The NHL’s All-Star Weekend wrapped up quickly on Sunday night after another entertaining three-on-three tournament filled with star-studded talent . The Metropolitan Division came away with a 4-3 win over the Pacific to receive the $1 million prize, while Philadelphia Flyers’ forward Wayne Simmonds took home MVP honours after notching three goals in the tournament – including the game-winning goal in the Final round to crown his team victors.
While the three-on-three tournament boasted highlight reel material, there were other standout moments from the weekend that ranged from feel good to disbelief. All in all, however, it was a weekend to remember as the NHL celebrates its 100-year anniversary.
Here are the top-five moments from the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, in no particular order:
Bieber Versus Pronger
In what is gaining ground as one of hockey’s greatest captured photos, the battle between NHL legend Chris Pronger and pop icon Justin Bieber in the Celebrity All-Star Game will never be forgotten. The 42-year old Pronger was in a battle along the boards with the Biebs during the first half of the game and capitalized on his chance to get gritty with the young singer, pinning him along the boards in uncomfortable hard-nosed fashion while laughing hysterically into the camera, just as you’d expect him to.
— theScore (@theScore) January 29, 2017
Bieber was representing Team Gretzky in the Celebrity All-Star Game and displayed some skill. Even though he missed two penalty shots, Bieber collected an assist on teammate Eric Lindros’ goal and score the empty-net goal to give Team Gretzky the win over Team Lemieux. Unfortunately for the Biebs, the photo of him and Pronger will be the biggest takeaway from the Celebrity Game.
Baby Kesler’s Goal
With the Pacific Division up against Carey Price and the Atlantic Division in Saturday’s shootout competition, Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler used quick thinking to help get a point on the board. His genius tactic – send in son Ryker Kesler. The junior Kesler cruised in slowly on Price before sliding the puck over to his forehand and rifling a shot past the Canadien’s All-Star netminder, beating Price through his five-hole and topping off the goal with an epic celebration for the fans.
It’s still unknown if Price let the goal go in, but it was the feel-good moment of the weekend. Baby-Kesler was the Pacific Division’s only goal-scorer in the shootout as well, so at least he gets all the bragging rights and can say he scored on the world’s best goaltender.
Smith’s Long Snipe
During Saturday’s Four-Line Challenge in the All-Star Skills Competition, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith dropped one of the most impressive shots we’ve ever seen from a netminder in any kind of competition. From the farthest goal line at the other end of the rink, Smith lobbed a Hail Mary long-bomb down the ice, dead center into the net at the far end, sending the Staples Center into a frenzy.
The shot looked almost impossible to make at first, even some of the NHL’s most talented players were unable to make it before ‘Smitty’ stepped up to the plate. However, never say never when it comes to Smith’s puck-handling, especially since he Smith is recognized as one of the best and has a credited goal on his track record. The veteran goaltender scored arguably the greatest goal of the weekend – but hey, we’ll let you debate that.
Legendary Puck Drop
In addition to all of the competitions that took place this past weekend, the NHL revealed the final 67 players named to the NHL 100, joining the previous group of 33 legends that were named before the Centennial Classic. Included in the list were six current NHL players: Jaromir Jagr (Florida Panthers), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) and Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks).
A ceremonial puck drop for the ages took place at center ice before the 3-on-3 tournament, that included all of the participating players in the tournament and a number of the legends named to the NHL 100.
While the puck drop didn’t go smoothly thanks to synchronization issues amongst the players, it made for a legendary moment and connected the players of the past to the players of today who have all worked so hard to be part of the game of hockey as we know it. It was a moment for the history books, no doubt about it.
After Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella announced that he would be missing the All-Star Game to care for his son’s severely ill dog, NHL legend Wayne Gretzky stepped up to the plate and agreed to coach the Metropolitan Division in the three-on-three tournament. It was almost too much stardom to handle in one place – you had the ‘Great One’ on the same bench as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for starters, not to mention the rest of the star-studded talent that existed on that bench. It almost wasn’t fair to the other teams. Gretzky used a coach’s challenge to successfully overturn Kesler’s goal in the final game, having some fun with the opportunity to do so at the expense of Kesler.
Commissioner Gary Bettman apparently had no issues in getting Gretzky to take on the coaching gig either. According to Gretzky, Bettman’s pitch was simple: “When he told me you’re going to get (Alex) Ovechkin and Sidney (Crosby), well, that’s a pretty easy decision,” Gretzky admitted. Gretzky and the Metropolitan Division won the tournament after defeating the Pacific 4-3 in the finals, topping off an excellent weekend enjoyed by all.
4th year Sport Management student at Brock University.