OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Fans cheer as they wait for the Ottawa Senators to walk the red carpet during the Senators' 20th anniversary pre-game ceremonies prior to the start of the NHL home opener against the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The NHL has been torn apart for its All-Star voting process, which rewards fans who stuff the ballot box for undeserving players. But really, the system is a nice balance between honoring true All-Stars and letting the host team have their fun.
The NHL will announce the remaining list of NHL All-Stars today, as we prepare for the 2012 festivities in Ottawa beginning January 27. At first glance, this system makes absolutely no sense: the fans vote in six players, and the league unilaterally selects the remaining 36. They also select 12 rookies, giving each team a total of 27 players.
Fans only have a voice when it comes to about 11 percent of the All-Star roster.
Even if it means Rory Fitzpatrick can get into the All-Star Game, fan voting has always been a crucial part of the All-Star experience. But these last few years, it's been marginalized to the point where there's really no point in taking the time to fill out a ballot. I'll admit: I may have filled out one ballot this year, but I don't actually remember doing it. It's possible I didn't do it at all.
All-Star voting in the NHL is an after thought, but if done right, it could be a huge opportunity for the NHL to promote itself. Unfortunately, though, that would require some actual interest in the All-Star Game itself, of which there isn't much, even among the most diehard of hockey fans.
That's why the current system the NHL has in place is actually sort of ideal.
Consider: Everybody has complained about the ballot-stuffing that's gone on in recent years. When the All-Star Game was in Montreal a few years back, Canadiens fans turned the voting process into a joke, electing four Habs to the starting lineup. This year in Ottawa, it's been more of the same, with four Senators being voted in by the fans, even though only one of them is really, truly deserving of the honor.
We can all feign outrage about this -- how didn't Claude Giroux or Phil Kessel or Henrik Sedin get voted in first! They lead the league in points! -- but the reality is that it really doesn't matter, nor does it really upset us. If it does upset us, all we have to do is wait until Thursday afternoon, when the NHL announces the rest of the teams and those true All-Stars are named to the roster. Giroux, Sedin, Kessel, Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom are going to be All-Stars no matter what, you know?
Ottawa fans did indeed vote in a few undeserving players, but honestly, Ottawa fans are some of the only fans that truly care about this game. It's in their city, in their arena, and they're going to watch the hell out of it. The rest of us might, and some of us might even travel to go see the game, but we don't care nearly as much about it as Senators fans.
Let them have their fun. So what if Milan Michalek, the NHL's 67th-ranked scorer, gets named to the game undeservedly? Is he really taking away that much from another player who may have deserved it just a smidge more? It's his city, his arena, and his fans who will be cheering him on.
They care more than we do. That's why those guys are there in the first place.