News Blog: When is an all-star really an all-star?

I wanted to attempt clarification on a confusing hockey term that will probably remain confusing for as long as hockey is played.

It’s regularly the source of reader complaints to The Hockey News and it’s an honest-enough mistake made by sports journalists and people writing in.

It has to do with calling a player an all-star. Simply put, if a player is named to the end-of-season first or second all-star team, he’s an all-star. There have been 12 players named all-stars every year since 1930-31. If a player is selected to play in the All-Star Game, he is not an all-star by terms of the hockey definition. He’s a very good player and playing in the All-Star Game is certainly a nice accomplishment, but he’s not an all-star. About 50 players have been selected to play in the All-Star Game every year since 1947.

I recently posted a top 10 list of why Mats Sundin wouldn’t make the Hall of Fame. One reason was he was never a first-team all-star and just twice a second-team all-star.

A plethora of emails and complaint letters flowed in admonishing me for not getting my facts straight. A number of times I was told Sundin is an eight-time all-star and that easily qualifies him for the Hall. Fact is, Sundin has played in the All-Star Game eight times during his 17 NHL seasons, but he’s still a two-time, second-team all-star.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned I didn’t like Chicago’s signing of Cristobal Huet because I don’t consider him in the top tier of goalies for a variety of reasons. One reader made it his mission to convince me Huet is among the top few goalies in the league primarily because of his “all-star credentials.”

Fact of the matter is, Huet has never been an all-star and just once in the past three seasons finished in the top 10 in Vezina Trophy voting, conducted by NHL GMs. He was eighth in 2007-08. The novice hockey fan I debated with was steadfast in his belief Huet was an all-star because he was selected to play in the 2008 All-Star Game.

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One other example really points out the difference between being an all-star and playing in the All-Star Game. We gave the Hall of Fame heck a few years ago for inducting Dick Duff when other top candidates such as Pavel Bure and Doug Gilmour were rebuffed.

Duff was certainly a very good player, but not exceptional in our viewpoint.

The selection committee endorsed him as a Hall of Famer pointing out he played in the All-Star Game seven times. The All-Star Game during much of Duff’s career was the Cup champion versus a team of all-stars made up of players from the other five teams. Duff won the Cup six times, gaining automatic All-Star Game entry three times.

The other four times he made it on his own merit, but keep in mind a forward’s chances of playing in the All-Star Game in the Original Six era were one in five (12 forwards among 60 to choose from). That would be the equivalent of 230 players making the All-Star Game today.

Bottom line, playing in the All-Star Game is a nice feather in a player’s cap, but being named an all-star is the true, definitive honor.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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