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How would you improve the NHL all-star game? Add to ...

The big news out of yesterday's GM meetings in Toronto was word that wholesale changes are coming to the all-star game. If the NHL Players' Association agrees in the next few days, the bulk of the teams could be picked by the captains who are appointed for the Eastern and Western Conferences, with the starting lineups still selected in a fan vote.

We askeed our hockey writers to weigh in: If we put you in charge, how would you improve the midseason showcase of NHL talent?

Leave us your suggestions by using the comments function on this article.

DAVID SHOALTS

Nothing motivates athletes like cold hard cash, whether it's 100 bucks in a card game or a million bucks in their contract.

I would have a suitcase with $1-million in cash wheeled out to centre ice for the opening faceoff. The announcer would say, "Gentlemen, here is the prize. Winners take all, losers pay their own way home."

Then watch the fur fly.

Of course, then the league would have to deal with all the crying GMs who wound up with injured players in the most intense game outside of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final.

ROY MACGREGOR

I would play the game on an outdoor rink, as the true Winter Heritage Classic. I would have all the players throw their sticks in the middle of the ice and have one player distribute them by tossing, one by one, the sticks toward each goal. Players would retrieve their sticks and discover what team they were on.

I would have no referees but an honour system. If you're offside, call it. As anyone who plays rec/oldtimer hockey knows, referees cause more trouble than not. No refs, no fights and more honest calls.

I would encourage the players to wear light equipment, perhaps only shinpads, elbow pads and helmets. No contact is already the rule in all-star games so why not use the opportunity to ignite a little speed.

It is a myth that the all-star game is not enjoyed in Canada. A myth put out by former players who never played in one of the games. All rec players love the game as it reminds them of their own humble efforts and they rejoice in seeing the absurdities and delights that wild creativity can bring.

I would allow beer on the bench -- but no smoking.

SEAN GORDON

A provocative proposal Mr. Shoalts, hell I'd vote for it.

Afraid I don't have anything quite as imaginative, I think it might be interesting to go back to the days of where the Stanley Cup champ played a team of selects, or somehow pit the NHL's best against the KHL's, but neither of those is likely to fly in the current environment. So how about this: play the first period five-on-five, the second period four-on-four, and the third period three-on-three. And do away with the NBA-style hot-dogging contests, although I'm sure all the kids love them.

ERIC DUHATSCHEK

I'm with Roy. I'd play it out of doors. I actually believe that as the NHL ponders ways of making the all-star game more meaningful, they actually considered the out-of-doors format - and it may not be beyond the realm of possibility that they do it some day, especially if they ever come north with the game again. Remember, it's as much a marketing showcase for the league as it is an actual hockey game - and nothing warms up the all-star host more than the prospect of 50,000 seats to sell at ridiculously high prices as opposed to 18,000. At least, if they're playing outside, there's an excuse for playing the game at three-quarters speed. And you could still include Mr. Shoalts' suggestion - of a winner-take-all cash prize. With all the shopping that goes on whenever these events go to a major city, it's the only way some of these players would come out of the weekend, breaking even.

JAMES MIRTLE

Expanding on the skills competition is a great idea. I'd like to see things like the hardest shot and fastest skater come down to the players who beat out the rest of the league in those categories.

Most teams now hold their own skills competitions - why not take the top players from those and move them on to a true best on best format? Tabulate the results from around the league and it'll make great water cooler talk to have a full list of the NHL fastest, etc.

You'd end up with more players involved in all-star weekend - including more colourful types instead of the same old all-stars - and could give out hardware (and cash) for winning the various categories every year.

ALLAN MAKI

Here's the plan: do away with the game and make if like the old Battle of the Network Stars.

Bring back Robert Conrad and Dick Van Patten, Gabe Kaplan and Billy Crystal. Get them to commentate and lead the East and West all-star teams through a series of strenuous, skill-testing events, such as competitive eating. Wouldn't you like to see how many hot dogs Sean Avery can stuff in that yap?

Or how about an NHL players' version of the modern-day pentathlon? First, they play out their option. Then they go to salary arbitration. Then they play golf. Then they do a series of bland, say-nothing interviews. Then they complain about playing for their coach, who is the consummate moron. Wait a second. They already do that. Instead, the players should be like the rest of us and try finding a cheap parking spot in downtown Calgary, pay for extra baggage on airline flights, do their own taxes, shop at Costco and complain when the price of gas goes up.

Now that I'd watch.

For at least 30 minutes.

JEFF BLAIR

Make it Team Canada vs. The World in games in Canada or Team USA vs. The World in games in U.S. Let the fans vote.

MATTHEW SEKERES

From this perch, the general managers' proposal is on the right track. Love the idea of captains picking teams, particularly as a televised event. It's got schoolyard charm, and it puts NHL players on the spot by asking them who's better, who's best. Glad that the fan voting element would be retained, and particularly like the fact that the NHL, far from the best marketing operation in sports, is thinking showbusiness.

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