~ (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)
~ By Pearl Allison Lo
~ LOS ANGELES– It was a jam packed day with the last day of the NHL Fan Fair, the only day it fell on a day with no work, Media Day, the Celebrity Shootout, Skills Competition and more.
The Pacific Division made it all the way to the Discover shootout, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski welcomed the crowd’s boos, Arizona Coyotes’ Mike Smith scored 20 points for the Pacific, Burns scored from center ice, Justin Bieber made headlines and Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Kesler’s son, Ryker, scored against the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price.
Media Day consisted of Eastern and Western Conference broken up by head coaches and the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play Press Conference. Learn to Play is an effort to introduce first-time participants to hockey and will be in effect next season (LearntoPlay.NHL.com).
When Coach Pete DeBoer was asked about his staff, he said, “I wish they could be here. They belong here. I think the three players that are here and for sure myself would say that this is a team accomplishment and while they’re not here with us, they’re here in spirit, because we all know that we’re here because of the people that aren’t here.”
Asked the best and worst thing about playing in the NHL, Martin Jones said “hockey, because it’s my job” and for “worst thing is probably travel and the time away from home.”
On his first All-Star selection, Jones replied, “It’s great. It’s pretty exciting to be in the mix here. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting on the ice with all these guys.”
Regarding the Breakaway Challenge from last year, which was taken out this year, Pavelski and Burns’ kids were still eager.
Pavelski said, “Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool. It was a fun event, having J or Nate out there, for him to experience it. We were leaving the house today, and he was like, ‘Well Dad, do I got to bring my gear with? He has high expectations I guess, but these weekends are fun, obviously it’s a lot of fun, the whole experience with your family and a couple teammates, it’s really nice.”
Burns – “He keeps asking me if he gets to shoot on a goalie this year and I said, ‘Sorry buddy, you broke his ankle last couple weeks ago so’…he doesn’t get to shoot on a goalie, but those are special things for him to be a part of and he doesn’t really realize who he’s getting to meet, but as he gets older, those are things you can look back on and remember.”
On talking with favorite players
Pavelski – “Growing up, my favorite player was Brett Hull. I met him, talked to him a little bit. I always loved the way he could shoot the puck and score goals.”
Burns – “I haven’t seen those two (Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier). Those are two of the guys that were my heroes growing up and I mean, there was lots of them last night. I got to see Fedorov today, just stumbling out of the elevator. This is a guy that’s such an incredible player that I always looked up on growing up. I always wanted the white skates because he was wearing them. I saw Borak yesterday and it’s just incredible to see a guy like that. I think when you randomly see these guys in the hotel, it’s kind of embarrassing, because you don’t even know what to say, and they meant so much to you as a kid growing up and it’s a really special weekend for those guys and I think the weekend belongs to those guys. We’re all here because of them and it’s a cool honor to be here and a part of that.”
A little bit of football
Pavelski – “It’s tough to bet against the Patriots. I have a feeling Atlanta could do it, but I’m going with the Patriots.”
Jones – “I’m a pretty casual football fan, but it’s hard to bet against Brady and the Pats, but I think I’m gonna take the Falcons.”
On Burns in the hardest shot competition –
Pavelski – “Good. I think so. Have to look at everybody. Got Weber out there. Everyone knows how hard he can shoot it, so he’s probably the front-runner, but as far as competition goes, we’ll see where it goes.”
Jones joked, “I don’t like him. He’s got nothing.”
Burns – I think I’m a space taker for Webs. It’s crazy to see his shot everyday and see what he does. I just don’t think there’s a guy who can compete with his shot. I don’t get to see Hedman that much, so I don’t know how hard his shot is, so maybe he can, I don’t know, but Webs’ is ridiculous, so I know I’m not going to be able to compete with that. I just get to go and take…two or three shots, so hopefully my stick doesn’t break and I fall and…the game plan is, but maybe I’ll try a wrister and just see what it is.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made himself available to the media.
The All-Star Celebrity Shootout was next. The charity game benefiting Echoes of Hope also honored Alan Thicke with special patches Team (Wayne) Gretzky and Team (Mario) Lemieux wore. During the game, Bobby Orr was announced as another assistant coach.
It was an understandably slower paced game as music played throughout. All penalties automatically led to penalty shots. The game featured two 21 minutes halves with a two minute intermission.
