As the quality of talent in the CWHL continues to improve, an All-Star Game would be an ideal way to showcase the game. With so many players sharpening their skills in the NCAA, there is no shortage of incoming talent. An All-Star Game would not only celebrate the talents of these outstanding athletes, but help extend the brand that is the CWHL.
In a league that must get more television exposure, an All-Star Game would surely generate some interest among the sporting television networks. The network TSN2 broadcasts the Clarkson Cup (which signifies the end of the CWHL season), so an All-Star Game would be an ideal way to start the CWHL season. If said game could be broadcast on national television, it would surely help to generate interest in the league. Considering many sports networks broadcast soccer matches from Europe, it is also important to focus on sporting Canadiana.
Every worthwhile event that occurs will only help to spread the name of the CWHL, while exposing fans to a product that may have been wrongly overlooked. The league could borrow from the early days of the National Hockey League, and utilize an All-Star format of defending champions versus a team of league all-stars.
Many hockey purists would argue that the NHL All-Star Game was at its highest quality during the format of league champion vs. a group of all-star players. Not only was it a litmus test to prove if the league champion was truly worthy of its championship status, but the games carried a competitive intensity.
With the Montreal Stars having won three of the first four Clarkson Cups, they are the first dynasty of the league. Montreal versus a team of CWHL All-Stars would be an epic confrontation that would bring back that intensity which is lacking in other all-star games. As CWHL players are not compensated by the millions, their careers are defined by winning, and nothing is more visceral than to lose.
The Stars dynasty is very reminiscent of the Edmonton Oilers glory days in the 1980’s, and they have enough talent to defeat the national teams of numerous countries. Consisting of a plethora of stars, hockey fans in Montreal have an embarrassment of riches in the world of women’s ice hockey and many do not even know it. Hosting the first All-Star game in Montreal (with the right promotion behind it) would help fans realize they have a very special team representing their city. Sports fans in Montreal take great pride in their championship teams, and such a game would help introduce many fans to the Stars.
With only six teams in the league, the game could be hosted in a different city every year. While hosting a fan convention (like the NHL does to promote their game), would not be feasible, an exhibition at a shopping mall might be practical. The league could have a meet and greet, and have a display similar to what some NHL teams do outside their arenas (opportunities to take shots with a plastic puck, highlights on a video screen, free merchandise, photo ops). If young fans (and others not familiar with the game) could meet legends like Gililan Apps, Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette, it would turn them into fans for life.
Although the Clarkson Cup has been essential in helping the game grow and gain exposure, an All-Star Game would be another tool that helps promote the game. It would only rival the Winter Games as a display of some of the greatest female players in the world. As a celebration of the game, the opportunity to gain new fans and entice new sponsors would be tremendous motivational factors.