By: Ruchi Patel
You can’t do it again without diluting what happened. But you can do it again differently. There are a lot of stories to tell in the NHL as long as they let us tell them. The NHL has a propensity to create rules and regulations to stop what seems like anything remotely fun. Fortunately, we have a small sliver of freedom with the All-Star voting. We can tell the story of the older, brushed off player who’s now battling a disease while remaining resilient and hopeful or we can tell the story of the young, talented player, always second to another.
Last year, the NHL allowed fans to vote in a player as the captain of their respective divisions. What started out as a meaningless joke turned into something out of a movie. John Scott, known for his goon-like antics on ice, got voted in as the Pacific division captain. However, the NHL was having none of it. It was heavily implied that they forced Arizona’s GM to trade Scott in an effort to put a lid on the whole thing. A trade that was devastating to Scott whose wife was pregnant with twins at the time. After his trade was announced to Montreal, the NHL went silent for a whole weekend, reluctant to comment on whether or not Scott was allowed to participate in the All-Star Game. Once fans reacted in outrage at the league’s actions, they quickly realized they would have no choice but to let the man participate.
And so he did. Donning his All-Star Game jersey, John Scott not only participated throughout the weekend, but showed great sportsmanship and was amiable. He scored two goals in the game and had a fake fight with Patrick Kane. The weekend ended with three players being on the ballot as the potential MVP but social media and the arena’s audience wanted Scott.
They got Scott. He was named the 2016 NHL All-Star MVP and received a million dollars with the title. Scott went on to play for Montreal’s AHL team, St. John’s IceCaps, and finished his NHL career a few months later.
This year, however, a new rule is in place by the NHL. It basically states a player cannot be eligible to be voted in if they are sent down to the AHL (conditioning stints are acceptable). This is a way to keep less talented, non-star players out of the All-Star Weekend.
We could easily vote in another grinder, a plug, someone good enough to not get sent down, but bad enough that them being in the All-Stars would be entertaining. People have tossed out names like Jordin TooToo and Shawn Thornton, but let’s not go there again.
There is one idea that’s being floated around. Bryan Bickell’s name was suggested by Dave Lozo on an episode of his podcast, Puck Soup. There’s a lot of potential behind this idea. Contrary to popular belief, Bickell’s a good player.
After the 2015 playoffs, Bickell was reported to have been suffering from vertigo which lasted well into the 2015-2016 season. He ended the season having just played 25 games with only 2 assists to show for it. He was promptly traded to Carolina after the season was over. This past October, he revealed that he has Multiple Sclerosis.
It’s a great sentiment to do it for the player, for a cause, for a spotlight on something that might not get enough attention. Voting Bickell in as the Metropolitan Division captain will raise awareness for the disease, and with the right PR from the NHL there’s a great chance that money could be raised for a charity or foundation as well.
However, it is very likely that Bickell will be unable to or will not wish to attend the All-Star Weekend. This is why I suggest voting in Alex Galchenyuk.
Everyone was in awe over Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey this past September. They were a group of fast, skilled, and smart players. Their premature end left us all wanting more. Galchenyuk was not named on the team of young players, despite having a 56 point season that included 30 goals and 26 assists.
Galchenyuk is an enjoyable player to watch. This season, in just 25 games, he has 9 goals and 14 assists totaling to 23 points which makes him the leading scorer on the Montreal Canadiens. Despite this, Galchenyuk seems to fall into the category of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”. He constantly gets overshadowed by big names like Carey Price, P.K. Subban, and Max Pacioretty. I’m not saying Galchenyuk doesn’t get his dues or that he isn’t acknowledged, but he just never seems to get the spotlight he deserves.
The key fact that made last year’s All-Star Game what it turned out to be was John Scott’s personality. He was fun-loving and goofy. Everyone adored him, from teammates to fans. Galchenyuk has a similar personality. He has a tendency to constantly chirp his fellow teammates and be overly competitive, something that could be entertaining during the All-Star Weekend. As many Montreal Canadiens fans have seen, he doesn’t shy away from being who he is.
It is likely that the NHL will pick Carey Price and/or Shea Webber to represent Montreal at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game. NHL.com picked their own All-Star roster which included both the goalie and the defenseman (https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-staff-picks-for-2017-all-star-game/c-284233500). Galchenyuk won’t be picked over them, so why not vote him in?
This wouldn’t be poking fun at an alright player, hoping to see how he fares against the elite in a quick 3-on-3 game. It would be elevating a great player to be on the same platform as the best of the best and seeing how his quick and fun style impacts those around him.
It’s important that we do something with our vote, whether that’s picking Bryan Bickell or someone like Alex Galchenyuk, it’s up to you. Let’s use the small amount of say we get in this league as fans and make the All-Star Game (something created for fans) fun.