The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend was one of the most important sporting events this town has ever hosted, and it came off as one of the very best, both for the NHL and for Nashville. A showcase event, Nashville served as the center of the hockey world for three amazing days. The greatest stars of the present, and those of the past, all descended on our city in what was a prime opportunity. It was a chance to show what a great hockey town Nashville has become and it was a chance to prove to free agent players of the future, why they should come to Nashville.
Saturday saw the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition, a laid back night to celebrate the skill of the game. The Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater was 19-year old ‘phenom’ Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings with a time 12.894 seconds. He won his head-to-head matchup with Predators defenseman Roman Josi, who finished the competition with the second best time of 13.527. The Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge was won by P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens in a fan vote. The DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting champion was John Tavares of the New York Islanders hitting the four targets in 12.294 seconds. The Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay was won by the West team setting the stage for the most anticipated event of the night.
The AMP Energy NHL Hardest Shot was the event everyone wanted to see, with Predators captain Shea Weber defending his title with a shot of 108.1 MPH—just short of the all-time record. The night closed with the Discover NHL Shootout won by the East team to make the final margin 29-12 for the East.
The 61st All-Star Game on Sunday was actually three 20-minute mini-games, three-on-three matching the two divisions in each conference head-to-head, with those winners meeting in a winner-take-all championship for $1 million. Game one saw the Atlantic Division defeating the Metropolitan Division 4-3. Game two matched the Central against the Pacific. It was our chance to see the record four Predators perform: Josi, James Neal, Pekka Rinne and Weber. Neal scored two goals with one assist; Josi added one goal; Weber had two assists; and Rinne stopped five-of-eight shots while drawing a delay-of-game penalty and tallying an assist. The Pacific won 9-6, however, ending the night for the hometown guys.
The championship game ended up as a stark opposite to the usual all-star game, with a 1-0 win for the Pacific on a goal by the Anaheim Ducks’ Corey Perry. The three-on-three format, though exciting, also proved quite the physical challenge as fatigue took over.
The other storyline of the weekend was that of John Scott. Scott, essentially drafted as a write-in candidate by his fans in Arizona, was voted to the game (and as a captain at that) despite playing in only 11 NHL games this season scoring but one assist. The Coyotes, so embarrassed by the spectacle, traded him to Montreal for virtually nothing, with Scott ending up in the American Hockey League.
After much toe-dragging, the NHL decided Scott could still play, and should still play, as the Pacific Division captain. Scott was so vilified by many in the hockey establishment that he became a cult hero to fans and a cause for the other players. Receiving thunderous ovations all weekend, Scott did not disappoint, proving he was worthy by scoring two goals and being named the MVP of the game. His story will likely end up on a big screen near you.