I have to admit that as I was working on the story about next season's UHL All-Star Game coming to Fort Wayne, I felt pretty much next to nothing personally, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I guess I'm apathetic (there's a pun there if you think hard enough. OK, don't).
When I was a kid, (long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away) I watched all the all-star games. They were special, they were magical. There was a pretty good chance you'd get to see something you'd never seen before or ever would again, such as Bo Jackson running up the wall after making a catch, a great Mario Lemieux pass or maybe even a Cub being named MVP (that was the only chance something like that could happen). Remember when NBA players seemed to have competitions to see who could get the snazziest pass?
I wondered if the American League would ever beat the National League, if anyone could slow down Bobby Orr even with that much talent on the ice or if Gretzky would make some goaltender cry. Then there was the chance to see Bird, Jordan and Barkley on the same team against Magic, not to mention Magic coming out of retirement for one last game. That was cool!
I really enjoyed the 1994 IHL All-Star Game when it was here because it was part of something bigger, Fort Wayne's Bicentennial celebration along with the CBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The hockey game was the kickoff to the year.
So why do I feel so blase about all-star games today? I realized that I haven't watched any all-star game in over two years. I think the last one was the North America vs. the World format the NHL used, and I only watched that for a period because it was pre-empted by college basketball. That was different. Now it's brand McDonald's-KMart-7/11 vs. Wendy's-Target-Circle K.
I can't for the life of me right now tell you which team Guy Dupuis played for last month or even who the sponsors were last year. Does everything have to be corporate, even a game that is supposedly just for the fans? Can't you just feel the adrenalin to bid on the (insert corporation here) jersey at the auction? Oh, boy! Just try holding me back.
Yes, I understand the need to cut costs. Sigh.
I think the major leagues have recognized this general attitude and that's why we have skills challenges, home run contests and slam dunk contests now. The games, though still the cornerstone, are just part of a bigger extravaganza. You can have a good time even if the game is boring.
Unless it's a bonus in their contracts, I think the players are bored with it as well, and I don't blame them. To the players, it's another chance to get yelled at by the fans,
another chance to get hurt in a game they aren't getting paid for. It's
not as much fun for them any more, either. I understand perfectly when some of them say they'd rather stay home and rest, though ``spend more time with my family,'' is now officially the No. 1 cliche in sports, passing ``they just wanted it more than we did.'' Uh, huh, right, then why are you on the golf course all the time?
So that's where I'm at on the UHL All-Star Game. Eh. No juice whatsoever.
Maybe it's just too far away. I'm open-minded, and the UHL has 10 months to convince me this is something special and I'll give them every bit of that opportunity. It's just hard for them to come up with something that doesn't cost a bajillion dollars, but I know they want to come up with something special, too.
What I would love to see is a game against the Central Hockey League stars, or the East Coast Hockey League stars. Former IHL Commissioner Tom Berry almost had the deal worked out a couple of years ago with the help of UHL Commissioner Richard Brosal. There was talk of two games, one in Fort Wayne and one in Indianapolis. Now that really would have been cool.
Here's an idea: Drop all the corporate crap (please, Lord), have the east vs. the west, with a winner take all bonus. Have all the players wear traditional, old-school uniforms, home and road, so there's more color. Try out some potential new rules as well, like limiting the area for the goaltender.
There has to be a way to make the game even the tiniest bit competitive and entertaining, doesn't there? Or maybe I'll just skip it to spend time on the golf course with the family. Unfortunately, I don't play golf or have a family. I better get busy this summer.
Any ideas? On the all-star game, that is.