Event Favorite Matthew Lombardi Falls Short in Flames Superskills Competition

Jeff VanderElzenContributor IJanuary 12, 2009

It's that time of the season agian. The NHL is just under a week away from its annual All-Star game, which has teams around the league buzzing for bragging rights. 

Of course, not every player in the National Hockey League will have the chance to participate in the event this year, being held in front of a sold-out audience in Montreal, Quebec. However, like the other 29 teams in the league, the Calgary Flames held their own annual Superskills competition Sunday, at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Much like the events held on the day prior to each year's East vs. West on-ice match-up, the players around the league are given the chance through a series of relays and obstacle courses to display their talents, such as Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Puck Control, and the Shootout Match-Up of post-lockout fame.

Team Iginla with Langkow and Bourque (and "Kipper" between the pipes) took the shoot-out event in front of some 17,000 roaring fans. To no surprise, Miikka Kiprusoff shined as the better of the two Flames goaltenders, next to rookie back-up Curtis McElhinney. 

Adrian Aucoin defended his title from last season as the man with the hardest shot, knotting a miraculous 102mph. Coincidentally Aucoin is the only Flame to still use a wooden stick. Flames forward Andre Roy, acquired from Tampa Bay in the 2008-2009 off-season, finished second in the event.

The puck control event was won by Calgary Flames forward Eric Nystrom, much to the dismay of forward Mike Cammalleri, after an untimely wipe-out during the same event. However, Cammalleri did manage to go four for five in the accuracy competition, thus winning the event.

The most exciting part of the competition was the fastest skater event, in which Flames centerman Matthew Lombardi, who held the team record in the last two consecutive seasons, was upset by former Edmonton Oiler forward Curtis Glencross who ended up winning the event. 

To no surprise, Lombardi did manage to finish second in the event under Glencross, who was also the winner in the same event last year, partaking in Edmonton's super-skills competition and being crowned fastest skater.

As far as the organization goes, the most that really comes out of this type of event (next to bragging rights, of course) is the opportunity for those skaters of less than All-Star status to showcase their abilities, as well as to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of fellow team mates.

It also gives the coaching staff better insight on which players to potentially pair up together, whom to work with a little more closely based on improvement attempts, and most importantly, who the team's unsung leaders are. 

The event also brings the players together in a different type of atmosphere, with the pressure off, some might agree that these types of events are also bonding rituals, in a sense. The more fun a team can have off the ice or out of the game, the better the team can function as a group when the pressure's on, and drive for that one common goal which ends in a championship ring.