UPDATE: JOHN TAVARES NAMED METRO DIVISION CAPTAIN AT NHL ALL-STAR GAME
John Tavares probably should have won a car last season.
The Islanders’ captain scored an NHL-record tying four goals at the All-Star Game and appeared to be cruising towards a free Honda Accord, given to the game’s most valuable player. It went to a vote and unsurprisingly the hometown guy won, but Tavares left Columbus with a little piece of all-star history and likely even more respect than he arrived with.
So it’s no surprise that Tavares, the Islanders’ best player, was named to the All-Star Game – this year in Nashville – for a third time in his career, his first as a team captain.
“It’s an honor," Tavares said. "I don’t think you take being named to the all-star team lightly, so I'm obviously very excited about representing the Islanders and participating again. Both times I’ve gone it was a tremendous experience, but you know it’s really a reflection of our team.”
Tavares is representing the Metropolitan Division in a brand-new all-star format, as each division will ice a team for a 3-on-3 tournament. For a day – just one – he’s teaming up with the guys he faces off against on a nightly basis, including Pittsburgh Penguins’ star Evgeni Malkin and Philadelphia Flyers' captain Claude Giroux.
“I don’t like too many teams in our division,” Tavares joked. “Just to be able to play with some of those players and experience what the all-star game is all about, showcasing why our game is so great and getting to learn and see from some other guys.”
The all-star game is supposed to be a relaxed atmosphere, but Tavares uses it to further his hockey education. It’s a collection of the league’s best players and Tavares watches them closely, asking questions and learning whatever he can to bring back to the Islanders.
“You’re amongst the best of the best,” the Islanders’ captain said. “It’s just great to be around some other players, see what they are like, their skill sets and also just to have some fun and enjoy the game.”
"Let's go out there to have some fun and put on a good showcase for the fans," Tavares added.
Nashville will also be showcased, as the NHL is bringing in country music stars and hockey fans Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Charles Kelley and Chris Young to serve as celebrity coaches. Tavares is a fan of Bentley and could wind up with him behind the bench.
He's a country music fan, but also as humble a superstar as you’ll meet. He felt a number of Islanders could have gone in his place.
“There are a few guys from our team who could be going instead of me,” Tavares said. “Kyle [Okposo], Frans [Nielsen], Nick Leddy and our goalies have had some outstanding seasons. I’m really the beneficiary of many guys.
Tavares will represent his teammates and the organization in Nashville. The Metro Division will face the Atlantic Division in the semi-finals with the winner advancing to the finals against either the Pacific or Central Divisions.
The NHL made another change beyond the innovative format. The winning team – made up of 11 players – will receive a $1,000,000 prize.
Tavares could buy a couple of cars with that.