Connor McDavid input in NHL All-Star Skills event draws mixed reactions

Feb 3, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) reacts during the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) reacts during the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2024 NHL All-Star Skills competition in Toronto will have a new look compared to previous events, in part thanks to Connor McDavid.

This season’s NHL All-Star Skills Competition is going to be significantly different to previous ones. Connor McDavid had a major role to play in the revamp, but reaction to the new setup has been mixed.

As per ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski, NHL senior VP and chief content officer Steve Mayer met McDavid multiple times, to get his input. The league was looking for feedback on what the players wanted from the event, and who better to ask than the best player in the game.

As much as the NHL’s focus is about putting on a show at the annual event, they also want it to be less gimmickry and more about the skill of the players. However, not everyone is happy with the new format.

The main reason for this is that only 12 players will participate in the latest version of the event, with only those taking part in the All-Star Game eligible to be included. Further, eight of the players will be determined by the league’s hockey operations department and the NHLPA, while the other four will come courtesy of a fan vote.

Reasons for Connor McDavid criticism

Critics on social media were further frustrated due to McDavid’s involvement in the new method for participation. That with less players involved, he somehow manipulated the new participation rules to favour himself.

This is not the first time the six-time All-Star has faced criticism this season. So-called fans took shots at him when the Oilers started poorly, and there was controversy surrounding his recent induction into the Canada Hall of Fame.

However, as per Wyshynski, it should be noted the league already had a rough framework for how they wanted the Skills Competition changed, prior to meeting the Oilers captain. Interestingly, it was actually NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman who met with him first, during last season’s playoffs.

Mayer then took over the baton and started meeting McDavid, beginning with the NHL Awards in Nashville. You imagine the latter was in a good mood for any conversations, with him winning his fourth Ted Lindsay Award and third Hart Memorial Trophy.

In any event, McDavid endorsed the framework for the revamped Skills Competition and provided his input. As per Wyshynski, Mayer said:

"“You could see that he was interested. His support for this format kind of led us to develop it more. It made us feel like we were on the right path.”"

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Choosing the actual skills

One of the biggest aspects of McDavid’s involvement, was helping decide the actual skills to be displayed during the event. In the end they settled on eight, including fastest skater, hardest shot, stick handling, one-timers, passing challenge, accuracy shooting, a shootout, and obstacle course.

Objectively, we can appreciate why critics would be against just 12 players being involved. With at least one player being selected for the All-Star Game from all 32 teams, only just over one-third of the league will be participating in the Skills Competition.

Further, the ratio of players the fans get to vote for is not in their favour. We would have found it fairer/better, if it was a 50-50 split in terms of those selected by the NHL and the fans respectively.

Whether this impacts the viewership remains to be seen, but you imagine the NHL would have factored this all in. The thinking is that having the very best/most skilful players on display will be more than enough to make people interested in watching.

For his part, Bettman is happy with the new format. As per Nicholas J. Cotsonika of, he said:

"“We wanted to do something that the players would have fun with and want to participate in. … We’ll crown an All-Star All-Star as the Skills champion, and that should be a lot of fun.”"

One criticism which does need to be knocked on the head, is about the winner getting $1 million. Rather than the player themselves receiving the money, it will go to a charity of their choosing.

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Overall, there are a lot more positives than negatives surrounding the revamp, which you can read more about here. The Skills Competition will take place at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Feb. 2, beginning at 7 pm, and we’re pretty confident it will include Mr. Connor McDavid.