This is a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let’s get to it.
Here’s the thing about the NHL All-Star Game and, really, any All-Star Game or Pro Bowl, for that matter: it features the game’s greatest players and does its best to entertain. It is, however, an exhibition game, and competitive sports only musters up so much competitiveness in an otherwise meaningless midseason contest.
So, leagues attempt to ramp up the entertainment factor. And some try to manufacture competitiveness by making the game “meaningful” – I’m looking at you, baseball. No good.
Now we circle back to the NHL. Last year’s All-Star Game in Columbus featured 29 goals – twenty-nine, two nine – which is entertaining to a degree but also a signal that change is needed. And change was delivered heading into this year’s All-Star Weekend in Nashville.
This season, the traditional game will transform into a 3-on-3 tournament comprised of three 20-minute games played by divisional all-star teams. In the first round, the Metropolitan Division will face off with the Atlantic Division, and the Central will challenge the Pacific. The two winners from each game will then meet in the final. The prize? A million dollars.
To (finally) get to answering your question, I think the new format is fantastic. I love 3-on-3 overtime, and I can’t wait to see what 20-minute, 3-on-3 games featuring the best players in the sport can deliver. The All-Star Game needed a refresh, and this is a great way to breathe new life into the midseason classic. It should be a riveting afternoon of hockey in Nashville.
Here are some finer detail points surrounding the new format: each divisional all-star team will have 11 players: six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. Fans will select one player for each division via a fan vote (which is open now), and the remaining 40 all-stars will be named by NHL’s Hockey Operations, with one representative being featured from each team.
And yes, Nashville will be a great host (and CarolinaHurricanes.com will be there to bring you wall-to-wall coverage).
If it wasn’t a cop-out answer, I would say all of them because, in many ways, that’s true. Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and, in his brief stint with the team, Jaccob Slavin have all indicated that the future of the Hurricanes’ blue line is indeed bright.
But if I’m to pick one, as the question insists, I would say Hanifin has impressed me the most. Part of it is to be expected, I suppose, when he was the fifth overall pick. But seeing the Boston College product in action has been a treat.
It’s always fun when the Hurricanes match up with a team they haven’t played this season and the press gets its first look at Hanifin. The overwhelming opinion? He’s rather impressive already.
He clearly thinks the game at a higher level than you’d expect from an 18-year-old. He’s faced some of the league’s best and shut them down. He’s also had important learning moments, as all rookies do. The coaching staff has opted to sit Hanifin for a few games in the early going, letting the young blue liner digest the game from a different angle and later analyze what he saw.
Lately, Hanifin has seen time on the Hurricanes’ power play. That’s an indicator of the level of trust that the coaching staff has in the rookie, and it’s a role that he’s fit into quite nicely.
If this is what we’re saying about Hanifin now, imagine what December 2016 will be like. He’s got a bright future in front of him, as does the Canes’ defensive corps as a whole.
You’ve probably heard already, Paul, but for those who are unaware, registration is now open and limited player spots remain for this year’s Alumni Fantasy Game, a star-studded event with members of the Hurricanes’ 2005-06 Stanley Cup Championship team slated to participate.
For the $4,000 entry fee, players will: participate in the game and receive the full gameday experience (locker room access and more), practice at PNC Arena on Friday, Feb. 12, receive two tickets to the Canes-Penguins game on Feb. 12, attend the exclusive team announcement party with the Stanley Cup and members of the championship team on Feb. 12, receive two tickets to the Canes-Islanders game on Saturday, Feb. 13, receive a personalized Hurricanes jersey with a special Alumni Game patch, receive a DVD of the Alumni Game, as called by John Forslund and attend a post-Alumni Game cocktail reception.
Not to mention, Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams, Doug Weight, Craig Adams, Niclas Wallin, Frantisek Kaberle, Mike Commodore and Andrew Hutchinson are all playing in the game. That’s some fine company.
If you are at least 18 years of age and have hockey-playing experience, this year’s Alumni Fantasy Game will be a the event of a lifetime. For more details or to register (act fast – limited spots remain), click here.
For most of us who are not participating, parking and admission are free (with an optional donation to the Kids ‘N Community Foundation) for the game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. The Alumni Fantasy game will cap an entire weekend celebration that will feature members of and honor the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Championship team. Various league trophies, including the Stanley Cup, will be on display throughout the weekend, and there will be pregame ceremonies, autograph sessions and much more. Click here for more details.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered or you’d like to discuss this week’s tense, hilarious and brilliant episode of “Fargo,” you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email