Last weekend the NFL and NHL held their annual all-star weekends. Along with the actual all-star games, each league also organized skills competitions in which the best players from around the league participated. It was kind of like each league sat down with their friends to play a game of Mario Party, then thought, “shit, 20 turns kind of takes a while, let’s just play mini games instead.” You know what? Not even kind of. It was exactly like that.
Anyway, it was pretty daring of the NHL to try and compete with the NFL. Sure, the NHL invented their skills challenge weekend first, but this seemed bad for business. There had to be one guy that suggested, “hey, maybe we push this back ’til after the Super Bowl.” But since apparently there wasn’t (or the guy that did got fired) we had a weekend full of mini games and meaningless exhibitions.
So, who won the weekend?
With so much going on, it was tough to keep track of everything that happened across both leagues. Luckily, there are people like me in the world with nothing better to do than to watch grown men play dodgeball and skate really fast. Thus, using a few advanced metrics, I give you the winners and losers of the weekend that was, and crown which league was the ultimate winner. Without further ado…
No surprise here, but the NFL won the ratings battle. The Pro Bowl drew 5.3 million viewers (lowest since 2006) while the NHL All-Star Game had 1.2 million viewers (lowest in the last five years). It’s not surprising that the ratings for the games are dwindling since there’s not much incentive for the players to try. But, the big ratings winner of the weekend was the NFL Skills Showdown, which drew 989,000 on a Thursday night. Comparatively, the NHL Skills Challenge had 895,000 viewers on a Saturday with nothing else going on. Hockey put up a fight, it was no match for the NFL. Winner – NFL
Now I may be biased, but the NHL dominated the location battle. LA is probably the best place to hold an all-star game besides Vegas, so buckets off to the NHL there. The NFL decided to host the game in Orlando, which is legitimately my least favorite place on Earth. A city in northern Florida nowhere near the beach and basically run by Disney — what a great reward for America’s most popular sports league! If you listen to Second String, you’ll know that Dubs and I both agree that the Pro Bowl started going south as soon as they moved it from Hawaii. Most magical place on earth? More like most awkward place to get loaded. Trust me…Winner – NHL
This is by far the toughest to call. On one hand, I love how the NHL pins the divisions against one another, so there’s an overlying competition surrounding each competition. On the other hand, the NFL had dodgeball sooooooo the NFL wins.
I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous about dodgeball. There was a lot of hype leading up to the event, but it certainly did not disappoint. Listening to Jon Gruden criticize players’ throwing form and give out strategy was laugh out loud funny. The NFC won the game in large part due to OBJ, who surprisingly has an absolute rocket of an arm, and Alex Smith, who no joke may be the worst dodgeball player I’ve ever seen. You would think being a QB would give him an advantage, but I guess there is actual merit to the whole, “his hands are too small” critique. Plus, the NFL is staying true to form having a dodgeball game every year, by largely ignoring all the concussion concerns that surround the game. Winner – NFL
The All-Star Game:
Comparing the actual all-star games is the easiest call of all time. The NHL has the better game and it’s not even close. 3 on 3 hockey is already exhilarating, so couple that with the divisional tournament format and you’ve got the most exciting hour and a half in sports. Plus, the tournament was high scoring, unlike the Pro Bowl. There were somehow zero total points scored after the first quarter, and only ended up hitting 33 total points. The over/under was 80… Between the three NHL games, they ended up scoring 36 goals. Winner – NHL in a landslide
Alas, we’re deadlocked at 2 points a piece (and I really wanted to work in “alas” as a transition)! It appears too close to call at the moment, so let’s review a few more highlights before I deem a winner of the weekend.
Ryker Kesler – Mini Kesler stole the show this weekend. After a dismal showing in the four line challenge, Ryan Kesler’s son went five hole on Carey Price to score the Pacific’s lone goal in the Shootout Challenge. A+ celebration too with the head first slide into the boards. Can’t wait to see this kid playing in the World Juniors for the USA in a decade.
Kirk Cousins – Kirk didn’t have the best game, but he did have the play of the game. Late in the fourth quarter with the NFC driving to tie the game, Cousins threw a pick that sealed the win for the AFC. But, while Aqib Talib was running back the INT, Cousins came flying into the screen and stripped Talib before he could score. Kind of a try hard move, but if he were asking me if I “liked that,” I did. I did like that.
Mike Smith – Admittedly, I think the four line challenge is probably competition in the NHL Skills Competition, but it did deliver an unreal weekend. The rules of the four line challenge are simple: players shoot from the blue line, center line, far blue line, and crease. If a goalie scores on their shot from the crease, their team is awarded 20 points, basically nullifying the point of any other player shooting similar to catching the snitch in Quidditch. Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith did just that. Nailed the five hole shot from the other side of the ice, and the crowd went bonkers. Awesome moment from a guy whose team will most likely not exist in a few years.
Dak Prescott – Tough weekend for the rookie stud from Dallas. He came in last place during the QB Accuracy competition in a field that included Andy Dalton, and clearly did not understand the rules. He also only completed 7 of his 13 pass attempts for 52 yards in that riveting scoreless first quarter. I usually don’t wish ill will upon other people, but I could really use a sophomore slump from Prescott next year. The internet will be a glorious place if Prescott struggles and Romo is flourishing on the New York Jets.
The Central Division – Kind of surprising that the division that possesses the Blackhawks, Wild, Predators, and Blues did so poorly this weekend. They came in last in the Skills Competition with only 3 points and lost their first round matchup to the Pacific 10-3. To add insult to injury, they also got stuck with the purple jerseys.
I’ll bail them out and say perhaps they were the most hungover team at the competition, thereby making them the coolest, but tough showing for America’s heartland.
It’s a tough call, but in the end I think the winner of the first annual Skills Challenge Challenge is…the NHL. NFL Dodgeball was awesome, but I can’t give them the W after missing the total point line by 47 points. More goals and American kids thriving gives the NHL the edge this year, so tip of the cap to hockey. I think it’s safe to say that after this weekend, we all have hockeywood.