Even if the All-Star Game is nothing more than a star-studded exhibition game with all the intensity of a pond hockey game on Christmas morning, it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a memorable moment or two at the midseason game.
While the Skills Competition usually brings the best out of the players and is always good for a few big shows, the game itself has been there to act as a big stage for players who are leaving the game or as an impressive night where one star shines brighter than the rest. From Gretzky and Howe to names like Heatley and Damphousse, here is the top 10 All-Star Game moments.
10. Teemu Selanne, Europe’s first MVP
Selanne, who recently had his jersey hoisted to the Honda Center rafters following an incredible career, was part of the World Stars squad that took on North America’s best and brightest at the 1998 All-Star Game. Though North America took home the victory, winning the game 8-7, it was Selanne who made carved out a little slice of history.
The Finnish Flash scored his first goal of the game just 53 seconds into the contest, and had completed the hat trick just 7:11 into the second frame. He didn’t get on the board for the rest of the night, but his three goals were enough to earn him MVP honors, becoming the first European player in All-Star Game history to get the nod as the game’s best player.
9. Mike Gartner goes from replacement to MVP
It’s almost like a Hollywood script, only the game was nothing more than a midseason exhibition between the Campbell and Wales conferences.
At the 1993 All-Star Game, Garter, a member of the New York Rangers, replaced teammate Mark Messier in the game after Messier went down with an injury. It would turn out to be one of the best stories in All-Star Game history, as Gartner went on to win the Fastest Skater competition on Saturday, and pot four goals and take home MVP honors on Sunday.
8. Chicago Stadium cheers the anthem
At the time of the 1991 All-Star Game, the United States was involved in the Gulf War, and it caused the game to be the center of much scrutiny. Players had gone back and forth about whether or not the game should be played, but the league decided to go ahead with the festivities.
Before the puck was dropped, one of the most memorable renditions of the American national anthem took place, as Chicago Stadium went wild, drowning out the anthem.
7. Great One scores four in the third
Wayne Gretzky added to his growing legend during the 1983 All-Star Game with a performance that will always be remembered.
6. Mario Lemieux sets All-Star record with six points
It’s not surprising that, on a list of accomplishments in a game where the best players take on the best players, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux hold down back-to-back spots. However, not even Gretzky’s four-goal third can top Lemieux’s six-point game.
At the 1988 All-Star Game in St. Louis, Lemieux dazzled the stars with three goals and six points – a point on every single Wales Conference tally – en route to a 6-5 win and honors as the game’s MVP.
5. Dany Heatley scores four in All-Star debut
Make all the jokes you want about Heatley, but his 2003 All-Star Game performance was something. Supplemented by commentary by the one and only Jeremy Roenick, Heatley did the unthinkable when he scored not one, not two, not three, but four goals in his debut. It was good enough for a then 22-year-old Heatley to take home MVP honors.
4. Daniel Alfredsson’s All-Star beauty ends with standing ovation
There are two parts to this video that put it in the fourth spot. The first is the goal, and the second is the crowd’s reaction.
All-Star Game or not, the moves Alfie uses to get into the zone and to split the defense are not easy. But not only does he get in for the shot attempt, he manages to find the back of the net. It may not have been with authority but, hey, it counts.
And the second part is the ovation from the Ottawa crowd. In what many thought would be Alfredsson’s final season in Ottawa, he was given an incredible send off by the fans of the team he captained for so many years. It was a special moment for one of this era’s most special players.
3. Owen Nolan calls his shot
When you think All-Star Game antics, this has to be at the top of the list. Even better is that it happened in San Jose, where Nolan had his best years.
Barrelling in on Dominik Hasek, one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the league, Bourque pointed to the top corner and then pulled the trigger. The best part of this clip, for my money, is that he rings it in off the bar. Beautiful.
2. Ray Bourque scores OT winner in Boston
For hockey fans, there’s no question who the two starting defensemen for the Boston Bruins would be if you were to assemble the all-time Bruins squad. On one side, you would have Bobby Orr, and on the other, Ray Bourque.
At the 1996 All-Star Game in Boston, with the score tied at four late in the third period, Bourque added to his Beantown legend status with some heroics to lift the Eastern Conference All-Stars to the win.
And while Alfie’s send off at Ottawa’s All-Star Game and Bourque’s performance in Boston were excellent, they do little to compete with the number one spot on our countdown, which is a fitting tribute to a legend the likes of which will never be seen again in the game.
1. Mr. Hockey says goodbye to Detroit crowd
The 1980 All-Star Game was a passing of the torch of sorts. The 32nd playing of the game was the first for Wayne Gretzky, but also the 23rd for Gordie Howe, his final appearance. And, like a storybook ending, the game was held at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
Things pick up at the 1:20 mark of this video, when Howe’s name is announced to a raucous ovation.
That’s enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. What a tribute to one of the all-time greatest players.