could easily change to playoff contender. Why not re-spark the rivalry? This is the perfect time.
The NHL has dropped the ball here. The All-Star game is a perfect venue to fuel the fire beneath some quickly cooling rivalries.
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