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The NHL's problem: All-Star Game is a farce

Sidney Crosby has pulled out of the NHL All Star game. And why wouldn't he?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby is not going to Columbus to participate in the NHL All-Star game, we learned yesterday. And really, why would he even go? After playing 43 games and getting hacked, slashed and checked along the way, his body would be much better for a week off than going to an exhibition. As Montreal media member Louis Jean reported, Crosby had an MRI earlier in the week, played the games but along with the docs decided rest was better than All-Star weekend.

The Penguins announced Crosby will miss Tuesday's game vs. Winnipeg due to a league rule that basically suspends a player 1 game if they pull out of the All-Star game with an injury. Seth from Empty Netters summed it up well:

As far as the rule calling for him to skip a regular season game, what an embarrassment for the NHL.

The All-Star Game is important to the NHL in that it serves as a weekend-long meet-and-great for a lot of people. For the league, it's a chance to get its superstars to press the flesh with league sponsors. In order to ensure that, the league has taken this ridiculous step of essentially suspending a player one regular season game for skipping the All-Star Game in order to rest his body and mind.

Forget all the whimsical malarkey about this being a celebration of the game. For the NHL, this is a celebration of the check a terrible beer company in Colorado cuts for them every season.

So to the NHL, making sure Sidney Crosby can shake hands with an ad executive from Honda, Geico, Coors or any of the other corporate behemoths which serve as primary sponsors of the league is far more important than the $100 you have already paid to see Crosby in person next week against the Jets.

Andrew Ebbett will have to suffice.

It is a bizarre rule, but so be it. The NHL has to give an incentive to its stars to show up, and I'm sure almost all of them would rather have a long weekend off and away from the rink than to do a stupid fantasy draft and skills competition and play in an exhibition shinny game that's been devalued by 5 Blackhawks players and 1 Latvian who doesn't belong either in it.

Still, it's a good trade-off for Crosby and the Pens. Even if he misses Tuesday - I've seen some talk he can pay a fine and play - that would make a week off. Plus, Tuesday's game is a non-conference match vs. the Jets. The very next night the Pens head to Washington to play the Capitals, who are suddenly hot on the Pens trail after a great December and January. I know what game I'd rather have Crosby for in the big scheme of things.

Therein lies the NHL's big problem. They've tried to tweak the rules and format to make the All-Star game more exciting to the fans in an attempt to boost the buzz and ratings of the event, but the game has no prestige to the players. It's hard to blame them for not taking a non-serious event seriously. Especially when the alternative is a vacation to some place nice and warm and sunny. This isn't just a hockey problem, we've seen baseball go and do something dumb like make home field advantage for the World Series on the line in their All-Star game to encourage more competition. That's not the route hockey should take.

Hopefully the 2015 All-Star game is a lot of fun for all involved and the fans in Columbus get a great show. Sadly, it won't include Crosby or Evgeni Malkin (who missed the Pens last game with an injury, and may not be healthy for their next game), which takes a lot of the excitement and buzz out of it for Pittsburgh fans.