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(Derek Ruttan)
(Derek Ruttan)

OHL axes annual all-star game Add to ...

The Ontario Hockey League has decided to pull the plug on its annual all-star game in an effort to reduce player workload and injuries.

Commissioner David Branch announced the scheduling change Tuesday during a media conference call previewing the 2010-11 season, which kicks off Thursday.

Fatigue was the main concern, Branch said.

"It was the number one factor as to why we chose to not have an all-star game moving forward," said Branch. "I think that while the players loved it, it just gets to a point where we're taxing some of those key players far too much."

In addition to the OHL's regular season and playoffs, many of the league's stars compete in other annual tournaments, including the world junior championship and the Subway Super Series against Russian players.

The Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects Game, a showcase for draft-eligible players, is also held annually.

"Sometimes your star players play a little bit too much when you add in all these other types of games," said Dave Cameron, head coach of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors and Canada's national junior team.

The OHL joins the Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in having no all-star event.

Originally called the Chrysler Cup, the OHL held its first all-star game in 1977. Renamed the Chrysler Challenge Cup in 1986, the event ran continuously until 1992. That year, the WHL, QMJHL and OHL began participating in the CHL All-Star Challenge with each league sending a team to the event.

That tournament was replaced in 1996 by the CHL Top Prospects game, making it the only year the OHL has not had an all-star event of some sort since the original game in 1977.

Branch acknowledged that nixing the game was a difficult decision, adding that the OHL had considered many options before settling on removing it from the schedule.

"We even discussed not bringing players who were in the world junior tournament or played in the Subway Series," said Branch. "But then the fans that are in the host centre of the all star game wouldn't necessarily appreciate that, I'm sure."

Branch said he is committed to the other junior hockey showcase events and said the league is still willing to explore options for a future all-star event.

"We might choose to look at another concept going forward," said Branch. "Clearly, the issue of the number of times we call upon the same players was our leading factor."

Branch also left the door open for an outdoor game during the regular season as long as the right facilities are in place. The commissioner used the WHL's two outdoor games this season as an example.

"The WHL had the benefit of one of the games being played using the same facility for the Winter Classic (in Calgary) that the NHL are having," said Branch. "When the NHL brings the Winter Classic into an Ontario marketplace, if it should do so, that would be the obvious time that we would seize that opportunity."

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