Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Pretty much everything I've learned about the world of advertising and marketing has come from AMC's superb TV series Mad Men.
One of the show's best scenes comes in the first season finale when Don Draper is pitching Kodak executives his ideas on the camera company's now-legendary Carousel slide projector. Draper wows the Kodak people and also leaves his own co-workers in awe by delivering a heartfelt speech on the importance of nostalgia in creating a "deeper bond with the product."
The NHL may have a few Mad Men fans in the league office because they have done something similar with the announcement of changes to the format for this year's All-Star Game.
Rather than sticking with the old East vs. West style, the NHL has decided to allow this year's ASG to take the form of a pick-up game. Under the new format, a total of 42 players will be named All-Stars and then two captains will get to choose their teams, picking players from either conference.
Vice President of Hockey and Business Development, Brendan Shanahan, is being credited with coming up with the format change.
The announcement immediately grabbed my attention and brought me back to childhood when we always chose our teams this way, whether the sport be hockey, baseball, basketball or football.
There is something spontaneous and pure about picking teams on the spot. Even though there was always the risk of being the last player chosen, it was an exciting process nonetheless.
But the format change isn't just about nostalgia. The idea of drafting players also fits in perfectly with the modern phenomenon known as fantasy sports. Giving captains the option of choosing one guy over another will fuel debates about who are the most valuable players.
Of course, the public will still have a say in who should be All-Stars and the first six players (3 forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goaltender) will be determined by fan voting. The remaining 36 players will be chosen by the NHL Hockey Operations Department and the team captains will be determined by the players.
The draft will take place on the Friday night before the All-Star Game and the drama will be televised. The game itself is scheduled for January 30 at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. In between those All-Star weekend events, the NHL will continue to hold the SuperSkills competition, although the YoungStars has been mercifully sacrificed.
Instead, the league will showcase its young talent by having a pool of 12 rookies participate in the skills competition. The rookies will also be drafted onto respective teams by the captains.
Former NHL All-Star and the league's current Vice President of Hockey and Business Development, Brendan Shanahan, is being credited with coming up with the format change and he should be applauded for creating new interest in the game.
"The goal of the All-Star format change was designed to make the game more fun for everyone involved," said Shanahan. "By giving the players more input on team selection, as well as Skills Competition matchups, we feel the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft will inject more excitement and intrigue into all the events surrounding All-Star weekend."
But, it's not all good news. While the format changes are welcome, they do little to address the fact that the NHL All-Star Game itself is little more than a sideshow. There is next-to-no defense being played and checking and physical play is basically non-existent. The game usually ends with a final score of 14-12 and the product is only a pale imitation of what an NHL game should look and feel like.
That being said, the NHL should be given points for acknowledging that the ASG is not so much about the level of hockey being played on Sunday but rather the spectacle of the entire weekend.
The new format not only adds to the extravaganza, but also creates the perception that the NHL can still occasionally have a bit of fun and appeal to the nostalgic side in all of us.