School-yard style picks for this year’s All-Stars

Marlow Weldon

I’ll admit it.

I got sucked into this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game festivities in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Rarely do I watch the mid-season love in, and apparently, I’m not alone, as every year, the NHL adds news twists and turns to try and capture the ever-wondering eye of the sporting public.

But this year, I was intrigued, if for no other reason than to see 36 millionaires sit and squirm in their chairs like so many of us have before.

For this year’s game, two team captains were picked, those being Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and Detroit captain Nick Lidstrom, and those two players were then tasked with drafting a fantasy all-star team from the pool of all-stars available.

When I first heard about the concept, I was immediately taken back to the days of my childhood, days when I would spend from sun up to sun down on the frozen glory that is an outdoor rink (or ODR as the kids call it these days.)

Anyone who played shinny as a kid will fondly (or maybe not so fondly) remember throwing their sticks in the middle of the ice, waiting to see what side of the rink your stick would be tossed to.

I was actually kind of hoping that would be how they would divy up the teams for this past All-Star game, but the way they actually did it was fine with me as well.

Now, the rules were a bit weird for the All-Star draft, and were designed to make sure that a forward was the player picked.

All goalies had to be off the board by the 10th round, and defensemen had to be gone by round 15.

Staal, who won the puck flip to determine draft order, surprised everybody when he picked former Red Deer Rebel and teammate Cam Ward with the first pick in the draft.

I loved Ward’s answer to TSN analyst James Duthie when Duthie asked how he went ahead of guys like Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin.

“I guess I was the best player available. It had nothing to do with the fact that Staal’s a friend and teammate,” he said with a straight face, doing his best to stiffle a smile and laugh.

Team Lidstrom then wasted no time in selecting the league leading goal scorer this season, Steven Stamkos.

Alex Ovechkin was next to go, before the captains did what many thought/hoped they would in splitting up the Sedins.

Team Staal took Daniel, while Lidstrom got Henrik, marking the first time in their careers that the twins have played on opposite teams.

The two teams continued to pluck players from the board until just two were left; Colorado’s Paul Statsny and Toronto’s Phil Kessel.

In selecting Statsny with the second last pick, Staal called Toronto “a non-hockey market”, an obvious tongue in cheek dig at all us Canadians who say any state south of Minnesota can’t support hockey.

That left the prized possession of Brian Burke sitting there all alone, looking remarkably uncomfortable.

It didn’t help matters that an almost giddy Ovechkin was snapping Blackberry pics of the forlorn Kessel, and all the empty chairs that surrounded him.

Now, before you start to feel too bad for Kessel, remember that, as a reward for being picked last, he received a new Honda Accord and $20,000 to donate to his favourite charity.

All in all, I think the NHL did a great job in putting this year’s event together, and the City of Raleigh did an even better job at putting it on.

It makes me wonder what the league has up its sleeve for next year.

Maybe they’ll include hitting in the actual All-Star game?

That might be asking too much.

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