Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin thanked fans for voting for him into the NHL all-star game but declined the honour, saying he needs to listen to his body.
The pass on participating in the game – which, to his credit, Ovechkin has skated in seven times, the second-most appearances by active NHLers – will see a punishment of a one-game suspension.
It’s a penalty players and their teams seem willing to take.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has also declined the invite. Fleury will use the time off to rest and be with his family after losing his father in November.
One can understand why two players who have combined for 12 all-star appearances and are on the wrong side of 30 would rather rest and recoup for the home stretch of the season.
Those factors don’t explain why Detroit’s Dylan Larkin – at 23 with only one all-star appearance (2016) – asked fans not to vote him into the game as he prefers the time off.
NHL stars opting out of the all-star game is a concern for the league.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the players selected for the game who opt out are neglecting to fulfill their obligation as players.
The all-star game does contribute to hockey-related revenues, which are important to the NHL, its owners and players, but is it time for the league to look at a different showcase for its stars? Or place the game at a different time in the schedule, not right before the playoff push?
As it’s the players selected as all-stars who carry the heavy workloads for their respective teams, no one – owners, coaches, teammates or fans – is going to fault a superstar for wanting to be at their best when it matters most.