2018 NHL All-Star Game: Brock Boeser wins the weekend in Tampa, 7 more takeaways
Here's who came up big during hockey's marquee midseason event
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa played host to the NHL's All-Star Game and its accompanying festivities over the weekend. Despite the gimmicky nature of All-Star Games and the absence of meaningful competition, it's one of my favorite hockey events each year because it provides a rare chance for the league's athletes to loosen up and unapologetically showcase personality.
I took the trip down to Tampa to get a feel for this year's event in a city that has seemed to really embrace the sport over the years. Here are eight things to know from the weekend.
I didn't know much about Tampa's annual Gasparilla festival heading into the weekend, nor did I know that it was going to coincide with the All-Star festivities on Saturday. So, with that in mind, you can imagine my surprise when I arrived in Tampa on Saturday morning and promptly saw a young woman puking in the street while dressed as a pirate. To be fair, with Florida's reputation, there remains the possibility she wasn't even attending the festival.
Ultimately, the most challenging skills competition event on Saturday was attempting to avoid the hoards of pirates that were drunkenly stumbling around the fan festival outside of the arena.
However, some of the players in town seemed to get in the spirit of things -- namely one Erik Karlsson.
Plenty of hometown love
Not only did the Lightning host the weekend's festivities, but they also had the most representatives at the game with four players: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point (who replaced the injured Victor Hedman). Florida often gets looked down on by other (and colder) hockey markets, but the hometown fans showed up and they were loud for their guys. The crowds in attendance at the skills competition and the All-Star Game showed Tampa's representatives plenty of love, as did the All-Star pro shop, which was absolutely packed with special merch for the Lightning stars.
The new Save Streak competition was great
The skills competition introduced a new event this year with Save Streak, which is essentially a competition that challenges goalies to see how many breakaway saves they can make in a row. The skills comp has had breakaway events before, but they were aimed at rewarding shooters so the goalies didn't exactly try. It was good for some displays of creative skill, but it was super gimmicky and always felt kind of cheap.
Shooters participating in Save Streak are still encouraged to show off their creativity and 1-on-1 skills (and, for the most part, they did) but the event rewarding the goaltenders gives the guys between the pipes an incentive to give their best as well. It was the most game-like event that the skills showcase has had in a long time. For fans, it's pretty exciting no matter what -- you either get to see a nifty goal or watch the goalie build his streak.
You can never really trust the NHL to do things that make sense, but Save Streak was a surprising treat this year. Hopefully it sticks around for a while.
Kid Rock pulled off a major heist
Plenty of people Super Bowl) shouldn't be held to the same standard as legitimate concerts, but sometimes it can be an unexpected treat., so I was intrigued to see what kind of show he put on Sunday. Obviously, musical performances at sporting events (aside from the
However, to say Kid Rock's showing was underwhelming would be an insult to word 'underwhelming.'
After a pretty massive stage -- complete with a video and light fixture that was lowered from the ceiling of Amalie Arena -- was rolled out for the performance, Kid Rock played two songs: "American Rock n Roll" and "Bawitdaba."
If it wasn't clear that he was lip syncing the first song, he left no doubt when he didn't even bother to pretend to sing most of the second. Instead, he jumped around a little bit and flipped the microphone around in his hand while his voice recording played. Then he left and wasn't seen again for the rest of the night.
It certainly seemed like he had no real interest in being there and wanted to be on his way as quickly as possible. He barely acknowledged the crowd and didn't say a single word about the NHL, and I wonder how much of it had to do with the backlash that came in the lead-up to the event. But the crowd in attendance seemed pretty indifferent about the whole thing.
In any case, Kid Rock collected his paycheck and went on his merry way. Sometimes you just have to respect the hustle of a man who finds a way to cash in on doing the bare minimum.
Brian Boyle: This year's feel-good story
It was pretty much a forgone conclusion that Brian Boyle was going to be one of the biggest darlings of All-Star weekend. After being diagnosed with leukemia in the preseason, the 33-year-old veteran. It was Boyle's first All-Star selection and -- to make things just a little bit sweeter -- he returned to Tampa Bay, where he played for two-plus seasons.
Boyle got a ton of love from just about everyone and received the loudest applause of any non-Lightning player all weekend. It was cool to see Tampa welcome Boyle back like he was one of their own, and it was even cooler to see him soak it all in.
Brock Boeser: The weekend's big winner
Brock Boeser lit the NHL on fire with his scoring touch in the first half of the season, which is why he was selected to the All-Star game as a 20-year-old rookie. If he wasn't a household name before the weekend, he should be now; he may have had the single best weekend out of any player out there on the ice.
On Saturday night, Boeser won the Accuracy Shooting title after hitting all five of his targets in 11.136 seconds. Not only did he put his marksmanship on display, but his velocity also claimed the spotlight when he literally cracked one of the digital targets with his heavy shot.
Then, on Sunday, Boeser scored twice and helped the Pacific Division win the 3-on-3 tournament. He was named All-Star MVP and, as a result, won a free car courtesy of Honda. In addition to the wheels, he scored himself quite a payday thanks to his stellar weekend.
And just in case you needed to feel a little more jealous, his hair looks like this.
Brad Marchand: Proud NHL villain
There were two types of people at the ASG over the weekend: People from Boston, and people who despise Brad Marchand. The Bruins winger was by far the most-booed player at the event and he loved every second of it. Though extremely talented and skilled, Marchand has a reputation for being a pest and, occasionally, playing dirty -- in fact, just prior to the All-Star break -- so it's no secret that a majority of the hockey world doesn't particularly care for him.
But there may not be a player in the league more willing to embrace the villain role than Marchand, and that was on full display over the weekend. Just look at the damn smirk and wave when he was introduced on Saturday.
He took some time to appreciate the local art scene.
He blew kisses.
He provided lessons in acting.
It was clear that the hate wasn't slowing him down.
Even the fans that were reigning boos down on Marchand have to admit that he's a tremendous heel for the league and his involvement over the weekend created for great theater. The hate seemed to fuel him and, in turn, he fueled the hate. It's a wonderful symbiotic relationship for the NHL.
The ladies get some love
The NHL invited some of the stars from the United States women's national team to lead demonstrations during the skills competition on Saturday, and it was nice to see them get a chance to participate in the weekend's events before heading to South Korea. It'd be cool to see some big names from the women's division actually get invited to participate in the skills comp (like, for real) next year, possibly as part of a relay event -- much like the NBA used to do with WNBA stars.
The only downside to the ladies' involvement this year was they provided a reminder that, hey, this All-Star event is only happening because the NHL refused to allow players to go to the Olympics. Dammit.
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