Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Star Surprise!

photo: Michelle Reaney, Thunderpeep Designs

by Lisa Ovens

The 2011 NHL All Star Weekend kicked off on Friday evening in Raleigh, North Carolina, and if there was one thing on my mind, it was the element of surprise. This was a nice change of pace for the predictable annual hockey celebration. The designated All Star captains, Eric Staal and Niklas Lidstrom, along with their assistant captains, selected their teammates to form the two teams set to compete through the skills compettition, Saturday and then the game on Sunday. This I liked alot. I liked the idea of not knowing who would be playing with whom, right up until the start of the weekend.

Although TSN's televised fantasy draft event came off looking under produced (and it did contained one severe case of wrong shoes: the red dress girl - can't help it, I notice shoes and her big, chunky, black platform wedgies had me seriously wondering, no, hoping those were " call ups" because the "starting" pair had some sort of "lower heel" injury), it did do one thing; it made me totally NOT want to miss the Sunday game, because I just had to see how Team Thunder Bay and Team Blue stack up against each other on the ice.

Yeah, I nicknamed the teams: Thunder Bay is the mother ship to my big family, as it is to the Staal's (with the two families now inter-related), and Team Blue because I just love those blue jerseys, they are the best jersey (and the team apparently has the best Sedin Twin in Henrik, to boot). (Oops, I think I've used up my bracket quota for one day).  Anyway, who doesn't love surprises and the league's decision to go with the team selection format was a great move.

I can accept TSN's production of the Fantasy Draft because it was what I expected it to be. Let's face it:  aside from the Winter Classic and HBO's 24/7 four part lead in, every other hockey event comes across as under produced with multiple dashes of awkwardness because it seems the people in that side of the business are deathly afraid to try to do anything new or employ different people than  they would normally use. Eespecially the Canadian broadcasters. It'll be the death of them if they don't listen to me! And speaking of that HBO series...we hockey fans have been spoiled by it now. We want everything hockey to look that slick.

The thing is we know many NHL players aren't masters of ceremony. Many are young and are not the most articulate of speakers just yet. In the case of the fantasy draft, TSN might have done more to entertain the players and the audience rather than rely on the players to be the entertainment. My choice might have been to employ a professional, hockey fan comedian to preside over the event and use host James Duthie as the guy who explains what's going on. I probably would have given the Panel a night off, or just have the panel close the show, with a segment analysing the newly created teams. That's just my two cents.

Onto Saturday's Skills Competition...

Racing goalies? Sweet! The scene of Cam Ward and Tim Thomas racing against the clock was a spectacle. Though I did find myself imagining them skating while holding a spoon with an egg, then pairing up to do a bizarre three legged race. But after seeing the Challenge Relay portion of the competition, those kind of kids sports day activities would have fit right in! Following twitter, the best tweet from the hockey peeps I follow came from New York Islanders blog spot reporter, Dee Karl after she saw those tiny, little nets set up for the passing portion of the relay...

"Oh look, its Barbie's hockey"

What a thrill to see Vancouver Canuck, Daniel Sedin go four for four in the accuracy competition! But the split screen presentation was a little much for this fan, who's been languishing in the depths of the final week of January Blahs, still recovering from the bout with pneumonia earlier this month. I had a hard time keeping up watching two at once. Was it always this way? I can't remember, but I guess they had to save time for the drawn out Ellimination Shootout Challenge.

I'm still not sold on the breakaway challenge mainly because they often don't get the puck past the goalie into the net after showcasing nifty stick n' puck handling. Here's a crazy idea...why not just have them shooting at an empty net.

The All Star Game

Wow...Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin on a line with Alexander Ovechkin! This is the kind of surprise I was talking about! And this line scored the first goal, too!Then it slid into your typical NHL All Star Game for me. That is until the second intermission and Stan Lee began speaking about the Guardian Project. Then my TV was hijacked by an evil, red- eyed anti-hero!

Yes another surprise and I will admit it; I was sucked in and felt a little frightened by the debut of the NHL's new gimmick, the Guardian Project comic book saga... and I kind of liked it. The evil Devan Dark reminded me of a scary few minutes I experienced in  the Alien Encounter attraction at Disney World. If you aren't familiar, well, let me tell you, that frightening attraction was featured in an intelligently produced documentary about fear. Disney closed it down in 2003.

 Hope the kids, both small and big are dialled into the Guardian Heroes

Then I spent the rest of the game on the phone with Michelle, who is a fan of the Guardians, just not a fan of the video premiere. I kind of don't blame her: she's a Leafs fan, and the Leaf Tree Guardian...well, I just don't know about that one...

That's another All Star Weekend for the books.
 Team Blue: 11   Team Thunder Bay: 10.

The Blue jersey is the best ;o)

 I really want to attend one of these one year, and I decided to make that a one year goal: to attend All Star 2012 in Ottawa! Wish me back to the regular season.

Happy Hockey :o)

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