Let me preface this article with two acknowledgements:
1) I am very biased in this argument, as I am first and foremost a Bostonian and a Boston sports fan.
2) I could give two poops about All-Star games. I don’t watch the games, and aside from the Home Run Derby, the skills competitions are not as entertaining as they used to be. I think All-Star games are stupid, and I think the players think they are stupid (except in the NBA where they are a chance to build brands and assemble super-teams for the future – see Kyrie and Durant).
With that being said, I am confused by the lack of All-Star games hosted by Boston over the past two decades.
Of the three major sports (NHL, NBA, MLB), Boston has hosted just two all-star games in the 33 years that I have been alive.
So why have these leagues not been back to Beantown and which sport is most likely to return first?
MLB All-Star Game
Hosted in Boston: 4 times – 1937 (at National League Park, home of the Boston Bees), 1946, 1961, 1999 (at Fenway Park)
Let’s start with the most recent All-Star game in Boston, which is the 1999 MLB All-Star game at Fenway Park.
An MLB selection committee chooses the locations for the All-Star game, ostensibly based on bids submitted by the teams. There is no specific criteria for the selection of a venue. Logically, the league tries to showcase new ballparks, coordinate with historic milestones and spread the game around to cities that have not hosted in a while.
Historically, the venues have alternated between American League and National League ballparks, but that tradition has clearly gone out the window. Prior to 2019’s All-Star game in Cleveland, the past four Midsummer Classics were in National League ballparks. The next two are scheduled for Atlanta and Dodger Stadium. In 2026 the Phillies will host the event in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Clearly, the American League is overdue for some hosting duties.
True, Fenway Park is still in a “wait your turn” phase of bringing back an All-Star game. Since 1999, no team has hosted the All-Star game more than once. That will change when Atlanta, who hosted in 2000 at Turner Field, shows off Truist Park in 2021. Still, only the Tampa Bay Rays are the only team yet to host an All-Star game. If Boston’s time is not here again, it is definitely coming around soon.
According to a 2019 report, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy has often expressed desire to bring the All-Star game back to Boston. The report said that Kennedy and the Red Sox were gathering information and were potentially looking at bidding to host in 2029 to mark the 30th anniversary of their last hosting.
I don’t think the anniversary of the last time they hosted is a real convincing reason to bring the All-Star Game to Boston. Apparently, neither do the Red Sox, as they are reportedly flexible on the year. But if that’s what gets the Sox to bid and the league to award them the game, so be it.
One final acknowledgement – the MLB produces the All-Star game. The league, not the host, gets the money from tickets, concessions, and parking. Fenway is a small stadium, which means less fans and less money for the league. In fact, 1999’s All-Star game at Fenway (34,187) was the lowest attended Midsummer Classic since 1961 (also at Fenway – 31,851).
NHL All-Star Game
Hosted in Boston: 2 times – 1971 (at Boston Garden), 1996 (at Fleetcenter – now TD Garden)
The NHL has clearly put an emphasis on giving their All-Stars a warm vacation spot to go along with their having to come play in the All-Star game. Over the past ten years, All-Star locations have included Raleigh, Nashville, LA, Tampa and San Jose.
Since Boston hosted in 1996, the NHL has awarded the All-Star game to San Jose twice, Tampa twice, and Los Angeles twice. Before Covid caused its postponement, the 2021 game was set to be played in Sunrise, Florida, who hosted the event in 2003 as well.
Let’s make sure that sinks in. The Florida Panthers were awarded the NHL All-Star game twice before the Bruins, an Original Six team, got it back again.
It is worth noting that there have been fewer opportunities in the NHL.
In addition to the Covid postponement this year, the 2013 and 2005 All-Star Games were postponed due to lockouts in the league (as was the 1995 game). The league didn’t hold All-Star games in 2006, 2010 and 2014 as part of a collectively bargained agreement not to hold All-Star games during Winter Olympics years. That provision expired in 2018 when the NHL did not send players to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
It’s unclear whether the Boston Bruins ownership have put any proposals together to bring the game to Boston since 1996. Boston is not listed on any searchable lists of prospective All-Star game sites over the last decade. And while there have been significant renovations to TD Garden in the past few years, the building is now 25 years old and does not have the same appeal as it did in 1996 when the venue was brand new.
Look, I get it. These guys spend all season travelling in mostly cold-weather cities, playing on sheets of ice. They want to go to somewhere warm for All-Star weekend so they can sit by the pool, play golf and relax before the brutal end of the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs. But if The Hub of Hockey doesn’t deserve an All-Star game every 25 years or so, I’m not sure who does.
NBA All-Star Game
Hosted in Boston: 4 times – 1951, 1952, 1957, 1964 (at Boston Garden)
The NBA All-Star game was started in Boston in 1951. It was such a success that they brought it back there the very next year. It returned five years later, and then again, less than a decade after that. But since 1964, Boston has been a forgotten city for All-Star weekend.
Apparently one of the reasons that the Celtics have not bid for the event, at least in the last few decades, is that they were waiting for the Boston Convention center to be built. They needed a place to host fan events and media availability. They needed a second court with seating for practices and the celebrity game. Traffic and hotel logistics were also blamed for Boston’s inability to bid.
This is a weak excuse and certainly not one that should have stopped Boston from hosting for over five decades.
Yes, the NBA All-Star weekend is a big event, but come on. It’s a basketball game, a skills competition and some fan events. And it actually has the fewest number of All-Stars descending on a town than any other sport.
Last time I checked, this was Boston.
A city that annually hosts one of the biggest marathons in the world, a massive Fourth of July event, several huge parades and plenty of postseason series in many different sports. There are plenty of colleges to be able to find a secondary court and event center. There are lots of hotels, and god knows enough cops to get paid time and a half for directing traffic for the weekend.
In 2017, NESN reported that the Celtics were preparing an application to host in 2022, and working with the Convention Center as an auxiliary location. However, they withdrew their application after deciding that they were not able to meet the timeline of the NBA bid process.
I have little to no idea what that means. Did they not get started soon enough? Were they looking for an excuse to not host? Could they not have just pushed their bid to the next year if they needed more time?
So Who Will Be the Next Host?
It’s not necessarily in the best interest of a team to host the All-Star game. The team and cities put in all the work and money, and as mentioned, the league takes the profits. The benefit for the cities comes in marketing themselves and their team as the All-Star host that season.
Perhaps Boston doesn’t feel like they need to put in that investment for a town and a fan base that is already well established.
Still, I believe that at a certain point, each of these team’s owners feels an obligation to their fans to bring the All-Star game here and honor the franchise’s history.
If I had to guess, I think that the Celtics will be the next Boston team to host. They have, of course, had the longest wait. I think selling the idea of bringing the game back to Boston will not be that difficult of a prospect.
Wherever the game is though, it’s likely I won’t be watching.
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