The National Hockey League is apparently turning the All Star Game into a pickup game. At least that is the rumor according to a report from The Canadian Press from unidentified sources. While changing formats in the All Star Game is nothing new to the NHL (remember North America versus The World?) this is the first time two captains will select their teams from an existing pool of All Star caliber players. The pool will be made up the same way as usual with starters being voted in, and the rest of the teams fleshed out via NHL management.
As far as entertaining hockey is concerned, this should be an interesting change to the old East versus West format. But questions have to linger surrounding how the captains are decided (the highest vote getters perhaps?), and how those captains will be able to fill their rosters with the right compliment of forwards and defensemen. Obviously, the captains will have some kind of executive help in staffing their teams, just as a precaution. Still, fans have to like what could boil down to a Team Crosby versus Team Ovechkin.
The only real problem with this format is practice time. Since the teams will not be revealed until at best a few days before the actual game, players will likely not gel in a way to produce the fantastic results the NHL is hoping for. Still, great players are great players, and if they make the All Star Game they should be able to produce on the ice no matter how much, or little, they have practiced together, and All Star Teams do not really get that much practice time together anyway.
The real winners here would be the fans, and the NHL All Star Game is an event for the fans. Just about every hockey fan has engaged in a pickup game at one point or another, and has only imagined the chance of calling out names like Malkin, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, and others to play on their team. What will be extremely interesting is not which All Star is picked by the first captain, rather which of the pool of NHL greats gets selected last. Hey, nobody wants to be picked last for anything, but this is one occasion where it really will not matter.