Todd Reirden suggests NHL revise All-Star Game suspension rule

Chris Lingebach
January 15, 2020 - 1:52 pm

For the second year in a row, Alex Ovechkin will serve a one-game suspension for declining to participate in the NHL All-Star Game.

Ovechkin announced his decision last month to abstain from the annual competition, which will be played this year on Saturday, Jan. 25 in St. Louis, despite being voted in as a team captain by the fans. This marks at least the third occasion in his career in which Ovechkin's skipped the event.

Per NHL mandate, a player's decision to withdraw from the All-Star Game – without being excused, say, in the event of injury – will result in an automatic one-game suspension.

Capitals coach Todd Reirden – while making his bi-weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies, presented by Sheehy Auto Stores – was asked whether he agrees with stars of the game forgoing the ASG. Reirden, who will coach the Metropolitan Division all-stars by virtue of the Caps' points lead at the season's halfway point, lamented being put in "a tough spot" by the question.

"I would like to coach Ovi in that game for sure," Reirden allowed. "But I do think that once you've done it for a few years... I understand it's a big game for the NHL, in terms of they want to have the star power and we want to continue to sell the game. That's what really these events are for, is for us to continue to make what I feel is the best game in the world bigger and bigger on a big stage. So you want to have your best there."

"I think in some situations that, you know, whether a guy's a little bit banged up injury-wise or needs a rest, or maybe at a certain age, then it can be something that it's their choice," Reirden said. "You know, after they've kind of served their term, in terms of number of times that they've gone."

Caps GM Brian MacLellan recently made a similar suggestion, that he'd like to see the NHL adopt a provision to the rule by allowing players who meet certain age and service time thresholds to skip the event without consequence. Ovechkin has played in seven previous All-Star Games (2007, '08, '09, '11, '15, '17, 18) and, with 15 NHL seasons under his belt, would almost certainly meet the criteria for any service time adjustment the league might consider appending to the rule.

"I'd like to see the league come up with a different option there, that helps the player and helps out the team, because now we have to play without him for a game, so that's something I certainly don't like doing," Reirden said. "It's a tough one and something that I know that's being discussed throughout the league, and maybe something that will change down the road here."