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Bear Essentials: All-Star Friday

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
9:09 p.m.

Well, folks. It is certainly wall-to-wall hockey here in Montreal and from the top of Mount Royal to the banks of the St. Lawrence, the city is all about the 2009 NHL All-Star Game. And, after seven hours of walking from stop to stop on the NHL festivities map, the following is clear:

Tout est hockey.

Frankly, it is pretty cool to see my favorite game take center (or centre) stage, but it is mostly colored bleu, blanc et rougue here in Montreal. And that’s okay – for now --  because as far as the actual hockey season is concerned, the best of the best are still colored (or coloured) Black & Gold.

And from the attention that Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler and head coach Claude Julien have received, it’s pretty clear that many people believe that the Boston Bruins are the touchstone for the rest of the league.

"Yah, you have a four-game winning streak, but have you played Boston?"

Walking around the Eastern All-Stars press availability, the crowds around Tim, Marc and Zee (almost) rivaled the throng around Alex Ovechkin and the Habs themselves and that was a little different from the relatively tame crowds that followed our heroes around last year in Atlanta.

It was outstanding to see.

12:02 p.m.

Hail, Hail
It's snowing lightly here in Quebec, and I'm told that after a short delay, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard are in Montreal and have arrived by plane from Boston.

I believe that Tim Thomas and Claude Julien are traveling by SUV and are probably already in town.

Blake Wheeler arrived yesterday.

11:48 a.m.
It is COLD here.

My camera guy Jon Gotlib and I just got back from Eggspectation and a big breakkie and are attempting to thaw out back at the hotel.

Press availability is going to start soon with the West's stars talking at 1:00 p.m. and the East's speaking shortly thereafter. Something called a "Goalie Draw" is happening sometime in the middle.

At some point I am hoping to catch up with Zdeno Chara for a little one-on-one conversation about his place in the NHL's galaxy of stars, too.

In the meantime, Jon and I are also going to try and capture some more of the sights and sounds from Montreal.

9:51 a.m.

Good Morning! Bonjour!

Yesterday, the Hub of Hockey's portion of the 2009 NHL All-Star Festivities in Montreal began to roll into town.

Rookie Blake Wheeler arrived around noon and was announced to the media during Thursday’s 4:00 p.m. press availability for YoungStars Game participants at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

As per usual, the big forward took it all in stride, posing for pictures, talking to print, television, radio and web media as well as being a guest on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s NHL Hour.

The questions during the press availability were all over the map.

Who was your favorite player growing up?

“Steve Yzerman,” said Blake.

How will it be to play three-on-three during the YoungStars Game?

“Well, there will be a lot of ice out there,” answered the forward.

Who are you excited to play with or against?

“All of these guys,” said Wheeler.

What did you see on your walk over?

“Montreal is a hockey crazy town – you can really tell they are excited to have the All-Star Game here,” said the former Minnesota Golden Gopher.

On his show, Commissioner Bettman asked Blake, “What are you looking forward to this weekend?”

“Well, I think being around the rink and seeing just how the fans are going to come out,” said the young forward. “I've played here and a couple of different environments and you're pretty much hated when the Boston Bruins play here.

“So to see it maybe in a little different light and see how supportive the fans are here, it's an unbelievable hockey city, so I'm excited to see everyone at the rink.”

That was basically the bottom line – it will be exciting to see what kind of show the Canadiens put on in this their 100th year and how the Boston Bruins All-Star participants stack up against the NHL’s best.

This is just the first of what we hope are many, many updates, so keep it here.

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