The National Hockey League announced today that the 2003 NHL All-Star Game, hosted by the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida, will be the first to use the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference since that format was abandoned in 1997. The NHL had used the North America vs. the Rest of the World format from 1998 to 2002.
“We’re moving away from North America versus the world,” commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday. “We think it worked well, particularly in the Olympic years, but we think in terms of fan identification with players in the game, it makes sense to go back to a more traditional format.”
With NHL players not expected to participate in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, there is no longer a need for the NHL to showcase talent on a national level.
The North American team won three of their five games over the World team, in 1998, 1999 and 2001. The World team claimed victory last year in Los Angeles and in 2000.
The Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format was in place for only three years after the Eastern and Western Conferences replaced the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell Conferences. The Eastern Conference won all three of those games.
This season’s All-Star Game will take place on February 2, 2003.