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All-Star Game

Legends make more memories at All-Star Game

48 of 100 Greatest NHL Players on ice at Staples Center

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

LOS ANGELES -- A rail yard of freight trains doesn't have as many horns as what you heard Sunday during the tripleheader 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game.

On the bright side, if 36 goals had been scored in Columbus, with its goal cannon …

The NHL celebrated its present and its future with a very appreciative and most respectful nod to its past, the League's Centennial Celebration continuing on a remarkable weekend that was beyond compare and never can be replicated.

On Friday, the names of 67 players were announced during a gala presentation to complete the League's list of 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian

Thirty-three, who starred principally during the League's first half century from 1917-66, were unveiled Jan. 1. Sixty-seven, who distinguished themselves from 1967-2017, joined them here.

Video: All Stars, NHL100 members drop the puck

Forty-eight of the 67 legends took their place on Staples Center ice in the early afternoon of Sunday, timeless icons in a glorious row between the faceoff circles. Bobby Orr was at one end with Brendan Shanahan at the other, Wayne Gretzky at center ice, 48 men introduced one by one to a crowd that saved its loudest cheers for four former Los Angeles Kings on the list: Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, Larry Robinson and Luc Robitaille.

Across the rink from them would be the 44 players voted to and chosen for this All-Star Game.

An All-Star Game traditionally attracts a young crowd, the format of the game designed for plenty of goals, a lot of noise and entertainment that's firmly sewn in. If the kids, or adults, who watched live or on TV don't know much about the 100 players, it would serve them well to learn about the NHL legends who stood proudly on this rink in the jerseys of the teams for which they starred.

100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian

The All-Star Game began with a ceremonial puck drop for the ages, eight more pucks tumbling to the ice than found their way behind the goaltenders who, typically, found themselves in an exhibition-game shooting gallery.

"I dropped the puck for a guy by the name of Crosby," New York Rangers and Boston Bruins legend Jean Ratelle said with a laugh. "I was talking to Sidney yesterday, he's a real gentleman. It just happened that I dropped it to him. That was really nice.

"I was going to pick it up, but he pulled it toward himself and he did."

Then, with a grin: "I wanted him to keep his strength for the game."

Many of the legends chose to watch the three 20-minute games, or portions of them, from seats reserved between a net and a faceoff circle. Others opened the door to a huge Staples Center suite, saw the astonishing spread of food and refreshments laid out, and chose to settle in there.

In fact, "settle" might be the wrong word. There were too many friends to visit, too many stories to share, to stay in one place for long.

Grandchildren might sleep a few days from now, given the sugar rush they must be experiencing from the sagging dessert table. The sons of Henri Richard and the late Jacques Plante each wore a jersey branded with the name of his father, and star-struck adult children didn't hesitate an instant moving from table to table to collect autographs.

They weren't the only ones. Montreal Canadiens defenseman Serge Savard wandered over to the table of Mark and Marty Howe, here to represent their late father, Gordie, the Detroit Red Wings icon.

"I have to tell you about the first time I played against your dad," Savard began, the Howe brothers signing the No. 18 jersey that had been put in front of them. "First faceoff. I'm right beside Gordie, the puck is dropped, I turn around, the play goes that way, everyone goes after it, and Gordie cross-checks me -- boom! -- across the back, almost through the boards. Of course, the referee was chasing the play, he didn't see it."

"It's amazing how that happened," Marty said with a laugh, not the first time he'd heard something along these lines.

Said Mark: "I'll bet you half the guys here today have their Gordie stories. And I've heard all of 'em."

But Savard had learned a valuable lesson.

"First shift and the guy drills me. After that, I lined up for faceoffs a few feet away from him."

Mark had a story of his own, one plucked from what must be an encyclopedia of them.

"When Gordie used to come into Philly when I was playing there (in the mid-1980s), we had a guy named Tim Kerr," he said. "Timmy was like 230 pounds, built like an Adonis. He'd let guys cross-check him, bang him around. Dad came in, met Timmy and said, 'I'd ask you to do me one favor. When you're on national TV, and everybody's watching, I want you to drop your gloves and just hammer the guy.'

"Well, Timmy's the nicest guy in the world, he wouldn't hurt a fly. About three weeks later, Dad's passing through Philly and he's in the locker room. Timmy goes out and just whales on a guy. Pretty soon, he was scoring 50 goals a season.

"Dad told him, 'It will give you a little more time because everybody's going to say they don't want to pay that price.' He had a different way of thinking about the game, that's for sure."

No one was whaled upon Sunday in the three games that made up the All-Star Game event, the first and third games devoid of any hits, the second a bruising affair with two, both delivered by Alex Ovechkin of the victorious Metropolitan side.

Goodbyes weren't easily said as the action pushed to its late stages, the Staples Center suite gently cleared for the postgame use of the current all-stars and their families. Everyone realized they won't see the likes of a gathering like this again, ever.

The last in the room were Tony Esposito and his wife, Marilyn. Tony O had more stories to share, every one as good as the one before it. Across her lap, Marilyn had a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, No. 35 and her husband's name across the back.

It will go, Esposito said, with a collection he has that charts his career all the way back to his days at Michigan Tech. But he might look at this one a little differently, a jersey he wore onto a hockey rink celebrated as one of the greatest NHL players of all time.

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