Sure, there are lots of NHL stars in Montreal this weekend for the All-Star game. It’s the “All” part that is a bit misleading.
Injuries, family matters, and the desire to get a few days of rest in the middle of a grueling ice hockey season are certainly legitimate reasons for some to stay home when the opportunity presents itself. However, if the All-Star game is going to remain a viable spectacle in most seasons, the biggest names in the game need to show up.
Sidney Crosby got it half right on Friday when he arrived in Montreal to meet the media.
It was announced on Thursday that a knee injury would keep the NHL’s most famous name and face out of today’s game — the second straight year he was forced to miss the contest — but in order to maintain his eligibility for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first game after the break, Crosby had to fulfill some in-person obligations during the weekend.
Sweden’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings also turned down their All-Star invitations, citing injuries, but they didn’t make it to Montreal and will have to sit out their club’s next game on Tuesday.
Lidstrom, who was dealing with an ankle injury, and Datsyuk, bothered by a sore hip, were not suspended and will still be paid even though they will miss a game. Their absences leave Detroit with no representatives in Montreal as the host Canadiens continue to celebrate the franchise’s 100th anniversary.
“I want to be here,” said New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, a former Canadiens player. “Being an All-Star is something very special for me. I’m really proud of it and I am really enjoying it. It’s not a matter of having to go, I want to be here.”
The league’s general managers made the decision a year ago to issue a bit of a punishment to those who skip the weekend. It came to pass after several players pulled out of the festivities last year.
It was not that anyone was questioning whether these players are actually hurt, it’s a matter of justifying how they can play either right before the break or right after, but not be well enough to showcase their talents on this stage.
Lidstrom was being punished even though the 38-year-old Norris Trophy-winning defenseman has played in 10 All-Star games. Bettman wanted this rule enacted to protect the importance of the game.