Ladies and gentlemen, it's here again—the NHL's All Star game.
Unlike most years however where the argument has become whether or not the event is necessary, relevant, or even drawing viewers any more, we're embroiled in controversy in the NHL.
Should fighting be done away with or kept around? Is Oprah going to have to bail out the Florida Panthers? And where is Rory Fitzpatrick?
For most of those questions, we aren't going to be getting answers. As for Rory Fitzpatrick...
5:57: The AHL All Star Skills competition just wrapped up, and while the crowd there was....well....the Panthers draw more fans (either that or it was a very bad camera angle, or fans got bored and went home—both likely possibilities), you'll all be happy to know that Rory Fitzpatrick made the All-Star game.
That and CBC is running Wheel of Fortune leading up to the game. Has anyone else ever confused the R-S-T-L-N-E they award the player of the final puzzle for R.L. Stine?
6:00: Here we go, I'm pretty sure we're listening to Matt Mayz (Mayes?) and El Torpedo with the song that goes "Have you seen my ghost" as we run through a montage of the 57th All Star Game on CBC.
With the slow pace of the song and the xylophone playing in the background, the excitement is palpable....
6:02: The new Hockey Night in Canada theme.
Makes me wish I was marching somewhere. On the bright side, I found out that I was wrong on the song. Apparently the band is "Winter Sleep" and the song is Weighty Ghost—thanks Ron Maclean.
6:04: Don Cherry is the only man that can pull of a pink, shimmering suit as he makes his way up the stands, shaking hands and snapping photos.
The greatest thing about him though: He always wears cuff-links. I know, I'm lame.
6:06: Don Cherry to Ron Maclean: Nice tie.
Our line update is that Vincent Lecavalier won't stay on the top line (he's replacing Sidney Crosby in the starting lineup), while Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jarome Iginla are all on one line.
Scott Oake has also reported that the players don't like paying into the Escrow account.
6:08: Leave it to Montreal to incorporate an acrobatic, Cirque de Solei-esque presentation in pregame while a violin player hangs upside down from the rafters.
At least it's relevant right?
6:11: That was possibly the most confused I've ever been in a three-minute span as the players take to the ice with the Western Conference wearing red pants and white jerseys, and the East wearing blue pants and red jerseys.
The only co-ordinating goalie pads on the ice? Those of Carey Price. Go figure.
They're also wasting no time introducing the players for either team, as they seem to be going faster than in other years.
It also looks like Gary Bettman's parting words to the players before taking to the ice were "acknowledge the crowd in the most awkward, disinterested way possible".
Good news boss, mission accomplished.
6:16: The loudest cheers for any non-Montreal player during the introductions were reserved for former-Habs Mark Streit, Sheldon Souray, and the consensus man-crush of any man between the ages of twelve and fifty-four, Alexander Ovechkin.
6:18: Here's a breakdown of your All Star game starters....
Jonathan Toews—Deserving to be an All Star, but not a starter
Ryan Getzlaf—Definitely Deserving
Patrick Kane—See Jonathan Toews
6:20: Hey look! Sidney Crosby showed up much to the delight of Gary Bettman, Mario Lemieux and every other ballot-stuffing Penguins fan.
I wonder how Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk feel about that.
Oh, and you're Eastern Conference starters....the 2008/09 Montreal Canadiens!!
P.S. Vincent Lecavalier a starter? I'm thinking Tampa Bay fans should file tampering charges....get it?
6:27: That was the National Anthem....I was a good boy: I stood, didn't type, and I cheered for the new referee uniforms. Not because they're good, but because someone has to support our kindergarten artists.
On the bright side, listen to the Pardon the Interruption Podcast from January 19th—Tony Kornheiser opens with some musings about waking up between Madonna and Denis Rodman.
That'll be the biggest laugh I get from now until the new episode of Family Guy tonight.
6:33: Great news....we finally had the first faceoff of the game, won by the East who takes the West zone effectively until they clear the puck out. Time to enjoy two hit-less, whistle-less hours.
6:34: Andrei Markov had the first good chance off a triangle rush for the East but Giguere made the save, which bode well for Rick Nash (who set up the goal) and the West as they scored the very next play.
And you could hear a pin drop in the stadium.
6:38: The phrase "breakout All Star game" was just used. Seems kind of strange doesn't it?
6:39: Now introducing the International Flip-Cup Anthem...found consistently at hockey games here in lovely Montreal, Canada, and Rick Nash just burned Scott Oake for an interview as he jumped on the ice for a shift—the joys of live TV!
6:41: Surprising moment of the night: Alexander Ovechkin passed.
Not-so-surprising moment of the night: Ovechkin scores in the slot. East 1, West 1.
And apparently no one was able to get Ovie to switch out his yellow skate laces.
6:47: Henri Richard, winner of eleven of Montreal's twenty-four Stanley Cups, and he looks like he's the most distinguished person to ever receive a standing ovation, while Eric Staal pots one for the Eastern conference. East 2, West 1.
