The National Hockey League All-Star Game (French: Match des Étoiles de la Ligue Nationale de Hockey) is an exhibition game that traditionally marks the midway point of the National Hockey League's regular season, with many of the league's star players playing against each other. The starting lineup for the two teams, including the starting goaltender, is voted on by fans, while the remainder of the teams' rosters are chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in consultation with the teams' general managers. The coaches for the two All-Star Game teams are typically the head coaches of the teams that, at the time of the All-Star Game roster announcements, are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points).
The All-Star Game is preceded by the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, a competition showing the various talents of the all-stars, and the NHL YoungStars Game, an exhibition game not exclusively featuring rookies , playing under slightly modified rules.
Given its checkered history, some fans have once again suggested that the All-Star Games be replaced with exhibition international games (for example, Canada vs. the United States, Sweden vs. Finland and the Czech Republic vs. Russia). Proponents of such a scenario argue that these games would be much more popular with fans both in North America and Europe, thus generating more revenue for the league. In addition, the national teams would benefit from the increased exposure and more regular opportunities to play, as is the case in Football (soccer).
Although the first official All-Star Game did not begin until the 1947-48 NHL season, there have been several occasions in the NHL where benefit games and All-Star teams were created. The first All-Star game in hockey, however, predated the NHL, when the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association had an All-Star Game on January 2, 1908 in memory of Montreal Wanderers player Hod Stuart, who had drowned three months after the Wanderers won the Stanley Cup. The proceeds of that game, which was won by the Wanderers 10-7 over a team of All-Stars from the rest of the league, went to Stuart's family.
Ace Bailey Benefit Game Edit
The first NHL All-Star Game, albeit an unofficial one, was held in 1934 to benefit Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ace Bailey, who suffered a career-ending injury. On December 12, 1933, near the end of the second period of a game between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in the Boston Garden, Bailey was tripped from behind by Bruins defenceman Eddie Shore, in retaliation for a check that Toronto defenceman King Clancy had delivered to Shore. Bailey was not the intended target of the check; Shore wanted to hit Clancy instead. Bailey was badly hurt, unconscious and bleeding. The Leafs' Red Horner took offence to the hit, and subsequently knocked out Shore with a punch. Shore was forgiven after the game when both players regained consciousness, with Bailey saying that it was "all part of the game." However, Bailey would pass out and lapse into convulsions.
Bailey was not expected to live after a single night in the hospital after suffering from severe hemorrhaging. It was made well-known that Shore would have been charged with manslaughter were Bailey to die. Fortunately, he gradually recovered, but his hockey career was over. For his actions, Shore received a 16-game suspension, a third of the 48-game schedule of the time, while Horner was suspended for the remainder of 1933.
The game itself was proposed by Walter Gilhooley, the sports editor of the Journal in Montreal. This proposal would become a reality on January 24, 1934, in a meeting of the NHL's Board of Governors in 1934. On February 14, 1934, the NHL's first All-Star Game was held, during which Bailey's #6 uniform was retired by the Leafs. It was the first number to be retired in the NHL. The game saw the Leafs battle against an All-Star team made of players from the other seven teams, which the Leafs won 7-3. One of the more memorable moments before the game was when Bailey presented Shore with his All-Star jersey, showing to the public that Bailey had clearly forgiven him for his actions. Bailey also presented a trophy to NHL President Frank Calder before a game in the hope that the trophy would go to the winner of an annual All-Star Game for the benefit of injured players.
Howie Morenz Memorial Game Edit
Howie Morenz was one of the NHL's superstars of the 1930s. However, his career, and eventually, life, ended in a game between his Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Black Hawks on January 28, 1937, at the Montreal Forum. In that game, Morenz was checked by Chicago player Earl Seibert into the boards in what seemed like a normal hit. However, as the boards were made of wood at the time, Morenz's leg shattered in five separate locations above the ankle. Morenz was carried off the ice on a stretcher to a hospital, where he died, not because of the leg injury, but because of his family, friends, and a legion of fans, all of whom wanted to wish him well. At one time, one visitor noted that it was as if a party was being held inside of Morenz's hospital room, complete with whiskey and beer. Morenz died on March 8 the same year, from, as teammate Aurel Joliat put it, "a broken heart" (Morenz suffered a heart attack the night before). Morenz's #7, which had been hanging in its usual stall while he was in hospital, was finally retired for good.
While Morenz was in the hospital, plans for a game for Morenz's benefit were already under way. However, the game was not as successful as Bailey's game, partially because it took place many months after Morenz's passing, on November 3 at the Forum, and partially because Morenz had not survived. The game saw two All-Star teams, the first being a team of stars from the Habs and the Montreal Maroons, the second being an All-Star team made of players from the other teams, with the latter team winning 6-5.
The Official Games Edit
Despite Bailey's hopes of an annual All-Star Game, it did not become an annual tradition until the 1947-48 NHL season.
