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The fans just made All-Star weekend a lot more entertaining

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With the NHL’s Last Man In vote, team supporters got to voice their opinion on the all-star rosters. And the four players who made the cut each bring intrigue and skill to the mid-season classic, which hits St. Louis later this monthDavid Perron and Ryan O’Reilly|Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe NHL All-Star Game is supposed to be about fun, which is why fan voting often plays a part. This year, the league allowed its supporters to directly name one player from each division in its ‘Last Men In’ vote and the fans came through with four players who each bring intrigue to the festivities in St. Louis. Let’s take a look at what these guys bring to the table.
 
David Perron, St. Louis (Central Division)This was a no-brainer, given that the Blues are hosting the event. St. Louis already had Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Binnington and Alex Pietrangelo on the Central roster, but no one in the crowd is going to complain about one more. And Perron is a deserving winner. It can be hard for a team to keep up the pace in the season following a Stanley Cup victory, but Perron is having his best NHL season ever. The talented and tenacious right winger is a point-per-gamer for the Blues, bringing some much-needed goal-scoring to a team that is missing Vladimir Tarasenko due to injury. And you know he’s gonna go all-out in front of the home fans, especially as a first-timer to All-Star Weekend.
T.J. Oshie, Washington (Metropolitan Division)Another player with local ties, Oshie spent seven seasons with the Blues before getting traded to the Capitals, so there’s a nostalgic angle to his vote-in. But I would also argue that Oshie is the type of player who brings guys together with his personality – which is not only important when you’re winning a Cup as the Caps did two years ago, but also when you’re at an event like All-Star Weekend, which is supposed to be loose. So Oshie brings the right mindset to the proceedings, while the shootout prowess that made him so famous at the Olympics gets another big stage for him to shine on.
Mitch Marner, Toronto (Atlantic Division)A first-timer for the All-Star Game, Marner was a pretty good candidate to win this category since he plays for the most popular team in the NHL. But he’s also a deserving winner. Marner’s hands and hockey mind are tailor-made for this event, where skill far outweighs any other aspect of a normal NHL game. And with linemate Auston Matthews also on the Atlantic roster, you’re gonna see some excellent chemistry out there. Personally, I can’t wait to see a Marner/Matthews/Jack Eichel combo out there. Also, being a first-timer means Marner should be up for anything in the skills competition – which is necessary during a weekend when some of the veterans can get a little hesitant with their participation.
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver (Pacific Division)Another first-timer for ASG, Hughes joins a Pacific squad that should be a ton of fun to watch because only a couple of players (Anze Kopitar and Connor McDavid) have been regulars at the event – so Hughes isn’t the only newbie of the crew. The Canucks rookie does bring a lot of skating and skill to the table however, so he’ll be fun to watch on the ice. As the perfect defenseman for these types of games, Hughes can use his roving powers to their full extent and the idea of him getting the puck up to the likes of McDavid or Vancouver teammate Elias Pettersson is pretty exciting. Like Marner, Hughes should be up for anything in the skills competition and it’s always good to have that new blood coursing through the festivities.
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Tags: all-star game, vancouver canucks, washington capitals, toronto maple leafs, st. louis bluesConnect: About the AuthorRyan KennedyRyan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.

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The NHL is going to the Sunshine State for the All-Star Game next year. Any way they can shoot it into the sun instead?

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Everything about the All-Star Game, from the Skills Competition to the low-effort 3-on-3 tournament, is broken and the event does nothing to showcase the best game in the world.The Pacific Division All-Stars|Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty ImagesST. LOUIS – It’s pretty clear that F-bombs were the underlying theme of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game and that didn’t even include the chorus of millions of viewers who were sitting at home and likely saying something like, “(Expletive), this is god awful.”
Even by All-Star Game standards, where the bar is basically set on the ground when it comes to competitiveness and entertainment, this was putrid. Four teams played the equivalent of one full 60-minute game of hockey and scored a total of 38 goals. Think about that for a minute. The Canadian and American women’s teams, who actually played as though they cared about the game, produced just three in 20 minutes.
And for the second straight year, the female players saved the weekend. Which is great for women’s hockey, but says about as much about how bad this event is as it does about the excellence of the women’s game. For those of you who care, and will need to refer to the written word when the results are wiped from your memory bank 10 minutes from now, the Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 5-4 in the championship game and split $1 million in prize money. David Pastrnak, who was named Least Terrible Player™ and won a car for his efforts, scored six points in the tournament. So did Leon Draisaitl and Quinn Hughes, which would represent a pretty good week for all of them.
The night was not without its controversial moments. Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong kept the censors busy by dropping three F-bombs during the band’s in-game performance. As one observer noted, with their performance, Green Day gave more (expletives) than the players.
And on the ice, the heated rivalry between Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames got a little bit of juice. On the second goal of the second game, which came 2:59 into the game, Tkachuk made a no-look, between-the-legs pass to Draisaitl, who buried it. Tkachuk didn’t even look toward Draisaitl and made for the bench, while Draisaitl appeared to say “(expletive) you” to Tkachuk.
“I hope everyone realizes I was just joking around,” Draisaitl said. “I guess I expected (Tkachuk to skate after the bench). I probably would have done the same.”
As far as his part in the exchange, Tkachuk said he didn’t hear anything from Draisaitl and as far as skating back to the bench, said he wasn’t about to do a major celebration for an assist in the All-Star Game. “I don’t know if anyone else was celebrating goals tonight,” Tkachuk said. “You guys read too much into that. I have zero idea (if Draisaitl said anything). It was my first shift of the game and I was going back to the bench and we had just made it 2-0. You have to ask everyone else if they celebrated after goals. I didn’t see too much of it.”
Tkachuk has a point there. Had these guys celebrated after every goal, there might have been a spate of rotator cuff injuries among the best players in the league going into the home stretch. “It was a nice play by him,” Draisaitl said about the Tkachuk pass. “Like I said all along, we’re all here to have fun, we’re all here to have a good time and things like that, they happen in the game. This is not the time to be grumpy about anything. Our team, everyone here had a great time.”
Of course they did. They all held hands, sang Kumbaya and went out and put forth minimal effort. Over the three games, Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens was the only one to record a hit. It becomes clearer with every passing year that this event is essentially a mid-season waste of time. You can’t make players care about this game. Not even a $90,000 reward is enough to do it. The NHL has already said that next year’s game will have more of an “international flavor” to it, which might help. But this thing, from the Skills Competition to the three-game tournament, is broken. Badly. It’s embarrassing and it does absolutely nothing to showcase the best game in the world.
So to recap, the highlights of the weekend were the women’s game and seven-year-old Alex Letang, son of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris, who was adorable and engaging in the post-game interview area. Aside from that, nothing about this spectacle was memorable. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday that having the league shut down for two weeks every four years for the Olympics is, “extraordinarily disruptive.” Meanwhile, half the league is off for five days before the All-Star Game and the other half puts its feet up for the five days after. And the league takes a four-day break to put the event on. But it’s apparently too much for the league to take a two-week break every four years.
Next year’s All-Star Game is in Florida. Instead of going to the Sunshine State for the game, perhaps the NHL could just shoot this whole event into the sun.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Tags: all-star gameConnect: About the AuthorKen CampbellKen Campbell, The Hockey News’ senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League’s Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

