By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
Since its inception in 1947, the National Hockey League All-Star Game has pitted the league’s best players against one another in an attempt to display hockey’s prime talent on a national stage.
Since then, the rules of the game have changed. Originally the All-Star Game would feature the defending Stanley Cup champions against a team of All-Stars from other teams in a winner-take-all format. Since those early years, there have been various changes to the way the game is played. The event has expanded as well, developing from simply an All-Star Game into a more extensive All-Star Weekend.
The new changes also included the idea to schedule the All-Star Game on the weekend. Under the modern format, the game is played on a Sunday with a skills competition taking place the Saturday before.
Since 2015, the league has expanded the number of All-Star teams from two to four, with one team representing each of the four divisions. Keeping with its more recent tradition of pitting the Eastern Conference against the West, the league has the two division rivals (Pacific vs. Central / Metropolitan vs. Atlantic) play first, before the winners of each game played each other after.
This All-Star Weekend, which took place on Jan. 27-28 in Tampa, Florida, the Central Division took on the Pacific in a 20 minute game of three-on-three hockey separated into two 10-minute halves. The Pacific Division won by a resounding score of 5-2 with highlight reel goals from the Vancouver Canucks’ rookie Brock Boeser, Los Angeles Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty, and Vegas Golden Knights’ sniper James Neal.
Boeser has been absolutely sensational for the Canucks in his first pro season. He led Vancouver with 47 points (24G, 20A) in 46 games going into the weekend and sat at second in rookie scoring overall behind only the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal who has accrued 51 points in 50 games.
Boeser ended up being named MVP of the All-Star Game for his outstanding performance. He also won the Accuracy Shooting Competition the night before, hitting five targets in 11.136 seconds.
The Atlantic Division defeated the star-studded Metropolitan by a definitive score of 7-4. At one point the Metro Division team of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and John Tavares had a 3-1 lead on the Atlantic before the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand tallied a goal and an assist, helping his team advance to the championship game.
Marchand, who was handed a five-game suspension earlier in the week for an elbow to New Jersey Devils’ winger Marcus Johansson, was still eligible for All-Star festivities despite having served only one game of the five heading into the weekend.
Boo-ing could be heard just about every time Marchand touched the puck, which made for an interesting scenario when he finally scored a goal. Despite the fans’ apparent disdain for the Boston winger, he was in fact playing for the home team in Tampa. Marchand was skating alongside four Tampa Bay Lightning players and Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper was in charge of the Atlantic Division team. So when the so-called “Little Ball of Hate” found the back of the net, you could hear the boos transform into cheers inside Amalie Arena.
The Pacific Division would go on to defeat the Atlantic in the championship game by a score of 5-2 in the battle of East Coast vs. West Coast. Despite this loss coming as somewhat of a disappointment to the Tampa fans, the displays of pure talent that were showcased over all three games were something any hockey fan could appreciate.
The NHL All-Star Game has been acknowledged before as the most entertaining contest of its type in professional sports, and Sunday’s action did nothing to put that claim into question. From tic-tac-toe plays, to incredible shots, and supreme goaltending, this All-Star Game was thrilling and downright entertaining.