Last season, while most NHL fans mourned the loss of half a season, Columbus hockey fans also had to deal with the loss of the 2013 All Star Game. Due to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, we likely won’t know for awhile whether the 2015 NHL All-Star Game will still be awarded to Columbus. I understand the excitement surrounding the All-Star Game with Columbus hockey fans, but there is another event that I would much rather see awarded to Columbus. As I detailed in a post last week, Columbus is a perfect candidate for the Stadium Series. I believe the city of Columbus and its hockey fans should be calling for the Stadium Series, rather than the All-Star Game.
In the past, the All-Star game has often been awarded to cities that the NHL is trying to grow the game in. Ottawa and Montreal do not fit this description, but Atlanta, Dallas, and Sunrise, FL do. While Columbus does have a great hockey fanbase, I can understand placing it in the category of cities that the game of hockey could use some growth. But is the NHL All-star game really the best way to do that? The game is a glorified pickup game that barely resembles an actual game of hockey. Sure all of the NHL’s stars are taking the ice, but due to nationally televised games, NHL Gamecenter, and Center Ice, fans are hardly starved of opportunities to see Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin play. If the NHL will wants to grow the game in Columbus, give them a real hockey game and the team they will be cheering for.
An outdoor game at Ohio Stadium would feature a crowd nearly 5 times larger than an All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena, real hockey with all of the hitting and defense intact, and the entire Blue Jackets lineup. An All-Star game will bring in fans with some interest in hockey, but an outdoor game would even attract the non-hockey crowd that just wants to be a part of the spectacle of 100,000 fans watching a hockey game in Ohio Stadium. More importantly, it will get them to watch the true representation of hockey that the All-Star game cannot supply.
I understand that the NHL All-Star game has grown into a multi-day event, with the fantasy draft, skills competition, and All-star game attracting media attention and crowds. An outdoor game does not have to be a one day event. There is the potential for an alumni game and Ohio State (as well as other local schools) could host games during the week. An outdoor hockey game between Ohio State and Michigan would be a big draw.
An All-Star game would be a tremendous event for the city and I will be happy if the NHL does award the 2015 game to Columbus. However, this city is a true hockey city that has the potential to grow. I believe the best option to do that would be a NHL Stadium Series game. The fans and city of Columbus should voice that opinion to the NHL. Don’t sell yourselves short Columbus!