In hockey, as in life, it's all about who you know.
That old adage was on display at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game Draft. Like kids assembling their squads on a schoolyard, Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (assisted by Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators (with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers by his side) went about building their teams largely with countrymen and current and former teammates.
Of course, that wasn't exactly the case with Chara, who chose Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk with the first pick overall. He might well have reserved that pick for Bruins teammate Tim Thomas, who last year became the first player in more than a quarter century to claim the Stanley Cup, the Vezina and the Conn Smythe trophies in one fell swoop.
That is, if Thomas had set aside his political inclinations and joined his teammates at the White House earlier this week.
Not that there's anything wrong with Datsyuk, who currently stands fourth in the NHL in scoring.
Which team will win?
Alfredsson made sure to pick up the nepotistic slack left by Chara from the get-go, using his first pick on Senators skate mate and fellow Swede Erik Karlsson and his second on Jason Spezza (another Sen).
Chara added more Russian flavor to his own squad with the selection of Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin before selecting fellow Slovak Marian Hossa.
Joffrey Lupul's fingerprints were all over Team Chara's next two picks. In the fifth round, Lupul lobbied for Kimmo Timonen, with whom he played on the Philadelphia Flyers, and later added Corey Perry, the reigning MVP and a one-time teammate of his on the Anaheim Ducks, in the sixth.
Of course, the fans in Ottawa didn't care much for any of Lupul's picks, even those that weren't Leafs-related, given the long-running rivalry between Toronto and the Canadian capital. Chara gave Lupul some leeway in choosing Leafs teammates Phil Kessel in the eighth round and Dion Phaneuf in the 13th before returning to his Slovakian roots with Marian Gaborik in the 16th.
Back on Team Alfredsson, Henrik Lundqvist flexed some muscle for the goalie fraternity with the selection of Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, the first goalie from the City of Angels to play in the All-Star Game in three decades.
Whether the close ties between the captains and their players makes any difference on the ice remains to be seen. For now, this latest All-Star-related gimmick by the NHL has proven to once again be a fun diversion heading into the meat of the festivities this weekend.