Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby is the youngest player ever voted to an NHL all-star game since fan balloting began in 1986. The NHL announced its starters Tuesday and Crosby, at 19 years five months, is the youngest since Jaromir Jagr was voted in at 19 years 11 months in 1992.
“It’s an honour,” Crosby said after scoring a goal in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. “Growing up watching it, and who would have dreamed of playing in it?
“It’s something I will enjoy.”
Crosby and fellow super sophomore Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals led a sweep first-time starters on the Eastern Conference, joined by Montreal Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray and a trio of Buffalo Sabres: centre Daniel Briere, goalie Ryan Miller and defenceman Brian Campbell.
“Being selected it just an honour,” said Souray. “For the fans to think that highly of me is pretty humbling, actually.”
The Sabres are the first team to place three players in the starting lineup of an all-star game since the inception of fan voting in 1986. Buffalo is the top team in the East Division this year after finishing a win short of advancing to the Stanley Cup last season.
“It’s just gone to prove that the last year and a half hasn’t been by accident,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who will lead the East squad. “Last year was what it was, and this year we’ve built off from where we were.”
The 2005 all-star game was cancelled because of the year-long lockout and the game wasn’t held last season because the NHL took a break for the Turin Olympics.
Crosby led all players with 825,783 votes and registered the second-highest number of votes ever. Jagr received 1,020,736 in 2000 while with Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin ranked third among Eastern Conference forwards with 475,297 votes, the highest total registered by a Russian player.
Briere was second among Eastern Conference forwards with 475,857 votes and third overall behind Crosby and San Jose’s Joe Thornton (663,931). Interestingly, his No. 48 jersey has ranked fourth overall in sales in first half of this season.
Teammate Miller led all NHL goalies with 539,635 votes, the second-highest total among netminders since Curtis Joseph had 554,789 in 2000.
But Rory Fitzpatrick didn’t make it despite a well-publicized Internet campaign to get the journeyman defenceman from the Vancouver Canucks in the all-star classic. He finished with 550,177 votes, a record for a write-in candidate, but still behind starters Scott Niedermayer of Anaheim (591,657) and Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit (573,069).
For Lidstrom, it will mark the seventh straight year that he will start an NHL all-star game and this year’s event will mark his ninth overall. Lidstrom is one of only four Red Wings to play 1,000 games, joining Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio and this year was named the first European-born team captain with the off-season retirement of Yzerman.
Niedermayer led all Western Conference defencemen with 591,657 votes and will take part in his fourth all-star game. In 2004, he won the fastest skater competition at 2004 all-star skills event and at his first all-star appearance in 1998.
Fitzpatrick’s teammate Roberto Luongo will be at the Jan. 24 game in Dallas, however, after leading all Western Conference goalies with 484,861 votes. Up front, Colorado veteran Joe Sakic is joined by San Jose teammates Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Luongo and Cheechoo are first-time starters.
Sakic was selected to his 12th NHL all-star game and voted to start for the fourth time. With 473,847 votes, he finished second among West Division forward behind Thornton.
Complete rosters for the 2007 all-star game will be filled out by the NHL’s hockey operations department in conjunction with GMs and will be announced Saturday on CBC during Hockey Day In Canada.
Sabres fans were heard loud and clear in voting in three of their own. Miller beat out superstar Martin Brodeur of New Jersey by 54,642 votes. Forward Maxim Afinogenov nearly made it four starting Sabres but fell short by just 5,866 votes behind Ovechkin.
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff of Calgary garnered 403,313 votes in second place behind Luongo.