Hey now, you're an All-Star... but how did you find out?
For Ontario Reign All-Stars Sheldon Rempal and Sean Walker, it actually went down very differently for each of them.
Rempal was conventional, as he was told during a team meeting before the selections were announced later that day.
"I had no idea," Rempal said earlier this month. "We had a team meeting [the morning of January 3] and did some video and the coach kind of just brought it up before we started and said congrats to me and Walks. Obviously very honored to be selected for that and it should be a lot of fun."
Though congratulations were given to both players, only one was there. Walker was on recall with the Kings and therefore not in a Reign video session. So how did the second year blueliner find out?
"I actually think I found out through Instagram," Walker said with a smile. "I didn't know anything and then I just saw that I was tagged by the Reign. It was pretty cool, obviously I'm extremely honored and it has a lot to do with the guys that you play with, it wasn't just all me. Definitely a nod to the guys I've played with and I'm extremely excited to be selected to be an All-Star."
With Walker reassigned to the Reign earlier this week, both players are expected to travel to Springfield, MA following Ontario's home games this weekend against Colorado. The 2019 AHL All-Star Classic is a two-day event, featuring the Skills Competition on Sunday and the All-Star Challenge on Monday.
The two Ontario skaters will follow in the footsteps of Cal Petersen and Brett Sutter, who attended last season's event in Utica, NY. Both players had fond memories of their time at last season's event. Sutter was named as the Captain of the Western Conference, while Petersen was tied for the Top Goaltender Award during the skills competition.
"It was awesome. It was obviously a huge honor and I was really excited to go there, especially with Brett Sutter too as a teammate, he helped to really get me comfortable because I didn't know a ton of guys there," Petersen said about his time at the 2018 event.
"It was an awesome experience, especially the Skills Challenge was really fan-friendly, we got to interact with [the fans] and really just had an all-around great time."
Video: Ontario Reign goaltender Cal Petersen saves 10/10
Rempal noted that he was especially honored to be selected from a large group of talented players with the Reign.
"I think we've got a good, young core group that's come in over the past season here," Rempal said. "Like I said, I'm extremely honored to be selected and hopefully can just try to keep it going from here on in."
He also added that Walker was very deserving of the selection, noting his teammate's speed, smarts and talent on the ice as reasons for his selection.
"He's awesome….I've been really impressed with him," Rempal said of Walker's selection.
"He deserves to be up in the NHL right now, he's really good. He skates really well, he gets up in the play, he makes smart passes and gets the puck to the net when he needs to. He's an all-around good player and hopefully he can keep going as well."
Walker, in turn, was equally quick to turn the praise back onto Rempal, calling the Reign's leading first-year scorer an elite player.
"He's a highly skilled guy, he's an elite player and he can go out there and make plays no matter what," Walker said of Rempal. "He goes out there every night and he's someone that you're expecting him to put up points every night and that's something that makes him an All-Star."
While the game is the primary and final event of All-Star Weekend, it's the Skills Competition that provides a unique opportunity for the players to do something different, in a special type of setting.
Petersen said that the skills events are definitely more tailored to the skaters - "you kind of get exposed in some stuff" - but he liked the intimacy and interaction he was able to have during that event. "With the glass down, it was fun to interact with fans and just be in a lighthearted experience with all of the players too," he said.
So what can we expect to see from Rempal and Walker come Sunday evening?
While the lineups have not yet been announced, Rempal noted he's heard from others in the past say that the skills competition can be a bit nerve-wracking, to perform a specific skill under the pressure of the spotlight, but mentioned that the best fit for him is probably in a stickhandling based event.
"Maybe the shootout or the stickhandling and agility one, I don't really know what they have set up, but maybe those two," Rempal said. As for Walker, he stuck to his tried and true skating ability.
Probably fastest skater," Walker said, before adding, "Because I don't think I'd do too well in any other event."
Follow Walker, Rempal and the rest of the AHL's All-Stars live on Sunday and Monday on NHL Network in the United States and on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet WOW in Canada. The event will air live on Sunday, January 27 at 4 p.m. PT for the AHL All-Star Skills Competition, and Monday, January 28 at 4 p.m. PT for the AHL All-Star Challenge. Additionally, the event will be streamed live, worldwide, on AHLTV.