It Was a Historic 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend!

Image courtesy of the NHL Public Relations and designed by NHL Creative Services.

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The 2020 NHL All-Stars weekend was held in St. Louis, MO, at the Enterprise Center, the home of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup champions. It was February of 1988 the last time the city hosted the All-Star events. Last season the St. Louis Blues had the ultimate comeback story. They came from the last place to winning it in game seven against the Boston Bruins. Friday, January 24 saw the skills competition, which was followed by the Saturday night hockey game on January 25, between the four divisions – Pacific, Central, Atlantic, and Metropolitan.

This two-day event allows the players to enjoy and relax mid-season, seeing rival teams and players laughing and having fun for the love of the game. They chose 44 players from the 31 NHL teams, and each team had a coach and honorary captains. However this year saw three players opt out of attending – Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Tuukka Rask. Ovechkin gave the reason for having to “listen to my body… to get ready for the second half of the year.” A player choosing not to participate, per the NHL rules, will have them suspended one game. There were also quite a few players out due to injury.

The opening for the weekend began with a video montage of the previous All-Star years, set to Nelly’s song “Country Grammar.” The opening remarks came from the legendary hockey player, coach, and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, who was also the honorary captain for the Pacific Division. During his career, Gretzky played for the Blues in 1996.

The first of the six competitions of the evening was the Fastest Skater. Each player got a turn to skate around the rink as fast as they can. The winner was Mathew Barzal from the New York Islanders, completing the event in 13.175 seconds.

Next up was Save Streaks, where the goalies can show off their cat-like reflexes. The funniest moment from during this was when San Jose Sharks player Tomas Hertl put on a large Justin Bieber mask while trying to score on Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. It was about a challenge that Binnington issued to Bieber on January 1. With 10 saves in a row, Binnington won the event.

This year saw a new layout for the Accuracy Shooting. Instead of the players trying to hit the five Styrofoam targets, they were on a plexiglass board with personalized digital images. As a surprise, former Blues player Bernie Federko, who played for the team from 1976-1989, even came out to try. The winner was Carolina Hurricanes’ Jaccob Slavin, who hit all five targets in 9.505 seconds.

A significant and important moment in women’s hockey was also a part of the weekend. One of the Skills Competition events was the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 games. This moment was historic because it was the first time 20 women have been invited to participate and play with the NHL during the All-Star Weekend. With the state of women’s hockey since the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) ending in 2019, it was encouraging to have it back in the limelight and having the NHL platform to bring visibility and a hopeful step forward for women’s hockey. The game was two 10-minute periods between the best players from Canada and the USA. Even though the American team outshot them, the winner of the game was Canada 2 – 1. The NHL also donated $100,000 to girls’ hockey organizations.

Fast had this to say about the weekend, “This platform, the visibility this weekend is honestly huge. It’s one of the biggest things for women’s hockey in a long time.”

The Canadian All-Stars consisted of head coach Jayna Hefford, Ann-Renee Desbiens, Renata Fast, Laura Fortino, Meghan Agosta, Melodie Daoust, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, and Blayre Turnbull.

The American All-Stars were comprised of head coach Cammi Granato, Alex Rigsby Cavallini, Kacey Bellamy, Lee Stecklein, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Annie Pankowski, and Alexandra Carpenter.

The winner of the Hardest Shot was Shea Weber from the Montreal Canadiens, with a shot of 106.5 mph! Weber has won this event before in the years 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The final and a new event of the night was Shooting Stars. Players were on a stage 40 feet up from the ice, where they had to shoot the puck and hit the targets that were worth points of 2, 4, or 10. Fans were treated to Brett Hull, who gave it a try on one of Blues players Ryan O’Reilly turns. Joining his two sons, Brady and Matthew, who participated during the weekend, was former Blues player Keith Tkachuk. Also taking part in the event was Hilary Knight and Marie-Philip Poulin. The game had to go into overtime since there was a tie between Toronto Maple Leaf Mitch Marner and Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane, who both got 22 points. But Kane got the extra 2 points needed to be the first winner of the new Shooting Stars event.

The Saturday night game was a battle between the four divisions. During the player’s introduction band, Awolnation played. Announcing the four Blues players was 11-year-old superfan Laila Anderson, who suffers from a rare immune disease called hemophagocytic lymph histiocytosis (HLH). She was on hand when the team won the Stanley Cup, even getting to lift it with the help of player and friend Colton Parayko.

The three games were two 10-minute periods of no contact 3-on-3 hockey. You may have noticed that, like in the 2019 All-Star Game, the league once again tested the new player and puck tracking systems that reminded me of a video game format. It was supposed to be released before this year’s season began, but it is now said to be released in the playoffs.

Game one saw the Atlantic Division beat the Metropolitan Division 9-5. Game two was Central against the Pacific Division, with the Pacific winning 10-5. During the intermission before the final game of the night, Green Day played some songs at center ice, performing songs “Basket Case” and closing with “American Idiot.” The third game was the previous winners Atlantic and Pacific Divisions going head to head. It was a close game, but the Pacific Division won 5-4.

The 2021 All-Star Weekend will be returning to Florida. The Florida Panthers will host next year at the BB&T Arena on January 29 and 30. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement. You can watch the full Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game below!

Sarah

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As a Ravenclaw and introverted tattooed cat with purple hair, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and watching hockey (Go Leafs Go). You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @WyldeFandom

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