Since then, the All-Star Game has been played every year, except in 1966, when the All-Star Game was moved from the start of the season to its current position in the middle of the season, 1979 with the 1979 Challenge Cup series replacing the game, 1987 with Rendez-vous '87 replacing it, 1995 with the season shortened by a lockout, and 2005 when the season was cancelled altogether because of another lockout. As part of the collective bargaining agreement ending this lockout, the NHL will not hold an All-Star Game during Winter Olympic years, meaning there was no All-Star game during the 2005-06 NHL season, the first held under the new CBA.
Both parts of Bailey's vision would, however, come true: The first game of the annual tradition, and the first official NHL All-Star Game, would be played in Maple Leaf Gardens, on October 13, 1947. The format of the All-Star Game, which remained the same, with two exceptions, until the 1967-68 NHL season, called for the defending Stanley Cup champions to play against a selection of players from the other five teams. For the first year, the All-Stars were a team comprising of the First and Second NHL All-Star teams (not to be confused with the All-Stars that played against the Cup champions), as well as three players from the New York Rangers and one player each from the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks.
For the game, the Gardens facilities were upgraded to use glass on the boards (in an era where wire fences were the norm), a point that fans complained about as the sounds of the checks were somewhat muted. In what would be another tradition, the defending Cup champions were presented before the game with various gifts that included sweater coats, golf balls, cigarette boxes, ties, cufflinks, pocket knives, watches, and lifetime passes to the Maple Leaf Gardens. All-in-all, the game was a success, with the All-Stars winning 4-3.
Although the All-Star Game called for the defending Cup champion to host it, the game was held in Chicago Stadium in its second year as a consequence of the negotiations that set up the first game. Also as a peculiarity as a result of the scheduling, the game was held not before the season started (as was the case before and would be for almost 20 years following the game), but three weeks into the season. Like the year before, players from the First and Second NHL All-Star teams were automatically awarded spots on the All-Star Game rosters (an exception was Leafs goalie Turk Broda, having won the Cup, played for the Leafs instead), with the rest of the all-stars being assembled so that each team was represented with at least three players on the All-Stars. As for the game itself, the All-Stars had won 3-1 with all of the scoring done in the second period.
The defending Cup champions would win their first All-Star game in 1950 by a 7-1 margin, thanks to Detroit's Production line and the fact that five of the First and Second NHL All-Star teams were Red Wings. Because of the one-sidedness of the game, many fans and hockey insiders considered options on how to make the All-Star Game more balanced, including one where the All-Star Game was eliminated altogether in favour of a best-of-nine Stanley Cup Final with the proceeds of two of the games going to the players' pension fund, and one which saw a Canadian Teams vs. American Teams format (a somewhat-flawed concept in that nearly all NHL players of the era, whether playing for teams representing U.S. or Canadian cities, were Canadians). Ultimately, the 5th NHL All-Star Game saw the First NHL All-Star team battle the Second, with the players filling out the First team being from American teams and the Second team being filled with either Hab or Leaf players. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, leaving many fans upset for the second straight year. The same format of First vs. Second with the First team being augmented by players from American teams and the Second being augmented by Leaf or Hab players continued the next year, but the 6th All-Star Game proved to be 60 minutes of boring hockey as the teams skated to a 1-1 tie.
Criticisms of this new format, as well as the boring hockey, was what made the NHL revert the format of the All-Star Game to its original incarnation. Some of the criticisms included the fact that teammates often opposed each other in the All-Star Game under the new format, and some stated that the early date of the game was detrimental to the exposure of the NHL in the States, being held at the same time as the World Series and the National Football League season. In what would be later a reality, Toronto Star columnist Red Burnett suggested that the game should be played mid-season and that fans should choose their starting lineup, a system which had long been in use in the States with regard to Major League Baseball.
The game was moved from the start of the season to mid-season in the 1966-67 NHL season as part of the move to promote the NHL to six new cities who would have their own teams. Because of the move to mid-season, the method of player selection for the All-Stars, largely unchanged for 20 years, was much scrutinized, as playing the All-Star Game mid-season meant that the First and Second All-Star teams were decided almost a full year before the game itself, and that by mid-season, the Cup winners were a vastly different team from the team that had won the Cup some eight or nine months before. The mid-season move also meant that rookies with outstanding first years, such as Bobby Orr, would be shut out of the game even if they deserved a spot on the All-Stars.
The 21st All-Star Game a year later was somber compared to the 20 before it, as the days before the game were tragic. On January 14, 1968, two days before the game, Bill Masterton had been checked by two Oakland Seals players and died from his on-ice injuries. The game itself was overshadowed by the debate on whether helmets should be worn in the NHL in the fallout of Masterton's untimely death. As in the previous years, the All-Stars were represented by the First and Second All-Star teams, as well as enough players so that each team was represented. The East-West format of future all-star games was announced in the 21st All-Star Game, with the intention of being able to move the game anywhere, alternating home ice between an East division team and a West division team year after year. The idea, along with the notion that the players chosen for the two All-Star teams should be the best at the time of the game rather than the best of the players from the season before, quickly gained popularity, although the Cup champions reserved the right to host the 22nd All-Star Game. The St. Louis Blues became the first Western host of the All-Star Game the following year. The 26th All-Star Game was the first in which the game MVP received a car as a prize.
