It has been nearly 20 years since the East clashed with the West in a true WHL best-on-best All-Star Game.
Since 2000-01, that game was replaced in various forms, most of which have been Team WHL against a Russian Junior All-Star team or prospective U20 World Junior group.
Some of those games have been spectacular and some have been duds. It’s a joy for scouts because they get to watch Canadian Western League draft-eligible players against some of the best.
Sometimes, the game is less draft-eligible focused and looks at World Junior hopefuls, depends on the particular year.
This season, Team WHL beat the Russians 2-1, before Russia got the best of Team WHL 3-1 on Tuesday. They weren’t the best, but not the worst either.
There have been plenty of ideas proposed to freshen up the game, including from The Pipeline Show host Guy Flaming.
He suggested Team WHL play against a world group, which would bring the Americans into the fold. Instead of bringing over a Russian team that only featured one WHLer this year, Flaming thinks a WHL world team could have players from up to eight countries and also show off more of the League’s top talent. It’s a fun, new and different idea.
Then you would lose the reason Hockey Canada is involved. It's an evaluation tool for them prior to the WJC. My format keeps that intact. https://t.co/WCfFeWsuZC
— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) November 6, 2018
While that could be interesting, what about a good old fashion all-star weekend?
The NHL has freshened up their game with a three-on-three tournament and with so much skill across the WHL, that could be fun to see players in that environment who fans don’t often get to see.
The CIBC Canada Russia Series, which also pits an OHL and QMJHL all-star groups against the Russians is good for Hockey Canada because it gives them another look at world junior hopefuls.
I also recognize the current format plays well on TV. It’s good for scouts too, but is it good for the players or what’s best for the fans?
I would argue that getting back to the grassroots, having more fun and allowing these kids to be kids should be the focus.
Throw the sticks in the middle and separate into a couple teams for a weekend would be a bundle of fun. There’s so much untapped personality in the WHL and to give the kids a platform to show that off would only help the league.
Fastest player in the WHL? who knows? Hardest shot, heck let’s find out.
Showcase a different community across the league each year, too.
With such a competitive year of hockey, that includes long road trips, night-in and night-out battles over the course of seven months, why not let the players have a little fun.
Logistically, finding a weekend over the WHL season that will work would be tough, but not impossible with building availability and the need to fit in a 68 game schedule.
With all the reasons not to do it, fun for the players and fans should be the priority and still makes the most sense to bring a new wrinkle to an old game.