Lost in the buzz surrounding the potential adoption of 3 on 3 overtime in the regular season by the NHL was this little gem, courtesy of TSN's Bob McKenzie:
Speaking of 3on3, NHL may consider - nothing firm yet by any means - re-formatted NHL All-Star Game that could be multi-team 3-on-3 tourney.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015
It's something of an open secret at this point that the league's All-Star Game is just not that interesting. Marquee players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Nicklas Lidstrom have all opted not to participate in All-Star Games in the past, even when it meant sitting out a regular season game too.
The main problem is that there is no prestige or incentive to play hard. Blocking shots and landing big hits in a game that has no bearing on the standings or home-ice advantage in the playoffs is just not worth the effort. It's gotten to the point where the pregame festivities - namely the All-Star Fantasy Draft - are more exciting and fun than the game itself.
So if the players aren't going to change the way they play the game, perhaps it's time for the NHL to change the way the game is played. So here is how I would go about constructing a 3v3 All-Star Game Tournament.
In order to preserve the same number of All-Star selections, I would create six teams of seven skaters: four forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender. That way, there are 24 forwards, 12 defensemen, and 6 goaltenders, as there are every year.
The fan vote concept - which famously resulted in five Chicago Blackhawks and Zemgus Gergensons starting this year's game - could remain intact, but instead of picking starters, fans would vote for the six team captains. That would both keep the fan vote - which apparently is important to the NHL - while keeping the All-Star Fantasy Draft alive.
Were the NHL to try and get the entire 3v3 tournament done in one night, the rest of All-Star Weekend could continue as it normally does. The only change would be who plays, and when they play.
I would conduct three games of ten minutes between the six different teams. The winning three would advance to the semifinals, while the losing team with the best goal differential would also make it in. That way, there's an incentive for the losing teams to keep games close, and it would allow for an even distribution of teams in semifinals.
From there, the remaining four play semifinal games until only two are left standing, and then a winner is crowned in the final. As a result, there would be six total games played, or exactly 60 minutes of ice time. The broadcast doesn't have to be much longer than it normally is, and every player would see at most 30 minutes on the ice (though likely far less, since everyone plays in the All-Star Game).
The All-Star Game ought to change for the same reason that NHL overtime is changing; the game is faster and better when there's more open ice. Players are understandably worried about getting injured in the All-Star Game, but if they aren't playing as many minutes and have considerably more ice to work with, perhaps players could show off a little more creativity and skill while playing.
Admittedly, it's not perfect. The six team format is a little complicated, and there's only so much tinkering that can be done with the structure if players are not willing to buy in. A slow 3v3 game might be even harder to watch than a slow 5v5 game.
But if the All-Star Game is to be salvaged as a showcase for the sport, the NHL has to do something. Perhaps a bold change that brings back memories of pick-up shinny is what the game needs.