I love the NHL All-Star Game.
Give me a game where Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are teammates. Give me a two-on-one rush where Nikita Kucherov is trying to set up Auston Matthews. Sign me up for any game where the best hockey players on the planet, a waiting list for the Hall of Fame, are gathered in one place and playing a game of hockey.
Okay, is it really a game other than in name only?
Technically, well, no. But technically, who cares?
Yes, it's true. The All-Star Game doesn't resemble a real-deal hockey game. It won't be confused with a Stanley Cup playoff game. Or a regular-season game. Heck, there are preseason games that have more passion and fury than the All-Star Game.
No one plays defense. The only checks handed out are the ones the players get for participating. And the next dirty-glove face wash or whack to the ankles with a stick will the be the first one in decades.
But that's not what the All-Star Game is about. It's not about who wins or loses. They keep score, but the score doesn't matter.
The All-Star Game is not a game. It's a celebration.
It's a party. It's a moment to stop, take a breath and realize how great this sport is. It's taking an afternoon to realize, acknowledge and relish just how wonderful and talented these hockey players are.
To watch Montreal goalie Carey Price snatch a blistering slap shot out of midair.
To watch Ottawa's Erik Karlsson glide beautifully up the ice.
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To watch Tampa Bay sharpshooter Steven Stamkos rip a one-timer from the faceoff dot.
To watch Edmonton's Connor McDavid dangle the puck on this stick as he darts down the slot.
To watch Chicago's Patrick Kane pop off the goalie's water bottle with a wicked wrister.
That's what we come to see. That's what the All-Star Game is all about. It's a reminder of all we love about hockey.
The players. The skills. The game, though it's not a real game.
Want a real game? The NHL regular season has 1,271 of them. Watch one of them.
Want to sit back and enjoy the best the sport has to offer in terms of talent, skill and personality?
Watch the All-Star Game.
Maybe we won't have all the truly great things of a blood-sweat-and-tears hockey game that counts, but you don't have the worst of hockey, either.
You won't see any neutral-zone traps. You won't see any left-wing locks. You won't see smothering defense and holding and clutching and grabbing.
No one wants to see two goals a minute every night. No one wants to see every NHL game be nothing but a bunch of breakaways.
But for one day? For one game?
Not only is it okay. It's nirvana. It's hockey at its most fun.
Instead of complaining about everything the All-Star Game isn't, how about embracing all that it is.
And what is it? A celebration of the sport.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones