Brendan Shanahan, a former 600-goal scorer and the current NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Operations, learned about his role in the 2011 All-Star Game presented by Discover the same way everyone else did -- at a press conference Commissioner Gary Bettman gave during last spring's Stanley Cup Final.
"Sort of one of those things like you pick up a newspaper and say, oh, I guess I'm working on the All-Star Game," a laughing Shanahan told Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who filled in as host on Thursday's edition of the "NHL Hour with Gary Bettman."
"That was my heads up to it, and that was during the Finals last year. I've often felt that the best way to come up with good ideas or a solution is not to just be introspective but to reach out to all the people you know and ask questions, and that's what I started doing. I started talking to players who had played in many All-Star Games, I spoke to a lot of my friends who are fans and asked them what they liked and I even spoke to some of the broadcasters."
In the end, Shanahan developed the idea for the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, which will kick off All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Jan. 28.
"We're going to have 42 All-Stars who are selected for the game and what we're going to do is reach out to them and they're going to select two captains," Shanahan said. "And on the Friday night before the game at 8 o'clock, we're going to have a live draft on Versus where those two captains will be sitting in a room with the other players in front of them. They're going to flip a coin (to see who drafts first). They'll be flanked by two (alternate) captains up on stage with them, so those six guys will have 36 players out in the audience to draft from."
Just as there will be a first pick in the draft, somebody will have to go last. Shanahan said while his group was sensitive to the idea of a player possibly being embarrassed in such a situation, those he talked to were all in favor of the concept.
"It was the players themselves that insisted, in the end, we're all stars and we want that element, we want that sort of anxiety moment captured on TV," he said.
Shanahan, who told Daly his most memorable All-Star Game moment was playing alongside Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins when he scored the winning goal in front of the hometown fans in 1996, said the motivating factor behind the change in format is "to give (the players) ownership of this and give them a little more fun."
He added: "Hopefully, as opposed to inheriting your team because you're in the East or inheriting your team because you're in the West, when a team captain actually picks you and says, 'I want him,' not only do you want to perform for him and win for him, but you also want to beat the guy that didn't pick you. And we hope that carries out in the game."
Shanahan was the No. 2 pick in the 1987 Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils, where he both started and finished his playing career, which also included time with the Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. He won Stanley Cups with the Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
"I think so. It's not something when we were players that we necessarily thought was going to be an opportunity for us," he said. "Players nowadays have a great appreciation for the business of the game of hockey … I do think more and more guys now are quizzing their general managers and some of their coaches as to what interesting things there could be for life after hockey."
Shanahan said his own transition from a hockey jersey to a suit and tie has been an educational one.
"I'm in a position right now where I can learn from people who have been doing it for a long time and guys that have committed their lives to this," he said. "And I try to absorb as much as I can and when there's a time or a need or a call for me to bring what I've experienced in my life and being on the ice, I try to help out there. I try to help and I try to contribute, but at the same time I have to admit that it's really been a learning opportunity for me."
Near the end of the interview, Daly mentioned a list of Shanahan's accomplishments in leadership roles -- including the "Shanahan Summit" during the 2004-05 work stoppage and his efforts in executing the Research and Development Camp this past summer -- and inquired, "What's next on your to-do list?"
"I don't know," said Shanahan, chuckling again. "You tell me, Bill."
Daly, also laughing, responded, "Just keep reading the newspaper, you'll find out what your next assignment is."