Eric Staal was hoping. Cam Ward was basically praying.
They've been the most prominent on-ice duo in Carolina since the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup four-and-a-half years ago, and neither Staal nor Ward could bear the thought of missing the big hockey party that's coming to Raleigh later this month.
They don't have anything to worry about now.
Staal and Ward found out Tuesday that they indeed will be allowed to play the role of gracious hosts when the NHL's best descend on North Carolina's capital city Jan. 28-30 for NHL All-Star Weekend. They were among the 36 players chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department to fill out the rosters for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.
The 36 all-stars will join the top-six vote getters from the fan balloting in the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft Enabled by Cisco on Jan. 28 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Twelve rookies were also selected Tuesday to attend All-Star Weekend and will be taking part in both the Fantasy Draft and the Honda SuperSkills competition on Jan. 29 at RBC Center.
"I wanted to be in there. I wanted to make sure I performed well to start the season to ensure that I was going to be in the game," Staal, who has 41 points in 41 games, told NHL.com. "I enjoy that experience with our fans. I have been at a few other All-Star Games and the hometown crowd shows a lot of love for their hometown players. Hopefully it'll be a good experience for me."
Staal was basically a shoo-in for the weekend and many believe he'll be selected by the all-stars as one of the captains or alternate captains for the Fantasy Draft. He would have the opportunity to select his brother, Marc, a Rangers defenseman who is among the 21 first-time all-stars heading to Raleigh.
"I wouldn't be against it," Staal, now a four-time All-Star, said of potentially being a captain.
Ward was on the bubble all the way until the final list was revealed Tuesday morning. Only five goalie positions were available with Marc-Andre Fleury already having been voted in by the fans, and there were at least a dozen all-star worthy candidates.
He made it along with Tim Thomas, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonas Hiller.
"To be able to consider yourself an all-star in your career is pretty neat," Ward, a first-timer, told the Hurricanes' team website. "It's something that will now always be on my resume and forever will be with me."
Ward is hardly alone among All-Star Game first-timers. Fifty percent of this year's participants will be making their debuts in the League's midseason showcase event, including the youngest players in the game, Colorado center Matt Duchene (19 years old), Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos (20) and Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson (20).
Duchene and Karlsson are going solo, but Stamkos will be joined by teammate Martin St. Louis, who despite never being drafted will be making his sixth straight All-Star Game appearance.
St. Louis forward David Backes, who is among the 21 first-timers, told the Blues' website he was in shock at getting picked.
"It hasn't sunk in that I've been chosen," said Backes, who has 31 points this season. "It's a dream come true."
Brad Richards, 30, is the oldest first-timer. Finally, in his 10th NHL season, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner is going to an All-Star Game. Teammate Loui Eriksson is also going for the first time.
Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller told NHL.com the all-star honor is proof he made the right decision to come to North America from Switzerland four years ago.
"I always said when I came over here I didn't want to be one of a couple hundred, I wanted to be one of the best and selected for the All-Star Game," Hiller said. "It means you've made a name for yourself and proven to be one of the best in the League. It's a great honor."
Chicago and Pittsburgh lead with four representatives each, but Hockey Operations only had to select two of the combined eight players because Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith were voted in by the fans.
Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were named Tuesday.
For Sharp, it'll be his first All-Star Game, and he was having some fun with it Tuesday.
"Don't want to see Duncs on the other team, he's too fast for me," Sharp, who has 25 goals, told the Blackhawks' website. "I wouldn't mind matching up against Kaner, that little rat, I wouldn't mind throwing him against the glass. Then again, I wouldn't mind him on my team setting me up for goals."
Kane responded: "He's talking big in front of the media, but he's talking about wearing No. 88 in the All-Star Game, so you're going to have to ask him about that."
Toews, of course, could be one of the captains or alternates deciding who goes where.
"If he's a captain I'm sure I'll be the last guy he picks," Kane said. "I think it'd be fun to play against some of the guys in here."
Vancouver's success this season earned it three representatives as twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin will be joined by Ryan Kesler. No other team has more than two representatives in the All-Star Game.
Of course, with the teams still yet to be decided, it's possible that Daniel and Henrik could wind up wearing different uniforms for the first time. It all depends on who is doing the picking and how they want to design their team.
"It'll be interesting," Daniel Sedin, a first-time all-star, told the Canucks website. "We'll see what happens, but it'll be a lot of fun."
One of the more interesting selections is Atlanta defensemen Dustin Byfuglien.
Until last season Byfuglien, the 245th pick in the 2003 Entry Draft, was playing forward for the Chicago Blackhawks. Now he's a Norris Trophy candidate, the NHL's leader among defensemen with 16 goals and 41 points.
"I said it -- you can ask anybody who worked in Chicago, if they'll tell the truth -- he's a better defenseman than forward," Thrashers GM Rick Dudley said of Byfuglien. "They moved him to forward and, to be honest with you, they put him in a spot -- partly because they had a good defense anyway -- because he did pretty well with it and they were satisfied with that. I never was. I thought he was much more than that."
Byfuglien, who is going with teammate Tobias Enstrom, will get a chance to get up close and personal with one of the all-time greats.
Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was selected for the 12th time, though he didn't play in the 2009 game in Montreal. Lidstrom, 40, is the only Red Wings player going to Raleigh.
Like Byfuglien, Lidstrom also has 41 points.
"It's always an honor to be a part of something like that (the All-Star Game)," Lidstrom told the Detroit Free Press. "I've had a chance to do it a lot of times in the past. It's fun to do it."
Lidstrom is joined by fellow All-Star Game veterans St. Louis (6), Jarome Iginla (6), Zdeno Chara (5) and Rick Nash (5). New Jersey forward Patrik Elias will be making his third appearance, but first since 2002.
None of them ever had a chance to be the host like Staal and Ward.
They better get ready for one crazy weekend.
"It'll be different, unique as far as it being in our hometown," Staal said. "Usually at All-Star Weekends the last couple of years my wife and I get a chance to get away. The house will be packed. We could have a really, really full house."
Below are the additional 36 All-Stars and 12 Rookies:
36 Additional All-Stars
Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks
Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames
Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Rick Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets
Loui Eriksson – Dallas Stars
Brad Richards – Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky – Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias – New Jersey Devils
Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins
David Backes – St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
Dustin Byfuglien – Atlanta Thrashers
Tobias Enstrom – Atlanta Thrashers
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
Niklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings
Brent Burns – Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
Marc Staal – New York Rangers
Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins
Dan Boyle – San Jose Sharks
Mike Green – Washington Capitals
Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks
Tim Thomas – Boston Bruins
Cam Ward – Carolina Hurricanes
Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers
Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks
Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins
Tyler Ennis – Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes
Kevin Shattenkirk – Colorado Avalanche
Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
Evgeny Dadonov – Florida Panthers
Michael Grabner – New York Islanders
Derek Stepan – New York Rangers
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Phoenix Coyotes
Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl