I had been debating whether or not to go to the all-star game or skills competition for a while, and finally deciding that living in Montreal, I couldn't pass up the opportunity, and have to wait another 30 years.
I chose the skills competition, just because on TV, I tend to find it more compelling, since you get to see the players in a more laid-back environment.
So yesterday, I decided to go early to try and see some players beforehand on the red-carpet event... Of course, being January in Montreal, it was about -30 degrees Celsius, so it was an extremely short red-carpet (the outdoor part anyway), and it was pretty hard to see, since I'm about 5'6 and there were tons of really tall guys in front of me, but I was able to see some of the players and get a few, albeit bad, photos, of players like Crosby, Ovechkin, Souray, Chara and our hometown boys Price, Komisarek, Kovalev and Markov (well Markov I only saw the back of his head). But it was pretty cool... seeing them so close, though they must have been freezing since very few were wearing proper Montreal winter attire.
Anyway after getting squished and pushed by the crowd, fingers and toes frozen from being outside an hour, we decided to make our way to our seats; first row in white, which was nice since no one was in front on that level so we had a good view of the ice.
All of the sudden, a stage literally was being dropped from above and then the band got up and started playing and then another stage is dropped, this time with an organ and an organ player... Weird! But as mildly interesting as it was, everyone was waiting to be introduced to the all stars.
After what seemed like 20 minutes of non-hockey entertainment, our heroes were finally welcomed onto the ice (I say welcomed, though that wasn't quite the case for Kaberle, Savard, Chara and Thomas).
Of course the Habs players got huge ovations, as did Vinny Lecavalier, who in the minds of so many Habs fans is already a done deal... keep wishing guys!
So first up was the fastest skater... Cogliano was fast, and boy did he seem happy to grab that trophy from the little kid!
Then came the breakaway challenge... Though it could be argued that Stamkos and St. Louis, well even Getzlaf and Kovy made some extremely cool moves, it was Ovechkin who stole the show (is anyone even the least bit surprised?). He looked quite the Canadian fisherman with an Ovie twist, which help from his mortal enemy? Malkin. After the win, he was interviewed and said that he didn’t have that many skills, but just likes to shoot the puck, so he thought this would be more interesting... I’m starting to think that his biggest skill is being the entertainer. He is by far the most fun player to watch during games, and even during the event yesterday, I caught him lounging on his stomach on the ice, texting (I thought to vote for himself, but he later admitted it was for Stamkos), blowing bubbles with his gum and sitting in on the YoungStars game with Kovalchuk (though they didn’t stay the whole time... were they bored too?). He is such a pleasure to watch and listen to, and his skills definitely lie both on the ice and off.
Speaking of the YoungStars game... I think we should sign the junior B goalie who was playing... He was AMAZING! They didn’t even announce his name, which I thought should have been done.
The YoungStars game was after, but it was too long, and not much happened other than seeing Carey let in 9 goals, and realizing how good Pekka Rinne of the Preds really is! Oh and Blake Wheeler with the hat trick as well as Mark Staal REALLY celebrating his first goal... very cute!
Next came the hardest shot competition, where Chara broke a record, which was kind of cool, since the Bell Centre finally came alive for him. It was really great that he was donating the money from the pool he had started to charity! No one was that surprised that he won, though surprising for me was Shea Weber, who came so close!
Then we had the target practice... which by the way, Heatley should have won. Malkin shot 5 pucks on his first try... so theoretically it should have been 4/5 whereas Heatley was 4/4 ... though maybe Malkin hit a target and didn’t realise so hit it again... But even HE thought he had lost, because when Heatley came back to the “podium” (which was such a hazard... more details to come further down), he congratulated him and started to skate back to the bench... But he definitely beat him the second time ‘round. His interview with Joel Bouchard (the RDS reporter) was very sweet after, and I was happy for him.
Lastly was the shootout elimination which was quite funny actually. First of all, no one who you thought would get through did... so many of the great scorers weren’t able to score on their first try so were eliminated. A funny story actually, when poor Mark Streit, who was welcomed with open arms back to Montreal, took his shot, he missed, but as he was skating back to the bench, he took a huge fall and broke one of the wooden triangular blockers which were lining the sides of the ice... it looked like it hurt, but he was all smiles after. Shane Doan stumbled a bit too after skating into the “podium” not once but twice! So I definitely think these were hazardous!! Despite the falling, Doan took away the prize, though through 2 elimination rounds it seemed that he, Savard, and Milan Hedjuk all weren’t able to score! It was a really fun competition, to see both how good the goalies are (Tim Thomas wowed me on some of his saves, though he looked like he was letting Savard score on one of them!) and some really cool moves (Thomas Vanek doing an awesome circular movement with his stick).
All in all, I had a great time... I’m happy I chose the skills competition over the all-star game. It was a really fun event, though slightly longer than it should have been, but really worth my time and money. Hopefully tonight’s game will be fun, and that this break will give us a boost that will last long into the regular season! I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! Go Habs Go!