NEW YORK (AP) The NHL will play a 3-on-3 All-Star tournament instead of a traditional All-Star game.
The NHL and the players union announced the format change Wednesday for the Sunday, Jan. 31 event in Nashville, Tennessee.
''We are introducing a creative new format this year in Nashville not only as a way to enhance the competitiveness of the event, but also as a vehicle to highlight and emphasize the incredible skill, speed and athleticism it takes to play our game,'' NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.
Players will represent the Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions in the $1 million winner-take-all tournament that will have three 20-minute games. The Central will open against the Pacific, and the Atlantic will face the Metropolitan in the semifinals, with the winners advancing to the championship game.
''I just think the All-Star game's fantastic for those who attend it,'' Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. ''As far as being a spectator sport on TV, it sure hasn't been that.''
Last season, Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12 in Columbus, Ohio.
''It was pretty much just pond hockey with guys that didn't care too much,'' said forward Daniel Winnik, Toronto player representative. ''I think this'll bring more excitement with the 3-on-3. We have it in overtime, and I think with the prize pool, guys are going to want to play hard and win.''
Each team will have six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. One player from each division will be determined in fan voting and the remaining 40 players will be selected by the NHL hockey operations department, with at least one player from each NHL team.
''It's going to be awful, probably,'' Toronto goalie James Reimer said. ''I think the eight goalies that get picked, it's going to be like a death sentence.''
The NHL All-Star Skills Competition will be played Saturday, Jan. 30.