The National Hockey League is gearing up for one of its marquee events this weekend, as the 2019 All-Star Weekend rolls into California January 25th and 26th. This year's festivities are being held in sunny San Jose at the SAP Center, better known as the Shark Tank, home of, you guessed it, the San Jose Sharks.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, affectionately known to fans as Flower, is no stranger to all-star status. He was named to the event twice during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins, in 2011 and 2015, and last year became the first goalie in Golden Knights history to represent the team among the league's most decorated names.
Traditionally the All-Star Weekend is a chance for players to let their hair down and demonstrate some of the personality that falls by the wayside during the regular season. This shines in the Saturday Skills Competition held the night before the game. Remember PK Subban paying tribute to Jaromir Jagr's iconic mullet? Brent Burns cosplaying as Chewbacca? Goalies get in on the fun too and there?s no better guy for it than Fleury, who's a longtime fan favorite across the NHL and is well-known for being a prankster with a heart of gold.
In addition, four female Olympians from the United States and Canada will be on hand as the NHL seeks to grow the women's game. Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast will represent Canada, while Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne-Schofield will represent the United States. They?re scheduled to participate in the Fan Fair on Thursday night and will sign autographs on Saturday before the game.
The Skills Competition
This year's Skills Competition is comprised of six individual events. The players aren't just competing for bragging rights: $25,000 will be awarded to the winner of each contest.
First up is the Fastest Skater challenge, which is essentially a race to see who can do the quickest lap around the rink. It really shows off just how much skating skill is in the league and it's always entertaining to see who stays on their feet and who wipes out.
Next is the Premier Passer challenge. Sure, it looks easy to put a puck in the back of a standard NHL-sized goal, but what about miniature nets? Now's the chance to see!
The third event, Save Streak, is where goaltenders get to shine. The premise behaves like a penalty shootout, with skaters going one-on-one against the goalies to try and score. How the goalies try and stop the puck from going in is up to them! Whichever keeper makes the most consecutive saves wins.
The fourth event, Puck Control, is all about the softest, silkiest mitts in the league. This one's for the playmakers and stickhandlers extraordinaire, without whom some of the NHL's best goals would never be scored.
The fifth event, Hardest Shot, is a perennial favorite. Ever wondered just how fast a slapshot can travel? The current record is 108.8 miles per hour, set by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in 2012. Some of the league's heaviest shooters and previous winners like Chara and Shea Weber aren't in attendance this year and last year's champ Alexander Ovechkin opted out, so look for a new victor to be crowned.
Last but not least is Accuracy Shooting. This is a sniper's paradise. LED targets light up at random, leaving the shooter three seconds to make their shot. The goal is to hit the targets five times, and whoever does it the fastest wins.
The All-Star Game
The All-Star Game itself is usually three periods of high-scoring lackadaisical fun. Winning means nothing in the standings, so the players let loose and don't make any risky plays that could result in injury. It's a great opportunity to see new chemistry as East and West face off for bragging rights and the title of All Star victors.
What memories will be made this year? Will Gritty crash the game? We'll just have to tune in and find out!