6:53: Your All-Star post count—two. Both for the Western Conference.
On the bright side, they're talking about Tim Thomas' "pretzel save" from the shootout competition last night. Coming from a guy with extended damage to his knees and a few sprained ligaments, I'm envious.
His flexibility alone makes him one of the most entertaining goalies to watch in the NHL today, and with the way he's bounced around continents and leagues, it's great to see him having success.
Further proving that the All-Star game isn't an overly-intense coaching opportunity, Claude Julien just did a minute-and-a-half interview without calling a single line change.
The minute the Tampa Bay Lightning are accepting applicants for Rich Toccet's job, I'm in.
6:59: Alex Kovalev just scored on a breakaway, but more interesting is that Zdeno Chara has been 6'9 since about age sixteen, which is nuts. My girlfriend couldn't figure out how Chara could avoid tripping over the signs last night with his lanky frame, but all the smaller players kept tumbling over the on-ice obstacles during the shootout challenge last night.
On a slightly related and more-exciting note, check out Alan Bass' All-Star Power Poll. What makes it the All Star Power Poll? The irony of him posting it this weekend.
I'm not a very good salesmen.
7:04: Brian Campbell's bio is live with Scott Oake. I wonder if he's going to get called out for a shift during it.
One minute to go in the first and the East scores again. Andrei Markov from Savard and Ovechkin. East 4, West 1.
7:07: As the first period winds down and Carey Price and J.S. Giguere wrap up their only period of All Star action, the West scored another goal to make it 4-2.
Coming up next is Coach's Corner and Perk Pills. Lots of truck stop perk pills.
7:12: Don Cherry just went against everything he ever stood for in wearing a Montreal Canadiens' tie, and now he's fighting over the reason for Ron Maclean talking about Montreal being the "Paris of North America" and showing a picture taken at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
In other news, Marc Savard is a good Canadian boy, Gary Bettman had to do something about Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk,the players should vote the All Stars in, and Brendan Shanahan, Brendan Witt, and Ethan Moreau are Don Cherry's kind of players.
Oh and the Leafs could have had Andrew Cogliano but the problem is "they took another European instead".
Apparently times don't change.
7:27: Alan Bass just brought up something interesting: Philadelphia last hosted the All Star game in 1976 as opposed to Montreal hosting it in 1993.
Balance is a nice thing isn't it?
In a related conversation, Jenifer Conway and I have been bouncing around the idea of bringing back the previous-year's-championship-team vs. a true All Star team format that was instituted years ago but done away with. It'd be much more entertaining.
Your starting goalies for the second period, in the West: Niklas Backstrom, the most underrated goalie in the leauge. In the East: Henrik Lundqvist.
In the time that I wrote this, Backstrom gave up two goals to give the East a 6-2 lead.
Tod Mclellan just said it was "like a tennis match" out there. Usually in a tennis match the other side hits back. Then again that didn't work so well for Jelena Jankovic or Venus Williams.
P.S. The West scored....6-3 Eastern Conference.
7:35: Random tidbit of information...Elliotte Friedman is reporting that Ilya Kovalchuk took Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin out for dinner on Friday night to get them to bury the hatchet because "they can make history for Russia in the next few years".
The feud between the two also isn't as heated as it's made out to be, but I have to hand it to Ilya: He recognized an opportunity for his country to make a hockey-related impact on a National stage, and he got the country's two biggest stars on board.
This makes Russia immediate favorites for next year's Olympics.
And the West scored again. 6-4.
7:41: Brian Burke claims that each season the NHL "kicks itself in the ass" every year calling the All Star game no good, comparing it to the NFL's Pro Bowl, the NBA All Star Game, and the MLB All Star game, claiming that it's a "different game" than the regular season.
In the meantime, there's no words on many Maple Leafs on the move, and the score is now 7-5 for the East, including a beauty goal by Rick Nash to draw the West within two.
Burke also called Sidney Crosby "Sid the Kid" which begs the question: When exactly does Sidney Crosby become a man? (7-6 Eastern Conference).
7:47: Sheldon Souray just tied the game and Rick Nash just admitted it's easier to score in traffic than it is with no one in his way.
In other news, Spy Kids 3D is on at the same time as the All Star game.
7:50: Alan Bass just suggested a KHL/NHL All Star merger game to me, but I have to ask: Would anyone pay to see Alexei Yashin dish to Marcel Hossa and Pavel Brendl?
7:52: Zach Parise just had a beautiful chance in close, but Kovalev just made up for the fact Parise didn't score as he went backhand on a huge breakaway that Carey Price called. 8-7 East.
In other news, Carey Price is a second-cousin to Keaton Ellerby (a Florida Panthers' draft pick) who is a cousin of Shane Doan.
7:57: If you hadn't heard already, Pat Burns has been diagnosed with Cancer for a third time. In a classy move (in place of the also-classy Canadiens' Heritage moments that both Alan and I are enjoying today—we'd be able to enjoy them more if the game wasn't so slow—the Candiens' offered a tribute to Burns, a truly exceptional coach).
