By Joseph Guzy | Photo Editor
John Scott, a 6-foot-8, 260 pound enforcer, saved the NHL All-Star Game.
Of course, the underdog story surrounding Scott fueled a renewed interest in a notoriously dull event. The man the league supposedly didn’t want to attend their precious showcase scored two goals and was hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates with tournament MVP honors at the end of the weekend.
However, this storyline was just one small step on the road to the NHL All-Star Game becoming relevant again, thanks to a number of other players other than Scott.
Detroit Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin was just one highlight of Saturday’s skills competition. The 19-year-old earned the title of fastest skater after finishing a full lap of the rink in 13.172 seconds to beat Mike Gartner’s 1996 record of 13.386.
It’s no surprise that Larkin was able to beat the record, though. The league made the race a full lap for the first time since 2008, instead of forcing the rookie to take sharp turns at both ends with a divided rink.
The Breakaway Challenge harbored by some of the weekend’s lighter moments. Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban did his best Jaromir Jagr impersonation, complete with the iconic mullet, to win the Twitter fan vote.
Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks came in a close second, taking the ice with their sons Jagger and Nathan. The four reenacted the famous “Flying V” play from “The Mighty Ducks.” Jagger dropped the puck to Nathan who buried into the open net, celebrating with an unscripted dance in the corner to the crowd’s delight.
With Saturday’s entertainment factor at an all-time high, Sunday’s debut of the new 3-on-3 All-Star game format had to live up to the hype. It did.
Not only was it the first time in recent memory that an entertaining game was played in the league’s showcase, but it was also the first time the players have broken a sweat. Stars from around the league agreed that even though the format proved more physically taxing, it made the game fun again.
Some of most talented players in the world suddenly turned into children again, like when they played at their local rinks or on frozen ponds in the Canadian tundra. From Evgeni Malkin’s “spin-o-rama” goal to Scott’s beautiful breakaway tally, the new All-Star Game format did not disappoint.
In the end, however, the essence of the weekend’s events all stem from Scott. Before, during and after the game, the mood was once again lighter thanks to the grinning enforcer’s spectacular experience in Nashville.
It’s a weekend that can’t be recreated. The fans can’t force it, nor can the league. But hopefully those in a position of power can encourage the same creativity and attitude the players had at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game for years to come.