There will be no player representation in Sunday night’s All-Star Game from the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings because Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom are apparently “injured.”
Lidstrom wasn’t “injured” enough to prevent him from scoring two goals in Detroit’s 6-3 loss to Phoenix Tuesday night, but he’s “injured” enough to miss the All-Star Game.
Gee, and the NHL wonders why everyone regards this game as a joke. So because Lidstrom is “injured,” one of the best defensemen in the history of the game and the reigning Norris Trophy winner will not be on display and instead will be replaced by Stephane Robidas. The people who paid hundreds of dollars for tickets only to be bumped out of their seats by corporate sponsors must be thrilled.
The official reason for Lidstrom’s absence is a lingering elbow injury. It’s just not one that will keep him out of any meaningful games. Datsyuk left the Red Wings game in the third period Tuesday night with a hip pointer, leaving coach Mike Babcock, an assistant with the Western Conference team, as the only representative from the Red Wings involved in all-star weekend.
But it’s clear Lidstrom could have played in his 10th All-Star Game if he really wanted to. Perhaps he was concerned the league would spell his name “Lindstrom” on the back of his Western Conference sweater.
The NHL, meanwhile, grumbles about these things privately and basically allows this stuff to happen. The reality is if a player essentially doesn’t feel like playing in the All-Star Game or the YoungStars Game, he doesn’t have to do so. In fact, a lot of NHL teams are just as guilty as the players. They have no problem having them in the lineup before and after the All-Star Game, but often put pressure on their best players to skip the event. That’s exactly what the Maple Leafs did with Mats Sundin a couple of years ago.
So much for this much-ballyhooed “partnership” we all heard about after the lockout. Weren’t the millionaire players and billionaire owners supposed to all be in this thing together? Wasn’t the end of the lockout supposed to usher in a new era of cooperation between the employers and the rank-and-file for the good of the game?
Like the All-Star Game, the partnership is a joke. The players have almost no say in how the business of the NHL is run and they, in turn, treat things such as all-star weekend as a minor annoyance they feel they can slough off if they don’t feel like going.
It’s even worse in the YoungStars Game. Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals has begged off the game for rookies and sophomores for reasons nobody can quite figure out. He played in Washington’s game Tuesday night, but will be replaced by David Perron, essentially because Backstrom played in the game last year and wasn’t crazy about doing a second appearance in a game that is a bigger farce than the actual All-Star Game.
“I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the YoungStars Game last year,” Backstrom said in a statement. “This year I felt like it made sense for me to give someone else that opportunity and use this time and prepare for the second half of the season with the Washington Capitals. I can assure Caps fans that I’m not injured and will be ready to go Tuesday in Boston.”
So playing in a meaningless 3-on-3 game is going to hamper Backstrom’s ability to prepare for the second half of the season? Please. How gullible do you think people are? Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets, meanwhile, apparently has back problems. They just weren’t serious enough to keep him out of any games before the all-star break.
If the NHL and the players want a true partnership, in the next CBA there should be a provision that requires players to appear in the All-Star Game or YoungStars Game unless they have a legitimate injury that keeps them out of the lineup in the games leading up to the All-Star Game.
Seeing Lidstrom score two goals then beg off playing tarnishes the image of a game that is already a waste of time to watch.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.