Stars fading?

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

For all the goodwill and positive media coverage the NHL received south of the border after the Winter Classic -- followed by subsequent reports that U.S. viewership of NHL games is rising -- there is still one area where Americans remain largely indifferent.

The All-Star Game -- and, in particular, its voting process -- have failed to inspire Americans.

To be fair, the relevance of any all-star event in major league sports has decreased dramatically, especially in the last decade. Fans have grown tired of the games' lack of intensity, and any new twists in the contests tend to feel trite or contrived.

But that hasn't stopped the NHL from advertising the game as one of its premier events, and therefore the reaction it receives has to be taken seriously.

If you're to believe the National Hockey League, American interest in the game is growing.

The All-Star Game's starting lineup as selected by the fans suggests otherwise, however.

The 12 players voted to start in this year's game can be slotted into three categories: Players from Canadian teams; Canadian-born players on American teams; and foreign-born players on American teams with a widespread fan base.

It's safe to say the players from Canadian teams -- Roberto Luongo, Andrei Markov, Daniel Alfredsson, Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf -- likely received most of their votes from this side of the border.

But should we just assume the seven starters from American teams received most of their support from U.S. voters?

Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur remain close to the hearts of many Canadians, and both play for teams with unremarkable fan bases. Sidney Crosby undoubtedly received plenty of backing from fans in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere in the U.S.), but the young phenom also has plenty of supporters in Canada. Surely this country's voters placed many marks beside his name.

That leaves Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom in the Western Conference, as well as Zdeno Chara representing Boston from the East.

It would be foolish to assume there wasn't notable American support for these players -- both Detroit and Boston are strong NHL markets with long traditions. That being said, the legions of Canadians who cheer for the Original Six teams other than Toronto and Montreal likely played a major role in landing these four players in the lineup as well.

While it looks like some U.S. fans were attempting to make their voices heard in all-star balloting, the game still appears to have a long way to go to stir up much passion south of the border.

MINNY WIN FOR JUNIORS

With the world junior hockey championship staying in North America from 2009 to 2012, many Canadian cities will likely want a shot after Ottawa has its turn next year. The American host in 2011 has also yet to be announced, and one of the more intriguing reports says Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., are chasing the world juniors.

Allowing both cities to host would cover a significant chunk of the state's hockey hotbed, and the Canadian border is only three hours away from Duluth.

If it were up to Canadians, the tournament would be an annual fixture in this country. However, Minnesotans' love for the sport -- at all levels -- should not be dismissed. Add the proximity to Canada, and you may have the closest thing to a win-win situation for the event in the U.S.


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