Proposed NHL All Star Game Gives Fans a Glimpse of League That Will Never Be

MONTREAL - JANUARY 25:  (L-R) Alexander Ovechkin #8, Jay Bouwmeester #3 and Mark Streit #2 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars celebrate after a play during the 2009 NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre on January 25, 2009 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The NHL is supposedly considering a new playoff All Star Game format.

Fans would choose the starters and the NHL would select the rest of the players. The All Star players would choose the team captains and the team captains would choose their own teams via a live draft.

The NHL All Star game is a pretty big yawn, so you have to give the league credit for trying something different. I can even see where the draft might attract more viewers than the actual game, if for no other reason than for fantasy scouting purposes.

But I’m a little surprised the league is interested in this kind of format.

From a marketing perspective, it’s an interesting twist on the tired All Star format that seems to fail across American sports. But from an economic perspective, it raises some interesting questions for the league.

Like the point of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA was designed to bring parity to the NHL, making sure no one team is overladen with stars.

A non-conference-based All Star game, like the NHL is supposedly considering, lets fans see what an unbalanced NHL might look like. And I’m guessing most fans are going to like it.

A quick note: The conference-based All Star game lets fans see the best players in each conference playing with each other, which is obviously, only half of the possibilities available. But by removing the limitations of the conference affiliation from the All Star game (while also not having the Olympic country-based limitations), suddenly you’re able to have a line featuring Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, and Alex Ovechkin, which seems like a collection of talent fans might want to get used to.

Basically, the NHL will be showing fans what an uncapped league might look like.

If the revised All Star game rates well, it could even make for some uncomfortable moments at the bargaining table for the next CBA. The NHL will continue to argue for parity, while the NHLPA will have data showing fans want to see stars playing together.

Of course, the same arguments can be made for the existing All Star format, but the removal of the conference-based lineups really allows the NHL to showcase rosters fans have never seen before. It’s showing fans that the only real limit on where stars can play is the salary cap. Where the existing All Star game was limited by conference and the Olympics is limited by country of origin, this proposed All Star format shows an NHL without limits. It’s an NHL whose existence is only impeded by the salary cap.

It’s nice of the NHL to give fans a glimpse of that world, even as they fight to make sure it’ll never be possible.