An annual exhibition ice hockey game traditionally held during the regular NHL season, the National Hockey League All-Star Game is a treasured event amongst fans and players alike. Showcasing some of the top talent in the NHL, this event is typically held in late January or early February. In honor of this year’s event, which takes place on January 28th, 2018 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, let’s take a look at the history of the format of this great game.
The format of this game has changed over time. For instance, between the years of 1947-1968, the All-Star game consisted of the previous season’s Stanley Cup champions versus the other clubs. This happened every year with only two exceptions — in 1951 and 1952, the match-up consisted of two-teams of all-star players, one American-based, the other Canadian-based.
Starting in 1969, however, the league decided to base the match-up on geographical location. Up until 1996, the game consisted of the Wales/Eastern Conference All-Stars versus the Campbell/Western Conference All-Stars. Moreover, the starting line even included a goaltender who was voted in by the fans.
During the 2010-2011 season, the NHL made a change regarding the way in which the teams were selected. Taking their cues from the pages of the fantasy sports rulebook, the East versus West approach was replaced with a player draft that was conducted by the players themselves.
Interestingly enough, the NHL All-Star Game was preceded by the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. Therefore, in 2007, the NHL decided to stay true to its origins by introducing a skills competition to take place during the All-Star game, featuring rookies exclusively.
Since November of 2015, the NHL began using the format it has now. Rather than sticking to the format of one game with two teams, there are now four All-Star teams (based on the four divisions of the league) competing in a single-elimination tournament. Furthermore, the format for all three games is a 3-on-3, each consisting of 10-minute halves. If there is a tie after 20 minutes, it goes directly to a three-round shootout plus as many extra rounds as needed to determine the winner.
Overall, the format of the National Hockey League All-Star Game has continually changed over time. The present format is one of the most entertaining ones yet and we can only hope the league continues to make these positive changes in the future.
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