The 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend is upon us and it is and event that is very near and dear to my heart. Through my Uncle’s connection,s I attended many sporting events but my favorites were always the NHL All-Star Games. I went to four between 1998-2001 (during the peak of my hockey career) and I have to say that during their hay-day the NHL really knew how throw a party.

This year’s festivities kick off today at 5pm with the first ever All-Star Fantasy draft. I have alluded to different marketing strategies the NHL has undertaken in the past like the Winter Classic, different rules, and they have made their latest move with the selection of the All-Star Teams. Instead of leaving it up to the fans to select the teams and having the Yao Mings of the world start just because they are the fan favorite, when he has played 7 games in the last 4 years, the NHL has taken a completely new strategy.

With the growing popularity in fantasy sports, the NHL was smart enough to recognize an opporunity that is really exciting. They picked two Captains and are letting them pick their own teams “playground style,” much like a fantasy draft. This year’s captains are Nicklaus Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings and Eric Staal of the host, Carolina Hurricanes. Lidstrom is one of the best defenseman of all time and it was smart in choosing Staal for the hometown team bringing as many fans from Carolina as possible.

The NHL has dabbled with many broken strategies in the past varying from opposing conferences, World vs. North America, among others and I really am excited to see how this version of selection pans out. There is the possibility that teammates can actually play against each other, although they probably won’t, the fact that it could happen definitely adds some more tension to the fantasy draft. Not only that but they are given the free rein to trade players much like MTV Rock n’ Jock did back in the day with Las Vegas Local and Palms Hotel regular,  “The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas.

The actual All-Star Game isn’t until Sunday afternoon at 1pm but there are plenty of other exciting events throughout All-Star Weekend. The Superskills Challenge which, I feel is extremely underrated, is tomorrow at 4pm. This year’s events are Fastest Skater, Breakaway Challenge, Accuracy Shooting, Skills Challenge Relay, Hardest Shot, and Elimination Shoot Out.

I miss the days of Mark Messier when he’d nail ever corner of styrofoam in Accuracy Shooting, when Sergei Fedorov would break his own records at Fastest Skater year after year, and when Al MacInnis would shoot the puck 250 mph in Hardest shot but hopefully this year’s contestants can live up to their predecessors.

However, it may be hard for them to accomplish the tasks at hand with two of the league’s biggest names and linemates, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not participating in All-Star Weekend festivities. Malkin is suffering from a sinus infection (which can be one of the most painful things in the world, if you’ve never had one) and Sid “The Kid” is still out of commission resting his domepiece from the concussion he incurred a few weeks ago.

With two of the league’s biggest stars not in attendance, the NHL had to find someone with some star power to make up for the deficiency, and who better than Clay Aiken? Yes, Raleigh native and American Idol runner-up will be honoring our country by singing the National Anthem on Sunday before they drop the puck. I understand he is from Raleigh, but I don’t think too many Carolina hockey fans are rushing to buy the their tickets because a broadway star will be singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

I usually agree with a lot of the NHL’s decisions to spice up the game a little by adding new and exciting elements but Clay Aiken doesn’t exactly speak to me or the rest of the causal hockey fans in America. I would have preferred it if they would have brought in North Carolina superstar, Petey Pablo, to come in and perform during the 1st and 2nd intermissions. If a fight breaks out, it would only be fitting if they played this song, in hopes that one of the fighters can take the other dude’s shirt off while he upper cuts him.

Aside from Clay Aiken’s performance, I am genuinely excited for this weekend’s festivities for the first time in a few years. It is just sucks that they will be aired on”Versus.” It is sad that the one of NHL’s crown jewels has succumbed to being aired on a cable network that most people probably couldn’t tell you what channel number it was if they had to. Thanks God there is such thing as DVR though as I will busy during the game Sunday testing out our caterers food 🙂

*P.S. Thank you everyone for the feedback yesterday. Today’s blog is representative of all of your suggestions being: more pictures, less videos, length, and sports-related. If this type of blogagge peaks your interest, I always appreciate the feedback even if you are not crazy about hockey. Thanks!

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