Buckle up, hockey lovers! The 2024 All-Star weekend just closed in Toronto, and I have a few things to say.
To start with the obvious, Connor McDavid, the Edmonton God on ice, left viewers jaws agape after his (literal) million-dollar moves dominated the skills competition. McDavid walked out of the Scotiabank Arena with first place in four of eight events. The term “entertaining” doesn’t even describe our captain’s performance. For the fourth time, he claimed the fastest skater title with a lap of the rink in 13.408 seconds, knocking Mathew Barzal off the first-place podium, who had a time of 13.519. McDavid took first in both the stick-handling and accuracy shooting events and closed out the final obstacle course with a time of 40.066 seconds, pushing Cale Makar to second place with a time of 43.435. With that obstacle course win, McDavid received a $1 million check from the NHL deputy commissioner, Bill Daly.
Looking toward the celebrity captains, it isn’t hard to notice Justin Bieber, grinning ear-to-ear in every picture or video taken during the weekend. He is known to be a big Maple Leafs fan which proved true when he fangirled over Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly. In the same way the players were starstruck by Bieber, he was just as excited to pose for a photo or hit the ice to warm up with the team.
Going up against Bieber, representing team Matthews, were recognized celebrity captains, each aiding their star power to different squads. Michael Bublé led team Hughes, Will Arnett took charge of team McDavid, and Tate McRae took the reins of team MacKinnon. The weekend was a tried and true celebration of Canadian talent, with these renowned personalities proudly showcasing the true essence of being Canadian. All of the stars derive from the Great White North (no, not the Boston Pizza option).
The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) made its first of many All-Star appearances this weekend; I could feel the electricity through the screen. The Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase was a riveting battle, with team King and team Kloss going head-to-head. Ottawa defenceman Savannah Harmon tallied a hat trick lighting up the night and carrying Team King to a 5-3 victory. A tweak on the usual hat toss celebration for that type of stunt, Harmon’s teammates threw their gloves onto the ice to recognize the accomplishment. Seeing women carve their names in the hockey history books right before me was truly inspiring. The team names themselves pay homage to the talented female tennis champions Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss. King and Kloss have been deep-rooted advocates for equality surrounding women’s sports; the two legends are also advisory board members for the PWHL.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the hosts, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The final All-Star game was a true emotional rollercoaster. Team Matthews ended up with a 7-4 victory over Team McDavid which is a home team’s dream come true. Auston Matthews didn’t just lead his team to the win; he owned the weekend with a standout MVP performance by racking up a list of points to back it up. Safe to say Matthews’s crowd giving him a standing ovation was the cherry on top of the perfect Leafs sundae.
Due to the weekend occurring in the city of Toronto, Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov faced his fair share of boos and chirps. Although I am by no means a diehard Lightning fan, I can’t help but root for the guy during the regular season. As long as he keeps racking up those fantasy points for me, he’s welcome on my lineup any day.
I can’t forget to mention my second favourite NHL goaltender (Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry is in that first-place slot). Jake Oetiinger entered the break as an All-Star rookie, and left as a champion. Blocking shots left and right, he played a pivotal role in the success of team Matthews. As a Dallas Stars fan, seeing a rising star (pun intended) make his mark and get that level of recognition on the big stage was heartening. Riding high from his stellar All-Star weekend, Oettinger started in net against the Buffalo Sabres. He led Dallas to a 2-1 victory after saving 47 of the 48 shots. All this is to show how the energy sparked in the Scotiabank arena ignited many of the chosen players for the return to the season.
So there it is — my All-Star Weekend recap. It was a weekend for the books, from McDavid’s magic gloves, Bieber’s love of the Leafs, making history in women’s hockey to Toronto’s triumphant victory, boos for Kucherov to Oettinger’s stunning debut.
Photo credits to Avry Lewis-McDougall