Let’s just get this out of the way: Carly Jackson stole the show in Buffalo. I know it. You know it. The PHF knows it. I don’t think we need any more evidence that these events should be all about fun for both the players and the fans. This is an opportunity to celebrate and embrace personality, charisma, and all the things that make PHF players great.
As fun as all of the CJ content was, it’s important to remember that fans — specifically Beauts fans — made it happen with the fan vote. That is something that the PHF should definitely keep part of their All-Star celebration moving forward.
But what else should they keep? And what, if anything, should they scrap?
Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of the format heading into the showcase. I wasn’t sure what to expect and what the product was going to look like with 10 minutes of 5v5 followed by five minutes of 3v3 and then a shootout in all three games. It was a little wacky, but, for the most part, wacky worked. It was different and engaging, even if I couldn’t keep track of what the heck the total scores were. So, I definitely think it was a good idea to shake things up and try something different, especially without a skills competition involved.
Why deke when you can CLAP BOMBS, BUD? Bou releases the dragon and beats Chuli. pic.twitter.com/NO3DUuaOtN— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) January 30, 2022
I think most would agree that things picked up and were far more entertaining during the brief 3v3 period of all three games. With limited physicality, hodgepodge lineups, and everyone feeling each other out, things got bogged down at 5v5. The 3v3 and the shootout were definitely where things picked up. The open ice of 3v3 allows for the most skilled players in the league to show their speed and creativity. So, why not have more of it?
Having captains pick their own teams is also something to keep as part of the festivities but there is definitely room for improvement in terms of the fan experience. With that said, the pandemic definitely limited the league’s options, and we should keep that in mind. Moving forward, I think a live draft with fan interaction on a platform like Twitch makes a lot of sense.
This round of honorary coaches was also a big hit. All three have helped advance the women’s game and mean so much to the sport. Mel Davidson, Meghan Chayka, and Sami Jo Small will be a hard group to top at next year’s All-Star event.
Finally, Elaine Chuli getting $500 cash and a $500 gift card from Warrior Hockey for being named MVP was overlooked by many, but I thought it was great to see. This may sound overly simple, but it’s the kind of thing you hope to see a pro player get for being the MVP of the All-Star game. It was neat to see.
Elaine Chuli is named the All-Star MVP. Gets a cash prize! pic.twitter.com/fcr7xO53Pl— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) January 30, 2022
What to Ditch
Let’s ditch the 5v5. As I mentioned earlier, things got bogged down and, at times, it felt more like a scrimmage than a fun showcase of skill. Why not go with 4v4 for ten minutes and then ten minutes of 3v3? Then again, that might be asking a lot of players with the short bench...
With the expansion coming next year, I am all for having three All-Star captains and teams again the next time around. But, if there was no expansion, I’d argue for two teams with “fuller” rosters so we can have longer periods of play with more open ice. Too tough on the players? Just tell them all to coast on defense and cherry-pick. Hey, it’s the All-Star game, right? Let’s see some goals.
Also, have net pegs that keep the nets on. Let’s make sure we have that next year. Pretty please and thank you.
Interestingly enough, Allie Thunstrom — the PHF’s queen of speed — said that she didn’t miss the skills competition this year. However, I know that a lot of fans did. Something that I think the PHF should look into is unique events that go beyond who can shoot the hardest or skate the fastest. The problem here is that you can end up putting a ton of pressure on these players to perform tricks and gimmicks, which is something you want to avoid doing.
Whatever they do, I hope it doesn’t involve those little nets we’ve seen NHL All-Stars passing into. What is this, a Skills Competition for ants?
Oh, one last thing — get rid of offsides. There should be no offsides in All-Star games. Keep things open, free-flowing, and fun.
Game 1: Team Thunstrom 3, Team Darkangelo 2
Team Thunstrom: Curtis (5v5), Curtis (3v3), Thunstrom (SO)
Team Darkangelo: Ganser (SO), Eastwood (SO)
Game 2: Team Darkangelo 3, Team Dempsey 2
Team Darkangelo: Flanagan (5v5), Grant-Mentis (5v5), Grant-Mentis (3v3)
Team Dempsey: Kremer (3v3), Jackson* (SO)
Game 3: Team Dempsey 5, Team Thunstrom 1
Team Dempsey: Marchment (5v5), Howran (5v5), Howran (SO), Brand (SO), Marchment (SO)
Team Thunstrom: Boulier (SO)
*= Yes, Carly Jackson scored a goal. Yes, it was great.