8:01: The East is so bored they're scoring on themselves, with Jarome Iginla getting credit for his first All Star game goal to make it 8-8.
In the first, and probably only comparison of it's kind, my co-host on the EndZone Lee Ruby just compared Carey Price to Criss Angel when he called Kovalev's backhand deke.
Maybe David Blaine will show up in the form of Dominic Moore.
"For all your parents now, we could be murderers."
"Could've been. If we didn't have kids..."
At least The Simpsons is still good for a laugh here and there....
8:11: Instead of Satellite Hotstove, CBC is hosting an interview with Gary Bettman, so instead I'll address some of the rumors that have been hitting NHL airwaves.
Forsberg coming back: Give it up Peter. You were once one of the greatest European-born players to ever lace up the skates, but now you're constant 'will he/won't he' act has soured fans on you. Stay retired.
Chris Pronger to Toronto: Please no. Someone tell Burke that we don't want anymore Anaheim Ducks in Toronto unless their names end in 'Getzlaf', 'Perry', or 'Ryan'. Pronger would cost too much for this team to give up, especially when they're rebuilding.
Gary Bettman is a good interview: (When asked about his musical taste while Simple Plan plays) I'm a 60's rock guy although I don't mind Simple Plan—but I can't hear you. If I don't answer your question, it's more a factor of old age."
8:25: Now the Rick DiPietro-esque injury watch for Roberto Luongo has started as he comes in against Boston's Tim Thomas in the third period. Apparently I can't write an entry without a goal happening as the West has now scored thanks to Shane Doan. 9-8 Western Conference.
Here's a thought: Has anyone thought of instituting a running clock for the All-Star game? Maybe a sense of urgency is what this game needs.
8:26: Roberto Luongo is mic'd up for this period, which should be pretty interesting for when Kovalev springs in on yet another breakaway.
8:28: It's official...the All Star game is the first to twenty-one as the score is now 10-9 for the West following two quick goals.
8:34: I miss Jeremy Roenick and Dion Phaneuf. If they were here they'd actually hit someone.
8:37: Scratch that...Tim Thomas, Jeremy Roenick, and Dion Phaneuf would make this watchable.
My new New Year's Resolution? Buy a Tim Thomas jersey.
8:43: With just under nine minutes to go, Claude Julien is apparently talking about shaking up that lines. Another aspect I'd like to introduce to the All Star game:
In game trades. How fun would it be to trade the Marleau, Thornton, Iginla line for Mark Streit, Vincent Lecavalier, and Alex Kovalev?
Variety is the spice of life after all.
8:46: In the meantime, if you were looking for some information on the history of the All Star Game, I'd check out this article by Kevin van Steendelaar.
While I was plugging that article, the East scored to tie the game at 10. Are we looking at overtime?
I won't lie...I'm indifferent.
8:51: A Patrick Kane breakaway, 11-10 West.
I'm still waiting for someone to call a timeout so the East can regroup.
8:53: In the immortal words of Alan Bass—"Wooo East Scores!!! Go East!!!".
8:56: Great news!! Overtime in the "World's Greatest Shinny Game of All Time" (God Bless Jim Hughson). The shots are also 51-45 for the West.
Looks like we're going to get some drama after all.
And maybe Ovie will bring out the 'Tilly hat' if this goes to a shootout again.
9:00: Apparently Alexei Kovalev has suddenly grown allergic to the net. Two chances in overtime and he missed on both!
And how about this! A PENALTY!!!!!! And wouldn't you know, it's on the most arguable starter ever—Mike Komisarek.
In my humble opinion they should've just given Ryan Getzlaf a penalty shot.
9:03: Penatly killing isn't in the All Star game vocabulary because I'm pretty sure the East has had more scoring opportunities on this penalty kill than the West, but I think we learned a valuable lesson: More penalties need to be called.
The penalty opened up the ice and this has been the most exciting hockey all night. CALL MORE PENALTIES NHL!!!!
In other news....we're off to the second-ever shootout in NHL All Star Game History.
Go figure...twenty-two goals just ain't enough!
9:08: Vinny, Kovy, and Ovie are shooting for the East, starting off with a Vinny miss in the shootout. Shane Doan starts for the West, but his success from last night doesn't carry over as Tim Thomas shuts the door on him.
9:09: Alex Kovalev is just good. 1-0 East. Looks like he took his allergy medicine.
9:10: Alexander Ovechkin wraps up the East win with a beautiful goal to cap off the night, sliding the puck between Luongo's skate and the post through a size that was about as large as a quarter.
And if you couldn't get enough of sponsors, your Honda Player of the Game, as awarded by the C.E.O of Honda and Gary Bettman (who got boo'd!!!!!) is Alex Kovalev.
Kind of fitting that a Montreal Canadien wins the award (and a Honda Bridgeline) when it's the Habs 100th Anniversary, and he's one of four Canadiens' players to start the game.
At least the playoffs are just around the corner.