A History of the NHL’s All-Star Spectacle
The NHL All-Star Game is a hockey tradition that has included some of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates, been the stage for many classic NHL moments, and it has been going on officially since the late 1940’s. From Gordie Howe to Joe Sakic, and Gretzky to Messier, it is well worth taking 5 minutes to examine, highlight, and take a trip through the history of this annual on-ice spectacle.
Officially, the NHL’s inaugural “All-Star Game” was held in Toronto and pitted the NHL’s best against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Maple Leafs, on Canada’s Thanksgiving Day in October of 1947—because, well, what else does Canada have to be more thankful for than the sport of hockey? OK, and Molson…
However, even before the puck was dropped on that day, the NHL’s All-Star Game developed from its roots in benefit and charity games that included the league’s biggest names. For example, in 1933, the career-ending hit of Boston’s Eddie Shore on the Maple Leafs’ Ace Bailey led to an “All-Star Game” that was held in honor of Bailey.
The 1967 season marked the first time that the All-Star Game was held during the season, instead of keeping to the tradition of holding it before the season’s start. The best of the Eastern and Western Conferences squared-off in the All-Star Game for the first time in 1975; more recently, the North American All-Stars faced-off with the All-Stars from the Rest of the World in 1998, and for a few years afterward.
In the latest All-Star Game that finished 11 to 10 last January 30th in Carolina, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp was named the MVP. But, the only thing more impressive than the consistently and longevity of the NHL’s All-Star Game, is the list of people that Sharp joins in the brotherhood of All-Star MVPs: not only have Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Joe Sakic all been named All-Star MVP; also, in 5 out of the 10 seasons during the 1980’s, either The Great One, His Iceness Wayne Gretzky (in ’83 and ’89) or Mario Lemieux (in ’85, ’88, and ’89) were named the MVP of the All-Star Game.
Two weeks ago, in this year’s All-Star Game, Carolina’s own 18-year old Jeff Skinner broke Steve Yzerman’s record for the youngest player in an All-Star appearance—by eight days—and joined the likes of Gretzky, Lemieux, and Crosby who all played as teenage All-Stars.
Also in Sunday’s All-Star Game, the Staal (Eric and Mark) brothers played on the same team for the first time ever, while Henrik and Daniel Sedin, both of Vancouver, joined Phil and Tony Esposito, as well as Derian and Kevin Hatcher as brothers who have played on opposing All-Star teams.
In the end, this year’s All-Star Weekend, which featured an awesome, landmark, All-Star fantasy draft, lived up to the hype. And, as expected, next year’s All-Star Game is even already adding to the storied history of the NHL’s annual All-Star competition, as it will be the first All-Star Game ever hosted by the Ottawa Senators.