NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Hockey players have always had the reputation as the nicest guys in pro sports. Nice can be boring at times, though. P.K. Subban and Brent Burns are super-nice guys, but not boring. If only more NHL players were like them.
Hockey's sometimes-humorless culture, where individuality can be a dirty word, was given a great, big, refreshing cross-check Saturday night by Subban, Burns and others here at the NHL's Skills Competition at Bridgestone Arena. It was like a night of chicken-fried steak wrapped in poutine.
Some in the stuffed-shirt hockey media (got my hand up here, too, folks) were even seen busting out in belly laughs over Subban's and Burns' antics.
This All-Star Game has been marked by the controversial inclusion of 6'8" AHL enforcer John Scott, which led to much hand-wringing among some—including, it seems, the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman ducked a question earlier in the day when asked whether the league initially lobbied Scott to decline the invitation bestowed upon him by its own Internet fan vote.
But Scott's grace and humor over it all has seemingly won over everyone and loosened them up. That kind of attitude prevailed at the skills competition.
Here's a list of the night's most fun moments:
1. Burns as Chewbacca
The night's most viral moment came when San Jose Sharks star Burns donned a Chewbacca mask for one of his breakaway challenge shots. Before he lined up for the shot, his evolution from short-haired, fully toothed rookie to wild-bearded, man-bun-hair-wearing, gap-toothed veteran appeared on the Jumbotron.
This will be repeated on many sports news television programs within the next 24 hours, no doubt.
2. Subban as early '90s Jaromir Jagr
Apparently on a suggestion from one of the Eastern Conference trainers, Subban donned a painted, long-haired wig and an old-school Jofa helmet to impersonate Jaromir Jagr from the 1990s. It brought the house down.
Subban even got Jagr's zig-zaggy skating style right as part of his impersonation. Jagr laughed heartily and interrupted Subban's interview by saying he wanted to have a word with his mother about never knowing he had a brother.
Subban is a genuinely funny man, not to mention a great player to watch. Let's hope he influences a new generation of players to realize it's OK to have some fun playing this game too.
3. Burns with his son
Burns came in on a two-on-one break with his four-year-old son, Jagger Burns. That immediately melted Twitter's collective hearts with "awwwws."
That figures to be a pretty nice early memory in the life of Jagger, eh?
On the shot, by the way, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider did some playacting, staging a mock fight that moved out of the crease before Jagger's attempt went in. Luongo and Schneider were once teammates in Vancouver, British Columbia, and they were subjected to frequent goalie-controversy stories.
4. Matt Duchene in cowboy hat
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene spent part of his Friday night jamming on a Nashville stage with country music star Lee Brice. Duchene, a huge country music fan, donned a ten-gallon hat for his breakaway challenge attempts.
He scored on a nifty lacrosse-style one-hander and tossed the hat into the stands after the goal.
5. Dierks Bentley on ice
Let the record show, Dierks Bentley can skate.
The country music star displayed genuine wheels in a two-on-one breakaway challenge shot with Nashville Predators right wing James Neal.
Wonder if Elvis could ever skate?
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.