One of the privileges I’ve enjoyed during my years as a play-by-play announcer in the NHL has been my work as the voice of NHL International. As the game took on
more and more of an international flavor during the 1990s, the league decided to provide a world feed for two of its signature events: the All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup Final. It all started with the 1997 All-Star Game in San Jose. I’ve called all 11 All-Star Games since then (there was no 2005 All-Star Game due to the lockout or in the Olympic years of 2006 and 2010). This weekend will be the first time I’ve had a mid-season break since the 1995-96 season, my final season as the voice of the Detroit Red Wings. The NHL is not doing an international feed with announcers for this year’s All-Star Game, so I get to enjoy a little down time before our next telecast of a Coyotes game on Fox Sports Arizona on Feb. 2 vs. Vancouver.
In the years I’ve covered the event, it has taken a few twists and turns. The 1998 All-Star Game in Vancouver was the first North America vs. the World contest as the league took a break from the East vs. West format. This new format provided some fairly entertaining contests over its five-year span. North America prevailed in three of the five contests with each of those victories by a 1- or 2-goal margin. The 2003 All-Star Game in Florida went back to the East vs. West format where it stayed through the 2009 game in Montreal.
This year, behind the efforts of former NHL All-Stars Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake, the league is really changing things up. Let me be the first to say that I understand some of what the All-Star Game detractors say about the game itself. The All-Star Game has never truly represented what makes the NHL game so great and why we all love it: passion, intensity and the do-anything-to-win mentality of these great athletes. But, having been to so many of these, I can tell you that the All-Star event, the game and everything that goes with it on site for fans and sponsors, is truly a worthwhile endeavor for the NHL. I applaud the efforts of Shanahan, now a league executive, and Blake. Two former players putting their heads together to come up with a new twist to create more buzz for the sport and give the players a chance to be more involved with the process. Tonight’s player draft between captains Nick Lidstrom and Eric Staal should be as entertaining as the game itself.
Some of you may recall that Phoenix was scheduled to host the 2006 All-Star Game, but the league decided not to hold the event in an Olympic year. Then, the Coyotes were rumored to be the favorites to host this year’s event. But, with the ongoing ownership situation, the league had to make other plans. Raleigh landed the 2011 game while Ottawa will host in 2012. I believe that leaves Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus and Anaheim as the only cities yet to host an All Star Game. Once the ownership situation is fully resolved for the Coyotes, I believe the NHL will put the event at Jobing.com Arena as soon as possible. 2013 is the next available year, but there’s a new CBA to be hammered out before then, so let’s wait and see.
In the meantime, enjoy the All Star festivities. Best of luck to Coyotes defensemen Keith Yandle
and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Thanks for reading.