NHL All-Star Weekend

Rangers+insignia.

Connor Riley

Rangers insignia.

Connor Riley, Writer

Towards the end of January each National Hockey League season, a city and team hosts the All-Star Weekend. This season’s All-Star Weekend was hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. This halfway point through the season provides most players with a break for five days while 44 players are selected to participate in the All-Star weekend. The weekend is broken up into three parts: Friday is the All-Star Game draft, Saturday is the All Star Skills Competition, and Sunday is the All-Star Game. Seven weeks before the All-Star Weekend, fans had the opportunity to vote for their favorite players to have an automatic spot in the All-Star Game. Fans could go online and vote for their favorite centers, goalies, and defensemen. By the end of seven weeks the Chicago Blackhawks had 6 of the top 7 players voted in: RW Patrick Kane, C Jonathan Toews, D Duncan Keith, D Brent Seabrook and G Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks fans gave a lot of love to their star players but the biggest surprise was the top vote getter. Latvian center Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres received the most amount of votes, especially from his homeland of Latvia. The other 38 players selected were chosen by NHL representatives and owners from around the league, each team had at least one player chosen for the All-Star Game.

Last Friday night started off the festivities with the draft for the All-Star Game. The two captains, Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks had to draft their teams for the game on Sunday. Flanked by their alternate captains, Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) aided Team Foligno in the picking. Team Toews had the help of Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Rick Nash (New York Rangers) in selecting their team. The captains and alternate captains had fun selecting players and making fun of each other and their picks. From personal experience, it felt like a fantasy draft I have with my friends but on television. Needless to say, it was very fun and entertaining to see these hardcore players interact in a more relaxed way.

The highlight of the night was star Alexander Ovechkin from the Washington Capitals who was doing his best to be selected last; the player chosen last gets a free car. Whenever the camera went in the backroom with the players waiting to be selected, Ovi would do his best to get on camera and plead to be chosen last. The Russian hockey player hand wrote a sign saying “I want to be last, I need a car.” He ended up being selected 3rd to last but later that night word got out that Ovi wanted the car for a family with a disabled child who had started a hockey program in Washington that provides special needs kids and adults the opportunity to play hockey. The kindness was later met with a free car from Honda after the All-Star Game on Sunday.

The following night started off the action with the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. The captains and alternate captains selected specific players to compete in the numerous events throughout the night. The different events are fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills challenge relay, hardest shot and a relay shootout. Each event is awarded with different points and some events award points for fastest time completed. At the end of the night, Team Foligno won 25-19 but the points did not matter at the end. The highlights of the night were the hardest shot and breakaway challenge. The hardest shot event received a lot of hype because defenseman Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators had the potential to break Boston Bruins defenseman Zedeno Chara’s record of 108.8 mph. Weber’s first shot was met with tons of laughs as he missed the net, however his second shot recorded a blistering 108.5mph. This shot was met with an impressed WOW from all players watching. Weber couldn’t dethrone the current king but he gave it a good shot.

The breakaway challenge is always met with creative ways for the participants to score. The entertaining tries are always met with great laughs and applause from the fans and players. Rookie Calgary Flames player Johnny Gaudreau asked if he could light his stick on fire during the competition but this idea was sadly shot down by the league. However, home town kid Ryan Johansen won the competition by fan votes through Twitter due to his creative attempts in the event. First, Johansen removed his jersey to reveal an Ohio State shirt as a tip of the cap to College Football Champs, the Ohio State Buckeyes. His next try, he grabbed one of the trainer’s kids to help him score. Finally, with the help of other players, a Flying V was created to distract the goalie. The Skills Competition was great fun, especially when goalie Brian Elliott took a selfie during his teammate Vladimir Tarasenko’s breakaway try.

The entertaining weekend was capped off with the All-Star Game Sunday evening. These games are met with eased back effort and just having fun, which is reflected by the final score of 17-12 Team Toews. Many All-Star records were tied such as most goals by a team in a period (7, by Team Toews), most goals in a game (4, John Tavares) and most points in a game (6, Jakub Voracek). A few records were set as well, including most goals by a single team (17, Team Toews), most goals in a total game (29) and most goals in a single period (11). Ryan Johnasen was the MVP at the end of the game with two goals and two assists. Many people believed Tavares or Voracek should have been MVP, rather than the hometown player.

All three parts of the weekend were met with lower television ratings than in past years, however ratings aren’t what the weekend is about. As a die-hard Rangers and NHL fan, I though the weekend was a great success. It embodied what the sport of hockey is, world class players having fun and playing the sport they love. The entertainment never stopped throughout the weekend which was expected because it is a light hearted weekend of fun and rest before the regular season. The players enjoyed the weekend but at the conclusion, they had to begin to prepare for the 2nd half of the season which began on Tuesday.