NHL All-Star Weekend a Successful One

The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend will be one to be remembered for a long time, and for many reasons. From the controversy that preceded the event in the months leading up, to the costumes during the Breakaway Challenge, and to John Scott stealing the show and winning the MVP, this NHL All-Star weekend was a successful one.

NHL All-Star Weekend a Successful One

After last year’s snooze fest, the All-Star Game was on it’s last breath. The NHL needed to part ways with their pick-up hockey styled Fantasy Draft and find a format for the game that the fans would enjoy. With the introduction of 3-0n-3 overtime new this season, the league announced in November that the NHL All-Star weekend will include an inter-division, 3-on-3 tournament.

Instead of inviting the usual two full rosters of twenty players to participate, the four divisional squads were represented by six forwards, three defencemen and two goalies, for a total of 44 players. The fans voted the captains of each division in, which started the whole controversy and draped a bad image over the league heading into the festivities.

John Scott, formerly of the Arizona Coyotes, was chosen to represent the Pacific Division, before being traded out of town to the Montreal Canadiens, who immediately sent down the 33-year-old to their farm team in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The league received negative remarks from fans who believed the league was mistreating the player and called for his participation in the game with a #FreeJohnScott campaign on social media. Scott was eventually given the green light to go to Nashville.

Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews opted not to participate, while Sidney Crosby was asked to stay at home. The three main faces of the league were elsewhere, which left to question to validity of the “All-Star” game.

Once the players stepped onto the ice for the Skills Competition on Saturday night, everything changed. The players clearly wanted to be there and everybody was having a good time.

Scott laughed at Patrick Kane during the player introductions when the crowd booed the superstar, and that kicked off a chain of great events.

The Skills Competition has generally been preferred over the All-Star game itself because it features real skill. And there was plenty of it on Saturday night. 19-year-old Dylan Larkin broke Mike Gartner’s Fastest Skater record with a time of 13.172 seconds. Shea Weber blasted a slapshot just shy of Zdeno Chara’s record 108.8 MPH, when he clocked in at 108.1 MPH. 

The highlights of the evening surely had to originate from the Breakaway Challenge. Fan-favourites P.K. Subban and Brent Burns stole the show with their amazing talent to entertain the crowd at the Bridgestone Arena and the fans watching on T.V..

Burns set the stage when he called upon his son, Jagger, his team mate Joe Pavelski and his son, Nathan, to assist him with his breakaway. The four skated towards the net in a diamond formation, while former Vancouver Canucks team mates Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider battled for the crease. Nathan, passed the puck back to Jagger, who put it in the empty cage and celebrated with a dance right in front of the camera. 

Subban followed up with an entertaining display of his own when he stepped out onto the ice dressed up as Jaromir Jagr. He included his vintage Jofa helmet, an extra-long, exaggerated wig, Jagr’s Florida Panthers jersey, and for some reason, referee pants. Subban skated like Jagr on his attempt and celebrated with Jagr’s famous salute, much to the delight of the 43-year-old, the crowd and virtually any other living hockey fan.

Burns capped off the event by showing the crowd an evolution of his NHL head shots and his hair styles. His beard has earned him the nick name of “Chewbacca” and he sported the Wookie’s mask on Saturday night. If a comedian scripted out the Breakaway Challenge, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny.

This picture says it all.

The actual All-Star Game exceeded expectations far past anyone could imagine. Last season, Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12 and pundits were crying for a better game. The 3-on-3 is the best format in years, considering the players were playing to win a million dollars.

The Atlantic Division beat the Metropolitan Division 4-3 in the first game,  which was entertaining but was overshadowed by the 9-6 victory by the Pacific Division over the Central. The All-Star Game, known for a lack of physicality, had a hit by Scott on his former team mate Kane. Kane then jokingly dropped the gloves with Scott, in the first ever All-Star Game fight. Again, this stuff was not written. 

Another surprise of the whole weekend was a 1-0 score in the final, which the Pacific won. Corey Perry scored the only goal of the game late in the second frame. A goal was even disallowed not long after due to goalie interference. 

Besides the low intensity, the three games had it all. Hits, fights, goals and coaches challenges. In sixty minutes of hockey, 23 goals were scored on 123 shots, a considerable difference to last year’s 29 on 92 shots. 

Scott being named the MVP after his two-goal performance was certainly the highlight of the NHL All-Star weekend. The players fed off his energy and were just happy to be around him. Burns and Pavelski, his team mates in San Jose, were probably the ones as happiest as Scott was. Any fan of hockey would have smiled when they picked him up on his shoulders after his MVP speech

Although John Scott was the center of the whole NHL All-Star weekend, the league produced a great event for fans. The weekend is for the fans and not for any importance to the standings or statistics, like the Winter Classic or Stanley Cup Final are. 

The All-Star Game was on it’s final breath, but the city of Nashville and the entire NHL just gave it a new life.

Main Photo.