This weekend, I have the 2010 World Cup Jerseys opportunity to cover the NHL All-Star Game for the very first time in my career. I get to rub shoulders with some of the greatest players in the game like Joe Thornton, Alexander Ovechkin and Stephane Robidas.
Years before he gave away Roberto Luongo and Zdeno Chara for nothing, Mike Milbury caused an uproar when he named tough guy Chris Nilan to the All-Star team in 1991. As a result, the board of governors changed the rules for naming the All-Star team and took away that privilege from the head coach. Ironically enough, Nilan broke his ankle just before the mid-season classic, preventing us from seeing him dropping the gloves and pummeling Vincent Damphousse before he scored his four goals in the All-Star Game that year.
At the 1998 All-Star Game in Vancouver, the league introduced the unpopular "North America vs. The World" format. The NHL expected Canadian fans to cheer for Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk, Chris Chelios and a bunch of other American stars, just a few weeks before the Winter Olympics in Nagano. Like that was going to happen. My favourite moment from the game came when the World Team made a complete five-man change during the play, causing Bob Cole to say, "Harry, the World is changing." Truer words were never spoken.
At the Skills Competition at the 1993 All-Star Game, Al Iafrate blew everyone away with his 105-mph slapshot. But did anyone really care? We were all too focused on Iafrate's bizarre combination of a rapidly-receding hairline with an extra-long mullet. It was one of the strangest sights I've ever seen in hockey. Iafrate could have blasted a 200-mph slapshot and it wouldn't have mattered. I was too focused on The Skullet.
There is no way that anybody remembers that Eric Daze won the All-Star Game MVP in 2002 in Los Angeles. In doing so, Daze becomes arguably the shadiest player to win an MVP award at an All-Star Game in the four major sports. Other candidates for this dubious distinction: Tom Chambers (NBA), Terry Steinbach (MLB) and anyone who has won a Pro-Bowl MVP.
- Rendez-Vous '87 Instead of the usual All-Star Game, the NHL decided to have a two-game exhibition challenge with the Russians at the Colisee in Quebec City. A big controversy erupted in Canada when the Soviet referee for Game 1 of the series only called one penalty against the Russians for the entire game. For the record, the referee's name was Sergei Morozov, which loosely translated in English is "Kerry Fraser."
Owen Nolan had one of the most memorable performances in All-Star Game history in 1997. Playing in front of his home crowd in San Jose, Nolan scored a hat trick, including his famous "called shot" on Dominik Hasek on a breakaway. And yet for some reason, Nolan didn't win the MVP award. The guy had one of the all-time great Babe Ruth moments and he gets beat to the award by Mark Recchi.
ng goaltender I've ever seen in my life. And yet, Irbe was the first goalie to ever be credited with a point at an All-Star Game, when he picked up an assist on a goal by Teemu Selanne in 1999. It's amazing that with all of the great puck-handling goalies that have played in the All-Star Game (Ron Hextall, Martin Brodeur, etc…), that the guy who treated the puck like a hand grenade is the only one to ever get a point.
A member of the Panthers, Sandis Ozolinsh was named to the All-Star Team and was going to get the chance to play in front of his home crowd in Florida. However, the night before the game, the Panthers traded him to Anaheim. So when he came onto the ice for the pre-game introductions, the PA announcer had this awkward phrase to read off: "From your Florida Panthers, but now playing for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, here is No. 8 Sandis Ozolinsh." Could the Panthers and Ducks not have waited one extra day to make that trade? It's not like either of them were playing any games.
The last time I watched any part of the YoungStars game was back in 2004, when goaltender Philippe Sauve was named the MVP of the game. In case you are wondering, he is currently a goaltender for the Hamburg Freezers in the German Elite League, proving that the YoungStars Game isn't necessarily a great barometer for future success in the NHL.
The first time I was allowed to stay up late and watch a full All-Star Game was the 1985 game played in Calgary. Most people will remember Mario Lemieux's performance as a rookie, as he won the MVP award. But my defining moment from that game was watching Miroslav Frycer score a goal for the Campbell Conference. Frycer was the only representative from a brutal Toronto Maple Leafs team. And quite frankly, I've been waiting almost two years to make a random Miroslav Frycer reference in one of my blogs.