|ATLANTA - JANUARY 26: Performer Usher watches practice as part of the 2008 NHL All-Star weekend at Philips Arena on January 26, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images for the NHL) |
Some of the finest players in the NHL won’t be the only All-Stars in Atlanta this weekend.
The festivities got under way at Philips Arena Saturday, as the Jonas Brothers headlined the Verizon Wireless/NHL Rockin’ Skate 2008, presented by Upper Deck. The Jonas Brothers are platinum recording artists with a new hit single, When You Look Me In The Eyes. Their first album, which was released in August of 2006, has sold more than 875,000 copies in the United States. It was an appearance at the American Music Awards that was a catalyst for their phenomenal album sales.
The stars continue to come out in droves as global phenomenon Usher, along with Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch emceed Saturday morning’s All-Star practices. Proceeds from the event benefited Usher’s New Look Foundation, a non-profit program established to expose young people to the business side of sports and entertainment.
Kitsch, a Vancouver native, interviewed players during Saturday’s open practice, a process than continued in earnest as all the All-Stars also meet with print, TV, radio and internet media from across the United States and Canada. But Kitsch gave the fans on hand at Phillips Arena the same media experience as he talked to many players during the practice sessions. Although he only began acting in 2002, Kitsch has already been a hit on the silver screen, as he acted alongside icon Samuel L. Jackson in the hit movie, Snakes On A Plane. He also starred in the The Covenant in 2006.
Kitsch was joined by actress Alyssa Milano, who has partnered with the NHL and G-III Apparel Group to begin offering an NHL version of the TOUCH, by Alyssa Milano clothing line. The TOUCH is a women’s fashion apparel line that will join the League’s women apparel offering in February.
“It was my whole doing,” Milano said. “I’ve been a sports fan my whole life. I just got really tired of going into the stadiums shops and not finding anything fashionable. I’m very, very involved in the design process.”
Milano was slated to make an appearance in the Atlanta Thrashers’ Team Gear store -- which also featured some of her latest apparel -- to sign autographs following the NHL Rockin’ Skate. Not only will her items be available right here on NHL.com, but also at team stores and at select retail outlets across the United States and Canada.
The morning skates and media sessions were just the beginning for the All-Stars, who were back for Saturday night’s Dodge/NHL Superskills competition, which will be broadcast live on Versus at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Six of the League’ most-gifted offensive players will face off against All-Star netminders in the first-ever “Breakaway Challenge.” Celebrity judges include former Atlanta Hawks basketball star Dominique Wilkins and former Philadelphia Flyers star Bill Clement, as well as Kitsch.
“I think the guys are pretty excited about it,” said Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier, who is also wearing the “C” for the Eastern Conference for Sunday’s 56th NHL All-Star Game. “And I’m sure (Washington Capitals forward Alexander) Ovechkin or one of the guys are going to have some nice moves, creative moves to do. I think everybody’s going to enjoy it. I think they’ll be very creative.”
Also new for this year is the “YoungStars 3-on-3” competition, which will include Chicago Blackhawks stud rookie Patrick Kane, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007. Sixteen of the sport’s brightest young stars from the 2007-08 campaign face off in a three-on-three competition over two periods, with six minutes of running time. They will be shooting on Sunday’s All-Star goalies.
“I think it will be fun,” Kane said. “It’s nice to be part of the All-Star festivities in any way you can your first year, so just being there as a YoungStar and as a player, that is part of the whole process. It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash is also slated to take part in Saturday night’s shootout competition. As of Saturday morning, No. 61 was still undecided as to what he would attempt to do to thrill what should be a highly-enthusiastic crowd.
“I haven’t put much thought into it yet, but I think it will be fun to watch,” Nash said. “It will be great for the fans. That’s the idea of the shootout – to just kind of try anything and make it exciting. Maybe I’ll think of it after practice. I’ll try to round something up there.”
The stars will also be out on Sunday, with performers such as Ne-Yo, The Hives, The Atlanta Boy Choir and country singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Halftime Live, an Atlanta-based marching band, will hit the ice with Ne-Yo – an R&B singer/songwriter with five Grammy nominations -- during the second intermission of the All-Star Game. The crew consists of 75 musicians and dancers and traces the heritage of the historically black college and university marching bands.