In 1978, amidst renewed interest in international hockey, the NHL decided to replace the 1979 All-Star Game with a three-game series where the best the NHL had to offer faced off against the best the Soviet Union had to offer in the Challenge Cup.
The Challenge Cup was being touted as a miniature world championship, and for the first time, fans could vote for certain members of the roster. The NHL would lose the three-game series two games to one, with the third game being lost by an embarrassing 6-0 margin.
Over the next few years, various aspects of the All-Star Game came under scrutiny, including the format of the game. To make things worse, the All-Star Game itself was viewed in some circles as a bad thing, with players opting out of the game in favour of the rest and prospective hosts repeatedly declining to host the event.
The 37th All-Star Game in 1985 marked the first time that honorary captains were selected for each team. The game also brought forth the notion of fan balloting of the starting lineup (already adopted in the National Basketball Association and by this time had returned, following a hiatus due to ballot box stuffing, to Major League Baseball; the National Football League gave the fans the vote in the 1990s), as the game was suffering from having little media coverage. The idea came into fruition the following year.
In 1987, the All-Star Game was pre-empted in favour of Rendez-vous '87, held at Le Colisée in Quebec City. Like the Challenge Cup before it, Rendez-Vous '87 was an event where the best the NHL could offer played against a Soviet squad which had an entire year to prepare. To reduce the possibility of the NHL being embarrassed again, Rendez-Vous '87 was a two-game affair. The series was split between the two teams with a game apiece.
During the series, NHL president John Ziegler stated that Soviet players would never be able to join the NHL because of the way the Soviet hockey programme worked, and that NHLers would never be able to play in the Winter Olympics, both of which, as events would turn out, would eventually happen.
The NHL All-Star Skills Competition and the Heroes of Hockey game were both introduced in the 41st All-Star Game in 1990. The Heroes of Hockey game featured NHL alumni and was set up much like the main game, with Wales vs. Campbell. However, it should be noted that many of these players retired before the introduction of the Wales and Campbell Conferences. Future Heroes of Hockey games would have the hometown alumni play against the "best-of-the-rest", much like the all-star games of old. The 42nd All-Star Game introduced, as part of the player selection, two players chosen by the commissioner to honour their years to their game.
The 45th All-Star Game in 1995 was a casualty of the 1994-95 NHL lockout, which shortened that season to just 48 regular-season games. San Jose, which was to host that game, was awarded the 1997 game instead.
The 48th All-Star Game in 1998 saw the first change in format in years to promote the first Olympic hockey tournament where NHL players could participate. This format, which was used for five years, saw a team of North American All-Stars taking on a team of players who were not from North America known as the World All Stars. The format was not without its critics, some of which suggested replacing the game with a miniature national tournament, in the style of the World Cup of Hockey. Many fans also weren't happy with the system, especially some Canadian fans, who resented having a team with 75% Canadian players labeled "North America." The "First International Showdown", as it was billed, saw the North Americans win 8-7.
In 2003, the game reverted back to its classic East vs. West format. Dany Heatley scored four goals, tying an All-Star Game record, plus a shootout goal. Heatley also set the record for being the youngest player to score a hat trick in the All-Star Game, a record previously held by the Edmonton Oilers' Wayne Gretzky. This shootout, the first of its kind in the NHL in the modern era, received an enthusiastic, frezied response from the crowd when it was announced, and carried on during the event. This was influential in the later decision to decide regular season games tied after overtime with a shootout, thus eliminating tie games.
The All-Star Game was dealt two serious blows in 2005. Not only was the game canceled along with the rest of the season due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, but the subsequent collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout stipulated that heretofore the game was to be held only in non-Olympic years. Thus, there was no All-Star Game in the 2005-06 NHL season either.
After a two-season absence, the 2007 game was played in Dallas, Texas. The West defeated the East 12-9; Daniel Briere of the Buffalo Sabres recorded a goal and four assists and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
The Atlanta Thrashers are scheduled to host the 2008 game (they were originally scheduled to host the canceled 2005 game). The Montreal Canadiens will host the 2009 game as part of the celebration of the club's 100th anniversary. There will be no game in 2010, due to the change in the collective bargaining agreement.
All-Star Game Results Edit
|Player||Points (g-a)||Games Played|
|Wayne Gretzky||25 (13-12)||18|
|Mario Lemieux||23 (13-10)||10|
|Joe Sakic||22 (6-16)||12|
|Mark Messier||20 (6-14)||15|
|Gordie Howe||19 (10-9)||23|
- ↑ 2007 All-Star Game Coverage: NHL's bright future is on display
- ↑ 1997 hosting assignment was a replacement for the 1995 All-Star Game.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 No game will be played during a Winter Olympics year.
- ↑ 2008 hosting assignment is a replacement for the 2005 All-Star Game.
- ↑ Montreal will host 2009 NHL All-Star events
|National Hockey League|