As a kid, I loved the NHL All Star game.
How could you not? It's the only chance to you get to watch the best hockey players in the NHL play together on a dream team. I used to take my hockey cards and dream up teams. Gretzky with Mario. Hawerchuk with Goulet. Bourque and Coffey on the same blue line. It could never happen, except for on NHL All Star Weekend.
As an adult you come to realize that the game is a farce. The players are not exactly trying that hard. There is little at stake and even less physicality. In fact it resembles pond hockey more than a NHL game. So I stopped watching the All Star game long ago. It's for the kids. For the rest of us, it is what it is.
On Friday night I turned on All Stars Skill Competition and found myself really quite enjoying the festivities.
The two marquee events - the hardest shooter and faster skater - were fantastic. The accuracy shooting was a little awkward but always intriguing. The grand finale was a little hokey, with the players shooting at targets from high above the ice. But it was fun.
But do you know what I enjoyed most? The 3 on 3 women's hockey game.
It was fantastic hockey with wonderful hockey skill on display. It left me wanting more. And all the talk about the eventual and inevitable NHL sponsored women's league left me wanting more. I want to see more of Marie Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.
I think what I liked best about it was the fact that the game is a little bit slower. I love the breathtaking speed that the NHL is played with now, but slowing the game down a touch, where quickness is more important than all out speed, made me want to see more of it. The women's game has always been different than the men's game. It has to be different to successfully put the comparisons aside.
The only bad part about the women's game was that it was 3 on 3. The women do not play 3 on 3, so as great as it was it could have been better. The strategies involved in 3 on 3 were foreign to these athletes. You could tell they were gassed by the end of the periods, perhaps underestimating just how taxing the 3 on 3 game must be.
I really hope the NHL puts together their inevitable women's league by next season. I do believe they have a plan ready to roll out when the time is right. It's far too complicated for most of us to understand, but the NHL will continue to wait until the failure of the NWHL for legal reasons. They will continue to wait, as will most of the athletes who are boycotting the NWHL in hopes that it fails. These hockey stars not playing for two seasons is detrimental to women's hockey. They need to be on the ice and ready to star when the NHL's new league opens. The sports market is ready for it.