It’s NHL All Star Weekend this weekend in Nashville. For probably a fair amount of people, this meant disappointment as their favourite team wasn’t playing last night. But for many others, it’s a great chance to see the top stars of the game we all love hamming it up and having a great time on the ice. Of course, the All Star Game itself will take place this afternoon, taking on a 3-on-3 format for the first time ever. But traditionally, the Saturday of All Star Weekend has always been time for the All Star Skills Competition.
Interest in the spectacle of the All Star Game seems to have been waning in recent years. That certainly was not the case this year with everyone talking about John Scott, the enforcer who got voted in as Pacific Division captain more or less as a joke, but quickly became a PR nightmare for the league after it was revealed they’d essentially asked him not to attend, and went so far as to have him traded to the Canadiens and then sent immediately to the AHL. By now you’re likely pretty familiar with the story. If not, I’d highly recommend giving Scott’s writeup in The Players’ Tribune a read. We’ll see how he did in the Skills Comp a little later on, but first, let’s get to the 20-year-old record that was broken last night.
Fastest Skater Competition
If you’ve been following the Detroit Red Wings at all so far this season, you’ve probably been impressed by rooking Dylan Larkin, who currently sits third in rookie scoring, with 33 points in 48 games. He’s also tied for tops in the league in plus/minus (+24) and has five game winning goals. So yeah, he’s doing pretty well for his first year in the bigs.
And he impressed once again last night.
As you can see there, Mike Gartner held the record for fastest skater for 20 years before Larkin came along and bettered it… And of course, when told he broke the record, his instant reaction was “Was I born?” No, he was not. He was born in July 1996… Meanwhile, Gartner was the ripe ol’ age of 36 when he set his record.
Most Accurate Shot Competition
Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin almost took home the hardware on this one, as he went 3-for-3 with the first 3 targets, but after receiving the pass for his fourth shot, in an attempt to get the crowd going, he gestured to them to make some noise. That was enough to throw him off for his fourth shot, which he rang off the crossbar, before taking out the final target with his fifth shot.
New York Islanders captain John Tavares also took 5 shots to hit all the targets, but went 4-for-4 after just narrowly missing on his first shot. It was enough to give him the win overall though, finishing with a time 12.294 seconds.
Peterborough native Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks was the closest to Tavares’s time, turning in a 13.771 effort, but Tavares’s fastest overall time gave the Eastern Conference the win in that event.
This is the part of the competition where the players seem to get the most creative. You can also definitely tell that a lot of the players are there specifically just to have fun with it. Like you’d never see two goalies for the same team arguing about who was going to face the breakaway to the point where they spill out of the net and allow the rushing player’s son to score on an open net…
Wait, the rushing player’s son? Yeah, many of the stars brought their kids to the game and out on the ice with them. San Jose Shark Brent Burns brought his son as well as teammate Joe Pavelski‘s son with him for his breakaway attempt, and as you can see, Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider (who probably had issues like this when they were together in Vancouver) were arguing about who was to take the shot.
Oh yeah, he also made another attempt as Chewbacca.
— theScore (@theScore) January 31, 2016
James Neal is one of the hometown heroes of this year’s All Star Game, with his Nashville Predators playing host this year. Drawing on all the great talent that Nashville has to offer, he actually brought country singer Dierks Bentley out for a 2-on-0… and Bentley managed to score in those tight jeans of his.
When it was Montreal Canadiens‘ D-man P.K. Subban‘s turn, he stepped out on the ice wearing quite a getup…
“I called my mother and said I didn’t know I had a brother”. Jaromir Jagr on Pk Subban pic.twitter.com/jvvYKnkaAJ
— Florida Panthers (@fla_panthersnhl) January 31, 2016
Yep, he pulled off a pretty convincing Jaromir Jagr, complete with the mullet and old-school Jofa bucket. However, he needed a little bit of help from Preds goalie Pekka Rinne to secure the goal on his breakaway.
Another clip from the Breakaway Competition is at the bottom.
Hardest Shot Competition
I saved this one for last because it’s generally the competition I’m most interested in.
Now we can talk about John Scott. There was speculation as to what competition he’d be taking part in during the Skills Comp. I guess the rules require that each of the All-Stars compete in at least one event. Scott himself had alluded to himself potentially taking part in the Most Accurate Shot competition, but he’d have been hard pressed to better the effort John Tavares put forth. However, with him being 6’8″ and having a pretty huge reach, one would think that would translate over pretty well to the Hardest Shot Competition. The best part of it all was the standing ovation he got before he lined up to take his shot. If this guy started out as the butt of a joke, he’s become the fan favourite after all he’s been through. It’s pretty heartwarming if you ask me.
And just a little aside about Scott being the fan favourite… Here’s a great clip of him laughing at Patrick Kane – who happens to be the NHL’s leading scorer so far this season with 73 points in 53 games – being booed by the Nashville crowd:
I think the fans are still a little salty after the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Preds from the playoff in the Western Conference Quarterfinals last year. But there’s more to Scott’s laughter than just that:
John Scott on laughing at Patrick Kane in intro: “I was dying. He said, ‘Watch this, I’m going to get booed and you’ll get biggest cheers.’”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 31, 2016
A little more on John Scott below, but first, the winner of the Hardest Shot…
Leading into the competition, Daniel Sedin said in an interview that he would bet his salary on Nashville Predators captain and top defenceman Shea Weber winning the hardest shot… And that’s a pretty safe bet. Weber won last year’s competition with a 108.5 mph blast, coming ever so close to Zdeno Chara‘s record of 108.8 mph.
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) January 31, 2016
This year, I’m sure he was looking to break that record. Here’s what went down.
Weber was matched up against Subban, who actually had to redo his two shots after the radar gun was not ready initially on either one. That likely effected his shot speed, having to tee up multiple monster slapshots in a row. Either way, having already won the competition with his 108.1 mph shot, the hometown crowd egged on their captain to take one more shot for the record, which you can see in that video too. Alas, the record was not to be broken.
It wasn’t just the Hardest Shot competition that John Scott took part in – he also gave the Breakaway Challenge a shot and surprised a lot of people by pulling a slick spin-o-rama move out of his bag o’ tricks.
Who knew he had it in him? If only Corey Schneider had let him have that one… Oh well, we’ll see if he can net one today. The All Star Game starts tonight at 5 PM!