All the stars of the National Hockey League were out in full force during the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis from January 23–26. So too were the NHL Mascots. Besides all the goals and assists that made the action on the ice exciting, the NHL staged an incredible experience for their fans.
When it was all said and done, the Pacific division won the All-Star Game by beating the Atlantic in an exciting 5–4 contest.
Similarly, the NHL Mascot Showdown featured fun matchups between the Eastern Conference mascots and Western Conference mascots. Over several days, fan favorites like San Jose’s Sharkie, Philadelphia’s Gritty, and St. Louis’ own Louie showed off their skills and treated NHL fans young and old to games of musical chairs, relay races, and dance competitions. During the much-anticipated hockey face-off, the Western Conference mascots, led by hometown hero Louie, defeated the Eastern Conference Mascots, 6-4.
There was the NHL Fan Fair, where fans had a chance to meet hockey legends and get autographs. There was the long line to see the Stanley Cup and meet the cup keeper, Philip Pritchard, who has been guarding sports’ most famous trophy since 1995.
And then there was the player media availability. This reporter had the chance to speak to Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, and Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele. The scene was intimidating as hundreds of media gathered with all of them trying to out position one another to ask the players questions.
Eichel, the Buffalo captain and perennial All-Star, talked about the chicken wings in his team’s city. For the record, he prefers the Bar Bill Tavern. “The wings are by far the best in Buffalo,” he said. Eichel currently has 77 points through 62 games this season.
John Carlson reflected on his team's recent success—winning the Cup just two years ago. “It’s nice to have a Stanley Cup under my belt,” Carlson said. “It’s really nice to play with a great team that I can win championships with. I feel like I have been playing more offensively which has allowed me to get more points this season.”
Carlson, who already has more than 70 points this season, is on pace to reach the 90-point mark, which would shatter the 70-point career-high he tallied in 2018-2019.
Coming into the All-Star Weekend, Scheifele had notched a first in his career: a hockey fight. His scrap against Carolina Hurricanes Defenseman Brett Pesce just four days prior was one he wouldn’t soon forget. “It was exhilarating,” Scheifele said. “But I don’t plan to do that again any time soon.” Known for his scoring and play-making, Scheifele, who is averaging about a point a game, currently has 27 goals and 41 assists through 65 NHL games this season.
The day before the All-Star Game, the NHL treated fans to the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. New York Islanders forward Mat Barzal defeated Connor McDavid, a reigning three-time champion, in the fastest skater contest. The Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber earned the title of Hardest Shot when he blasted the puck over 106 miles per hour. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin won the accuracy shooting event when he broke five targets in 9.505 seconds. Among the goaltenders, Stanley Cup Champion and hometown star from the St. Louis Blues Jordan Binnington had the longest save streak with 10 stops.
One of the coolest new events during the Skills Competition was called Shooting Stars, in which NHL players are positioned in the stands of the Enterprise Center Arena and had to shoot at targets located at center ice. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks won the contest with a combined total of 24 points after an overtime face-off against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.
After the Skills Competition, fans were treated to a thrilling Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Game, featuring the Canadian All-Stars versus the American All-Stars. The first-ever contest witnessed Canadian goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens make 15 saves, while Canada Forwards Rebecca Johnston and Melodie Daoust each scored a goal. The U.S.’s Hilary Knight scored the lone goal for the Americans.
Centered around entertaining fans and bringing the hockey community together to showcase the talent of the game’s best stars, the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend is an experience like no other.
Photo credit: Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports