OTTAWA, Ontario - As exciting as All-Star Weekend was here in Ottawa, the lead-up included nearly as much discussion of the players who wouldn't be at the game as those who would. Injuries kept Mikko Koivu, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Dustin Byfuglien out of the game, so it's difficult to fault them, but others just decided they didn't want to go for personal reasons.
This latter group included most notably Alexander Ovechkin, but also respected veterans like Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom. If a player is likely to be selected to go to the All-Star Game, should it be so easy to choose not to?
On Media Day during this past weekend's festivities, Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen made his thoughts on the issue abundantly clear.
"I always think this is your personal choice, but, for the fans, I don't think it's right [to opt out of the game]," Timonen said. "The fans are the ones who pay our salary, and that kind of stuff. They wanted to see [Ovechkin]. He's one of the best players in the world. But at the same time, it's been a long season for him, maybe he's got a tiny injury or something, but as a fan I wanted to see him here."
Brian Elliott acknowledged that it would be hard to make any sort of rules against opting out of the All-Star Game, just like Timonen did, but insisted that he'd never say no to the opportunity--and that for everyone who opts out, there are lots of guys who'd love the chance to play in the All-Star Game.
"You can't really make a restriction on it, guys are going to have to opt out of it injury-wise, or resting certain things, so I think that's inevitable. If you opt out, I'm sure there are tonnes of guys in the league who would love to be here. You do whatever you need to do, but I would never turn down something like this."
Mandating attendance to the All-Star Game isn't likely something that could be done, even if the league used fines in the past to discourage opting out without good reason. But an All-Star Game without all the (healthy) stars isn't really an All-Star Game, is it?