Team Gretzky won 5-3, which included goals from Teemu Selanne, Eric Lindros, Ron MacLean from a helmet-less Peter Stastny, Joe Sakic, Scott Niedermayer, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bieber.
Bieber had an empty net goal, an assist and two penalty shots. Before the second penalty shot though, he was smashed against the glass by Chris Pronger, an image that went viral on social media.
The pop stars’ determination throughout the game did not go unnoticed though. Gooding Jr., who had the game winning goal, exclaimed, ““Twenty-five shots later, he finally made it. I was shocked how well he could play!”
Celebrities and retired players both were interviewed at the benches.
E! News’ Ken Burns stated he had “an upper and lower body injury, a hangover.”
Selanne said, “I don’t know who’s the goalie there. He’s like a wall.“ before later scoring against him on a penalty shot that he paused before making.
Regarding the game, Gretzky replied, “It’s nice that so many people love the game of hockey.”
Gooding Jr. who was the most colorful player on the ice with a blue helmet and pads, later revealed by stripping, that “these are my Wayne Gretzky pants given to me by him during his tournament in Vegas that I skated in.”
The final round of events for the night was the All-Star Skills Competition. Beforehand, Snoop Dogg, spun the beats for the introductions. After almost the players were on the ice, the captains were introduced. Six events occurred. Players who were not participating at the moment knelt or sat on the ice on two white benches.
In the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, Heat 1 went to the Central, Pavelski, who was a one-timer, did exactly that with his first shot. Heat 2 went to the Metropolitan and they also got another point, for being the fastest with 1:21 seconds.
During the Four Line Challenge, which was the new event, there was embellishment from the Sharks regarding the crowd’s boos. Pavelski cupped his hand to his ear as if he could not hear them. He went 0-2 from the first line. Burns traced his Sharks logo before hitting the top corner on his second attempt, earning the Pacific 3 points. He “Felt the love from the LA crowd, it was great.” Only the Atlantic did not earn points. Smith’s 20 points and won the event for the Pacific as he hit the 5-hole from the other goal line. He still said though, there’s “less pressure in a game than it is here tonight.”
Normally, Los Angeles Kings games are known for the Kiss Cam, but Kraft Heinz featured a Kids Cam.
The Atlantic division got their first point in Match 1 of Accuracy Shooting. Match 2 saw Connor McDavid win one for the Pacific. In Match 3, Auston Mathews from the Atlantic posted the fastest speed so far with 12.28 seconds but then Sidney Crosby knocked down the targets faster even faster, in 10.73 seconds. In Match 4, Pavelski was one of the passers to Jeff Carter who earned the Pacific another point.
For the group fastest skater competition, Race 1 and 3 went to the Atlantic. Race 2 initially went to the Pacific according to the timer, but was reversed upon review and given to the Central. Bo Horvat loss narrowly,13.43 seconds to Patrik Laine’s 13.42. McDavid won Race 4 for the Pacific and got them the bonus point as the fastest skater with 13.02, putting them in the lead. Then he did the individual fastest skater competition by lapping around the ice in 13.31 seconds, just a little shy of Dylan Larkin’s record.
Weber once again won the hardest shot competition, making it 12 of the past 13 events where the winner was 100+mph. He recorded 102.8. In Match 1, Laine got Central the point against Burns, whose two shots were 96.1 and 97.7. Match 2 went to Metropolitan, Match 3 to the Pacific and Match 4 Weber’s Atlantic, who also got a bonus point.
By the time of the final event, the Pacific had won for the Western Conference. The Atlantic and Metropolitan were in a tie for the Eastern, which was broken by the fastest shot. Therefore, the Discover Shootout pitted the Atlantic versus Pacific. Crosby and Kane were Discover Picks, meaning if they scored, their team would earn 2 points. With 10 players apiece, the Pacific faced goalies Carey Price and Tuukka Rask. The Atlantic faced Smith and Jones. Kesler, the younger one, was the only one to score for the Pacific, scoring against Price. The elder Kesler had also substituted Ryker for one of his shots in the Four Line challenge. The only goal Jones gave up was to Crosby. Pavelski shot second and Burns shot second to last. He made a stylistic shot that hit the post.
The 4-1 win for the Atlantic meant they got to choose who they played in the All-Star Game and when. They chose Metropolitan and to go second, which means at 12:30pm we will see the Pacific versus Central.
Notes: Gretzky got a second coaching job when he was chosen to replace John Tortorella’s Metropolitan Division spot in the All-Star game.