The NHL’s annual all-star game proved to be a success but there is always room for improvement
This past weekend the NHL hosted its annual All-Star weekend which included the NHL skills competition and All-Star tournament. With the NHL’s best all under one roof including a pair of the best female hockey players, it was immediately known by everyone in attendance and watching on television that it was going to be a special weekend for the NHL.
Hosted by the San Jose Sharks, once again, the city proved that the Bay Area enjoys and supports hockey just as much as any Canadian NHL city. The Sharks demonstrated in 2016 when they made it to their first Stanley Cup Final that San Jose and the entire Bay Area was a city interested in hockey.
Hosting this All-Star weekend was critical for the Sharks as a franchise and for all of California hockey. California has hosted the All-Star game three times prior in 1981 (Inglewood), 1997 (San Jose), and 2017 (Los Angeles). For the NHL to give the state of California a fourth opportunity to host this incredible annual event proves the success that hockey has experienced in California which is considered by some to not be the most suitable locale for hockey. This event was just one more example of how successful hockey is in California.
On Friday Jan. 25, the NHL All-Star Skills Competition took place. It included such events as the fastest skater challenge, puck control course, Save Streak in which the goaltenders try to stop as many breakaway shots as possible, Premier Passer, hardest shot, and finally most accurate shot.
Some of the highlights of this weekend included Kendall Coyne Schofield, 2018 Olympic gold medalist from the U.S Women’s National Ice Hockey team skating in the fastest skater competition. She went around the entire ice in just 14.346 seconds and even beat NHLer Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes by 0.2 seconds.
In addition to that the veteran Henrik Lundqvist at a ripe 36 years old, who had not appeared in an All-Star game since 2012, won the Save Streak competition by a good amount at 12 breakaway saves. For a hockey goaltender it can be difficult to stop even two or three breakaway shots. Lundqvist destroyed all expectations and stole the event.
Later in the event it was time for the hardest shot competition. Without the regulars of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber, who have both fired pucks at 108.8 and 108.5 respectively with Chara holding the all-time record, the field was wide open for anyone to step in. The winner ended up being John Carlson from the defending champions the Washington Capitals with a slapshot reaching a whopping 102.8 miles per hour.
The NHL Skills Competition, in my opinion, was very eventful, had some great highlights, talking points, and just overall was a good time for everyone who had the pleasure of seeing it. However, some of the events are getting to be a familiar sight. I feel like the NHL may need to switch some things up in 2020 and beyond to keep both the fans and players on their toes.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, it was time for the NHL All-Star tournament. Keyword being tournament, as the NHL does not follow the regular routine of one single All-Star game with the traditional rules of any regular game.
In 2016 the NHL began an All-Star tournament in which the divisions of the NHL would assemble a team of their All-Stars, eleven strong, and play in a tournament style bracket. This is in stark contrast to the traditional three periods at 20 minutes each with both teams playing five skaters and a goaltender.
In the first game the Pacific All-Stars failed to even show up to the game as they were very quickly disposed of by the Central All-Stars 10-4. With the score being 7-1 in favor of the Central All-Stars at halftime, it was never even a contest which was disappointing considering the host team, the San Jose Sharks, are a part of the Pacific Division and they had three representatives on the Pacific team playing in front of their home crowd in San Jose.
Following the first game, the Metropolitan and Atlantic All-Stars went at it in a heavily spirited match that saw both teams in a tie down to the wire. With the Metropolitan division barely pulling ahead thanks to a late goal by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and a pair of additional late goals, the Metropolitan division were victorious 7-4.
The championship game involving the Metropolitan and Central divisions was again a terrific contest with both teams giving it their best. One million dollars was on the line and both teams seemed to have adopted a real game mentality throughout. With a combination of creativity and strategy, the Metropolitan division edged the Central division 10-5. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored four goals and tallied four assists through two games so he rightfully was crowned MVP of the tournament.
This year’s All-Star weekend was a definite success and, per usual, a must watch for any sports fan. The skill and competition on display from the NHL’s best athletes was incredible as it is every year. Beyond the game, what I enjoy most about these events, is the personalities on display from the players. Not something one usually gets to see, the players truly showcased not only their skills on the ice but their friendships and personalities with their peers and adoring fans.