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Black Hockey History Tour Arrives Just When the Sport Needs it Most

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The mobile museum celebrates hockey’s trailblazing black players – and reinforces the ‘hockey is for everyone’ message during a turbulent time.|Matt Larkin/The Hockey NewsST. LOUIS – The trailer, decked out and converted to a mobile museum, was packed to capacity, adorned with images of black NHL players, information about their legacies and artifacts, including recreated St. Louis Blues jersey stalls for Grant Fuhr, Ryan Reaves and Jamal Mayers. A crowd gathered around a roulette-style trivia wheel, taking turns answering questions about the history of black hockey players. Among the people answering were black people and white people, kids and adults, men and women. This was the latest stop on the NHL’s Black Hockey History Tour, and it means a lot to many different people for many different reasons.
Firstly, for any person of color who has played the game or dreams of playing the game, seeing the images of and facts on black hockey players, whose history in the game dates back as far as the 1800s, is inspiring and moving. Retired NHL right winger Joel Ward, attending the exhibit Saturday in St. Louis, was visibly energized by the sight of it.
“As you can see, we’ve been playing hockey for a long time – we’ve been at it,” Ward said with a proud laugh. “What a cool thing to do. For me, growing up, there weren’t too many black players. Kevin Weekes in our family was the end-all of superheroes. So for the kids to come out here and get a glimpse and learn a little more about history and all the brothers that played, it’s really cool.”
The exhibit also carries far more weight today than anyone could’ve expected even two months ago. After right winger Akim Aliu came forward in November with revelations of racist comments by his former AHL coach, Bill Peters, it sent a shockwave through hockey that culminated in Peters’ resignation as coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. It was a watershed moment for the game that led to the NHL, with help from Aliu, tabling the idea of a code of conduct and zero-tolerance approach to hate speech in the sport. The initiative won’t change the landscape overnight, however. Retired NHL goalie turned NHL Network lead analyst Weekes, who was also on hand Saturday, said the exhibit shouldn’t carry extra weight right now, but that it does given the sad stories still coming out. We learned how far the game still has to go less than a week ago when AHL defenseman Brandon Manning was suspended five games for using racial slurs against the Ontario Reign left winger Boko Imama.
For Kwame Mason, director of the documentary Soul On Ice and the museum’s co-curator, the exhibit does an important service of offsetting all the upsetting stories in the hockey world today with some tales of wins for inclusivity.
“Because the atmosphere of hockey is fighting to be more inclusive, to be more welcoming, museums like this will show people that there is that idea of hockey being for everyone,” Mason said. “This is why it’s important. It counteracts the negative stories that are out there. For every negative, we have to have a positive.”
Lastly, seeing all the different types of people taking in the exhibit this weekend – which included all types of races – really underscored the point of the museum: it’s a way to bring attention and respect to the trailblazing black players, from Willie O’Ree to Angela James, but also a decidedly inclusive project designed to invite all types of people to learn about black hockey history. That philosophy is exactly what the NHL hopes to bring to the game as a whole – to eschew the antiquated idea that hockey is a sport for the old guard and no one else, that it can’t be shared with minorities, women or people of different sexual orientations. To drive the point home, Weekes came up with an illuminating analogy.
“I’ve been to Italy numerous times, I have a lot of Italian friends in Toronto and New Jersey, and they never say, ‘Pasta’s our food, it’s just ours. Nobody’s allowed to eat it. You can’t have it. You can’t have marinara sauce. You can’t have buffalo mozzarella. It’s just for us,’ ” Weekes said. “Nobody says that! So we can’t be saying that in hockey. We can’t. It’s the most ludicrous thing in the world.”
So while the NHL and the sport have many years worth of work left to establish that Hockey is For Everyone, the black hockey history museum didn’t exist a couple years ago, so it’s a clear sign of progress. Just as young women watching the 3-on-3 game on TV Friday might have been inspired to pick up a stick and play, any minorities visiting the museum could experience the same kind of inspiration.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Tags: nhlConnect: About the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior writer at The Hockey News and has been part of the team since 2011. He’s your one-stop shop for deep-dive player interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy player rankings, player safety and hair tips. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey News Live and The Hockey News Podcast.

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