Every year the All-Star Game gives us tons of great moments and the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place was no different. A number of memories stick out in my mind, but these are the things that I'll take with me after All-Star Weekend in Ottawa.
The Alfie Lovefest: This was the best part of the weekend to me. The building was really unbelievable for Daniel Alfredsson. The standing ovation he received after he scored his first goal with 17,000 people on their feet was amazing, all weekend long he was treated so well when he stepped on the ice, and you could just see that the city is in love with him and it honors him. I know it was an All-Star Game, and it was an NHL event, but it really turned into the Daniel Alfredsson show, and he deserves it. He's been there a long time, he's been a great professional and he's been a great ambassador of our League around the world, so I don't think it bothered anyone that it turned into his show.
Tim Thomas gets No. 4: We sat down with Timmy and he let us know that he's won the last three All-Star games and he was going to play the third period in this one so he could win four. No one had ever done that before, so late in the game Timmy was only concerned with winning, even as Alfredsson's teammates tried to set him up for a hat trick in the third period. Two was enough for Alfredsson as far as Timmy was concerned. He was going to win that game and he was going to be the goalie of record four straight years.
Chara's warm welcome: Zdeno Chara learned to be a pro in Ottawa. He became a professional, he became a good player and he generally learned his craft in Ottawa and the people responded to him very well. I guarantee everybody in Ottawa wishes they still had Chara on that team, and I think he was a little apprehensive about coming back in such a high-profile role, but he was really excited about the good ovation and the good hand he got when he was announced. He may have left Ottawa, but that's part of the business, and he never badmouthed Ottawa or said it was a terrible place. Everything that came out of his mouth was about how much he loved playing there and how much he enjoyed his time in Ottawa. It was a case of handling the situation properly and at the end of the day there were no hard feelings for either side, and this weekend showed it.
The Hardest Shot: This was really the best part of the skills competition. It's my favorite event to begin with, but when you see a record being set, that's always special, and we saw three shots break the old record in one night. It's really become the marquee event of the night with Chara and Shea Weber, and everyone's waiting to see if the record's going to get broken every year. Obviously the next step is if it's going to break 110 next year, but that was a great moment when Chara hit 108.8. It was a good, fun moment, and I think everyone will remember seeing the hardest slap shot ever taken. In addition, we were all surprised Alfie was in the hardest shot contest, too. I think most people thought high 90s would be a good showing for him since he's not known as a guy with a big shot. For him to go over 100 multiple times was pretty impressive.
The beauty of Ottawa: Ottawa was great last weekend. It's a beautiful city and all of the scenic visuals along the Rideau Canal with the winter snow falling was very picturesque. The parliament buildings were all lit up, all the events were packed, the parties were all busy. You really have to give Ottawa an A+ for the job the city did.
Players showing their personality: The players were a lot of fun all weekend. Marian Gaborik, in particular, for the first time really opened up and you could see his personality a little bit. He and (Henrik) Lundqvist battling back and forth on the ice and Gaborik eventually getting the hat trick was also great. Scott Hartnell's #HartnellDown campaign, when he would donate $1,000 every time he fell or scored a goal was great. Joffrey Lupul was great. There were a lot of guys having fun, and we've got to do more of that. When people see our athletes and meet our athletes and get to know our athletes, they fall in love with our athletes.
Skills on display: I also loved the skills relay on Saturday night with one-timers and pinpoint passing. That was the one drill that was what hockey players do. That's how you practice. You practice going through pylons. You practice carrying pucks through other pucks. You practice saucer passes. I thought it was a really great teaching tool for how hockey players learn their skills.
Overall, Ottawa was a great host this year and I think it gave Columbus a lot of ideas for 2013. That was one of the best parts of the weekend, too, to finally get some positive news for Columbus, which has had a tough year. Maybe this could be the start of a new period for the Jackets when they host the All-Star Game next January.
They'll just have to keep in mind that this season Ottawa gave them quite a bit to live up to.