A league that has long tinkered with its all-star event is at it again - this time in favor of something resembling a pick-up game.
Instead of pitting one conference against the other, the National Hockey League will let two captains choose sides from a pool of players for the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina, the NHL said on its website Wednesday.
The NHL says the captains' All-Star Fantasy Draft - to be held on January 28, two days before the game - will make the game more interesting.
"The goal of the All-Star format change was designed to make the game more fun for everyone involved," Brendan Shanahan, an NHL vice president and former all-star, said on the league's website. "By giving the players more input on team selection, as well as skills competition match-ups, we feel the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft will inject more excitement and intrigue into all the events surrounding All-Star weekend."
Here's how it will work: First, fans and league officials will choose an all-star pool of 42 players. Fans, in balloting from November 15 through January 3, will select six of the 42 - three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie, regardless of their conference. League officials will choose the remaining 36 players, the NHL.com report says.
Those 42 all-stars will then vote for two captains, and the captains will take turns picking from the pool to create their teams, each of which will have 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies, according to NHL.com
Most NHL all-star games since 1969 have featured all-stars from one conference (or division, before the league had conferences) playing all-stars from the other. But in 1979, the NHL temporarily replaced its all-star game with a Challenge Cup, pitting NHL all-stars in a series of games against a star-studded team from the Soviet Union. A similar NHL vs. USSR event replaced the all-star game in 1987.
In 1998, the league nixed the conference format in favor of pitting NHL all-stars from North America against NHL all-stars from the rest of the world. The game reverted to conference vs. conference in 2003.