Column: Thinking about February on a hot July day

Brendan McCarthy
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You might think it was Thursday’s sticky weather — which left my shirt looking like I lost a water-balloon showdown to the grandkids— that has me musing about February, but the truth is I’d change my soggy top 10 times a day rather than have to adopt a mid-winter wardrobe.

Nope, it’s last week’s announcement by the National Hockey League that it will be allowing its players to participate in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that sparked the following thoughts. That and a future-filed item from six months ago, when American Hockey League president Dave Andrews suggested it would take a positive Olympic decision by the NHL to make it possible for St. John’s to be host city for the 2014 AHL All-Star Game.

There’s much more to St. John’s potentially hosting the all-star game than big-leaguers in Sochi, but it is important since Olympic years are the only ones when this city can be reasonably be expected to put off the event.

Normally, the AHL sets aside two days for All-Star Games and its collateral happenings, and that doesn’t allow enough time and contingency to get participants in and out of St. John’s, sitting on the far edge of a league map that also stretches to Texas and British Columbia.

But that time window is wider in Olympic years. And now that the NHL is freeing up players for Sochi, another possible impediment has disappeared.

There had been real concern there might not be an AHL All-Star game in 2014 at all, because if NHLers weren’t going, it’s likely many national teams would draw heavily on American league rosters, siphoning off most sensible all-star candidates.

With all that cleared up,  it would seem to point to an AHL All-Star announcement soon. After all, it’s been known for months that Rochester, N.Y., will be site of the league’s Winter Classic in December and the IceCaps, the only team known to have expressed interest in holding the 2014 all-star party, will need sufficient lead time to prepare, if St. John’s is indeed, the choice.

The host team is financially — and for the most part, operationally —   responsible for the all-star event. So if the take doesn’t exceed expenses, what would be the point  the point?

Also to be considered is the extra burden that would be placed on the IceCaps’ front office staff (the league’s smallest, by the way), which would already be busy with day-to-day regular season duties.

Finally, there is the perceived need to jazz up the event.

Mile One successfully hosted the AHL All-Star Game in 2002 (also, you may note, an Olympic year), but since then, all-star games in all sports, at most levels, have begun to suffer from the blahs, and the AHL All-Star Classic is no exception.

In fact, in 2012, there wasn’t a single league city interested enough to commit to hosting the event, so it had to be held in Atlantic City, N.J., where no pro hockey team operates.

When things go so flat, how do you put some fizz into the fete?

Years ago, it was a skills competition and variations on the matchup, including Canadian-based teams vs American-based clubs (with only four teams out of 30 in Canada, that wouldn’t work now) or a team of Canadian players taking on another with players from the U.S. and around the world.

But something new is desperately needed and at the 2013 All-Star Game in Providence, R.I., Andrews gave some indication of a possible alternative that might just work, saying  “We are looking at a different scenario in terms of whether we'll (keep) the East-West format or if we might have a team from elsewhere, from Europe, to play (against an AHL all-Star team).”

So will stars appear here in February? To this point the league and IceCaps have only said they have held positive talks on the matter, but with Olympic issue dealt with, the expectation is some sort of pronouncement should be forthcoming soon.

I do wonder that should this weather persists, if a little talk about All-Star games and things on ice might at least help subconsciously and keep the laundry hamper from overflowing.



Organizations: AHL All-Star Game.There, National Hockey League, American Hockey League IceCaps All-Star Games

Geographic location: Sochi, Texas, British Columbia Rochester, N.Y. Atlantic City Canada U.S. Providence, R.I. Europe

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