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6 Things: All-star memories

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus and Canucks forward Radim Vrbata will be there to showcase his mad skills.

The 33-year-old will be making his first ever all-star appearance and he’s more than earned the honour by leading Vancouver in goals with 17; he’s on pace to eclipse his career-high 35 goals from the 2011-12 season.

Vrbata becomes the 31st player to represent the Canucks in the all-star game and if he’s on his game, finding the back of the net should come easy. Heck, maybe Vrbata becomes the first Canucks player to win MVP at the game – unless Wayne Gretzky swoops in and steals it, that is.

Here are 6 Things you should know about the NHL All-Star Game.

HISTORY LESSON

The NHL All-Star game officially became a yearly tradition in the 1947-48 season and has been played in nearly every year since (no games were played in 1966, 1979, 1987, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2014). The format has changed quite a bit in the last 60 years of all-star action with head-to-head teams ranging from the Stanley Cup Champion facing rest of the league all-stars and East vs. West, to Wales vs. Campbell and North America vs. World. The past two seasons has pinned a team named after their captain against an opposing team named after their captain, ex. Team Chara beat Team Alfredsson 12-9 in 2012 in Ottawa. Captains for this year’s all-star game will be Jonathan Toews and Nick Foligno.

NO-GO

Of the nine instances when no all-star games were played, three were canceled because of lockouts, three because they fell on Winter Olympic years, one because the game was originally played at the beginning of the season and they shifted it to be a mid-season affair, and twice because the NHL played its all-stars against the Soviet Union. In 1979 the all-stars and Soviets faced off in the 1979 Challenge Cup and in 1987 it was the Rendez-Vous ’87; both were multi-game affairs with the NHL winning one of three games in ’79 and one of two in ’87. Unlike the Summit Series, non-Canadian born players were rostered for the NHL, three Swedes in ’79 and and four Americans, two Swedes and two Fins in ’87.

BY THE NUMBERS

This will be the 37th time the Canucks will be represented in the all-star game dating back to 1971 when Dale Tallon made his first of back-to-back appearances. In total 31 players have played on behalf of the Canucks, two Vancouver coaches have stood behind the bench and two rookies have showcased their skills in the YoungStars game. Of the 31 Canucks, 17 were forwards, 10 defencemen and four goaltenders. Markus Naslund leads the Canucks with five all-star games played, Pavel Bure appeared in four and Ed Jovanovski and Henrik Sedin each have three games under their belts.

HOME ICE ADVANTAGE

A North America vs. World format has been used five times in all-star history, from 1998-2002, with the first ever international showdown playing out at then General Motors Place (Rogers Arena) in Vancouver in 1998. The switch was to ignite a sense of national pride and it worked as North America, led by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Chelios, overcame a three-goal deficit to win the game 8-7. The comeback was the biggest in all-star history prior to 1998, but the story of the game was Teemu Selanne, who scored a hat trick to become the first ever European to win MVP honours and first from the losing team since Grant Fuhr in 1986. Pavel Bure and Messier both represented the Canucks in one of 13 times at least two Vancouver players have suited up together.

GARRETT SHINES

The Canucks have had some notable all-star performances, but none as unique as John Garrett’s appearance in 1983. Richard Brodeur was selected to represent Vancouver, but an injury three days before the game kept him on the bench. Brodeur was the lone Canucks player attending the game, so the team not only needed to find a replacement, he needed to be a goalie. Insert John Garrett. Garrett entered the game at the 10:04 mark of the 2nd period and proceeded to literally stand on his head making save after save on the likes of Mike Bossy, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier and Darryl Sittler; he allowed only one goal on 16 shots and was voted the game’s MVP by the 3rd period. Then teammates Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier went off. Gretzky scored four 3rd period goals, three assisted by Messier, to set all-star records at the time for goals in one game and assists in one period, respectively. Oh, Gretzky also robbed Garrett of the car, which was awarded to the MVP. You get what you get and you don’t get upset, but had the MVP prize been edible, you know Garrett would have been up in arms.

GARRETT SHINES - PART II

I emailed Garrett for a comment on his all-star performance and his response was classic.

“Richard had been selected to play in the all-star game, which was to be played on the Tuesday. Our game in Toronto was uneventful until the last couple of minutes when Dan Daoust ripped a slapshot off the side of Richard's head. It broke his eardrum and I became the temporary number one. We played the next night in Pittsburgh and I had my first start in the Flying V. The league decided that because Richard was the only representative of the Canucks going to the all-star game it would be easier just to replace him with the other Canucks goalie. That was me. I was headed to the all-star game with no votes in either division.

“The Wales had won four or five years in a row and at this time these games still were somewhat competitive. We had all the great Oilers of the dynasty years and they had all the great Islander players of their long run. Each team had only two goalies and my partner was Murray Bannerman. He played the first half of the game because he actually had some votes. I got in at the halfway mark and we were trailing 2-1. I made a couple of saves early on Bossy and Mark Howe and felt pretty good. We tied it up and then went ahead early in the third. It was a decent game, but nobody had really stood out. I continued to get hit with some shots and the writers had to pick the star of the game who would get a new car. My friend Lanny McDonald was on our team and he came back during a stoppage in play and said "know what Cheech, you are going to win the car.” Next shift Gretzky comes out and scores a goal. Two minutes later 99 is out there again and scores on Pelle Lindbergh again. Lanny comes back and tells me I have lost a tire. Gretzky's next shift he has his hat trick and I have no chance. He went on to score one more and he drove away my Firebird and I crawled back into my Micra. At least I got the win.”

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