Out of Bounds: Let the NHL fill the void left by football

For those of you who were at a loss for how to spend your first Sunday afternoon without football, there was another option this past weekend that was a lot more festive and only a little colder.

That option was the NHL All-Star game, the gaudy game of shinny that featured less defense than the NBA and even less goaltending.

Though you may have refused to watch because the evil Montreal Canadian's fans had already made such a debacle of the Eastern Conference starter voting.

Or maybe, like me, you live in the dorms and don't get Versus.

What's Versus?

The cable station that holds the rights to the NHL.

Still wondering? You are not alone.

Or maybe you refused to watch because you saw the ridiculous hat and glasses Alex Ovechkin wore in the skills competition and couldn't bear to see any more of his act.

Whatever the reason, you were better off skipping this break from actual hockey.

Since the NHL lockout of '04-'05, the league has had a serious problem attracting new fans and maintaining its status as one of the four major sports of America.

In the attempt to achieve equal status - not made any easier by ESPN's complete neglect of the league - the NHL has tried many different marketing techniques, most revolving around Sydney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, to try to create a few of the All-Star personas that drive the other major sports.

Unfortunately, there are fundamental differences between the sports that require different packaging.

Hockey, more so than any other sport, despises the one-man show. Unlike in basketball, baseball and to a certain extent football, where big personalities come with the territory, hockey players have their own way of policing the game that prevents such pride.

This was most evident earlier in the season when Sean Avery took a dispute off the ice, made it personal and involved the media. He was immediately kicked off the team, and chastised by his former teammates.

That's the problem the league has in trying to create these stars: The very idea of the hockey superstars fights against traditional hockey ideals.

By all means, Crosby deserves the attention based on his skill alone, but he is also the ultimate team player; playing defense and even fighting (and fighting well) when he has to.

Ovechkin, on the other hand, is not quite as modest in his role. His cockiness shines through in his style of play; a style that produced only one fight in his NHL career, against Philadelphia light-weight Mike Richards - if you can even call it a fight.

One can see the pathetic nine seconds (before Ovechkin gets knocked down and has the referee break it up) on YouTube.

If you continue to click on related videos, you will see the greatest hits of Ovechkin's career: an assortment of illegal checks and big hits on players looking the other way - not one on a player expecting it.

The All-Star game was the ultimate Ovechkin worshiping ground, especially with Crosby out due to an injury (no doubt going the extra mile for his team). There is no hitting in the game and therefore no repercussions for his cheap shots. (Though during the season there is equally little for Ovechkin to worry about, thanks both to the referees and intimidating teammate Donald Brashear keeping an eye on him.)

Ovechkin has all the characteristics of big stars from other sports. He doesn't grind it out, he is not great on defense and on top of that, he is dirty.

Though the NHL believes it is this type of star who will bolster ratings in America, the league should be wary of losing touch with the game's roots by allowing such players to run wild.