Sunday's NHL All-Star Game isn't so much a game this year as it as a tournament. Instead of a standard contest between two sides, there will be a 3-on-3 tourney among four teams, one from each division. If that doesn't seem strange enough, the Pacific Division team captain, former Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott, now plays for a minor league affiliate of an Atlantic Division team.
Over in the NFL, berths to Sunday's Pro Bowl are being treated like punishments. With so many players added to the roster to make up for all the invitations that have been turned down, nearly 8 percent of the league can claim to be Pro Bowlers this year.
This year's strangeness is just par for the course for all-star games, which long have been showcases for gimmicks, quirks and other assorted oddities not usually seen at pro sporting events. Here's a look back at some of the most interesting examples over the years.
College All-Stars vs. NFL champions
The Pro Bowl was first played in 1950, but the College All-Star Football Classic had been around for 16 years by then. That annual preseason exhibition game was usually played at Soldier Field and from 1934 to 1976 it matched the reigning NFL champions against a team of all-star college seniors -- who could also be called rookies-to-be. The Super Bowl X champion Pittsburgh Steelers were the NFL representatives for the last such game in 1976. While the idea seems ridiculous now, college football was king when the College All-Star Football Classic was first played, and the NFL was trying to prove it was worthy of the same attention and adulation. The college team managed to win nine of the 42 matchups (there was no game in 1974 because of an NFL strike), and two ended in ties.
Pro Bowl experiments
With talk of the Pro Bowl being on the verge of extinction for the past decade, the NFL has mixed things up in trying to bring interest back to the game. It's been moved to a week before the Super Bowl, rather than the week after. The location has been changed from Hawaii to the Super Bowl site and back to Hawaii. And then there are rules changes that make you wonder if you're even watching an NFL game. Last year, the Pro Bowl did away with kickoffs, instead having teams take possession at the 25-year line to start each quarter and after scoring plays. The goal posts were narrowed from 18 feet to 14 feet. In another kicking twist, the line of scrimmage for extra point attempts was moved from the 2-yard line to the 15 -- a change the NFL made permanent for the 2015 regular season. There was a two-minute warning in each quarter, and the ball changed possession after each quarter. And the clock stopped inside the two-minute warning if the offense didn't gain at least one yard.
Battle for World Series home-field advantage
Prior to 2003, home-field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year between the NL and AL. That all changed when the 2002 All-Star Game ended in an embarrassing tie because there weren't enough pitchers. The league, wanting those involved to take the All-Star Game more seriously, reacted by putting home-field advantage for the Fall Classic on the line at Midsummer Classic. It was originally implemented in 2003 as a two-year trial but has been extended indefinitely. The AL has won 10 of the 13 games since the change, including the first seven straight.
Pro Bowl player draft
Recent changes to the Pro Bowl haven't been limited to the playing rules. The NFL did away with the NFC and AFC designations for the game in 2014. Instead, retired stars Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice drafted teams from the pool of Pro Bowlers who had been selected by fan voting. Michael Irvin and Cris Carter were the captains in 2015, and Irvin and Rice picked this year's teams.
NHL All-Star player draft
The NHL went the draft route three years before the NFL. A player fantasy draft was introduced into the All-Star Game in 2011, with players themselves deciding how the teams for the game and skills competition would take shape. The fan vote put six players, regardless of conference, into the game (three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender), and the NHL added 36 other players. The 42 chosen players then selected two captains, and those captains drafted teams from the pool of All-Stars. This method continued until this year's shakeup with the tourney format.
NHL: North America vs. World
The NHL went away from the standard conference All-Star format in 1998. In an effort to highlight the league's international stars in a Winter Olympics year, the league matched All-Stars born in North America against a World team. This continued until 2002, the year of the Salt Lake Olympics. Five All-Star Games were contested under this format, with North America beating the World in three of them.
NHL debuts glow puck
The 1996 NHL All-Star Game featured one of the greatest collections of NHL stars ever, with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Brett Hull, but commercials for the game on Fox kept touting one thing: "The biggest technological breakthrough in the history of sports." That breakthrough was the debut of the FoxTrax, which was meant to help TV viewers to keep track of the puck. A passed or gliding puck would glow blue, while a shot on goal would be highlighted with red. The "technological breakthrough" received harsh reviews from fans and critics alike. It made its last appearance at the 1998 Stanley Cup finals.
MLS All-Stars vs. Guest
Founded in 1993, Major League Soccer is relatively new pro league, but that hasn't kept it from engaging in All-Star tinkering. MLS has gone with the traditional East vs. West format. It tried MLS USA vs. MLS World for a season. In 2002, an MLS All-Star team faced the U.S. national team. Since 2005, the MLS All-Stars have faced a European side, with Manchester United (twice), Chelsea (twice) and Bayern Munich among the opponents. Outside of getting embarrassed by Manchester United twice, the MLS All-Stars have held their own against the European powers by winning three of the past four meetings.
NBA All-Star MVP home cooking
Not that we would advocate gambling, but it's a decent bet that a hometown player or sentimental favorite will win the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award. The trend started in the very first All-Star Game in 1951, when Celtics center Ed Macauley won the award at the Boston Garden. There have been 65 All-Star Games, and 14 of the MVP awards have gone to a player on his home court (21.5 percent). On top of that, 76ers guard Allen Iverson won the 2001 award in Washington, where he had starred at Georgetown, and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant won the first of his four All-Star MVPs in his hometown of Philadelphia in 2002.