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New SuperSkills format will put NHL stars to the test

by Dan Rosen /

The Obstacle Course Relay will be one of the many events at the NHL SuperSkills competition during All-Star weekend.
Goalies who love to shoot the puck will get their chance four times over. Players who rip slap shots from the point will finally find out how fast they fly. The stars that thrive in the shootout will get to debut some fancy, don’t-try-this-at-home moves.

These are just some of the highlights every hockey fan will get to see Saturday night during the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition, which begins at 7 p.m. at Philips Arena in Atlanta and will be broadcast live on Versus, CBC, RDS and XM Radio.

We understand that even the brightest hockey fan can be dumbfounded by seeing four stars on the ice at one time trying to maneuver their way through an obstacle course, but fear not because is here to make your viewing experience that much easier.

Just read on so you won’t find yourself bewildered when you turn your tube to the SuperSkills competition Saturday night.

The Breakdown

There are seven events in the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition this season. Each event is worth at least two goals toward the team’s final score. Each All-Star must compete in at least one event, so fans of one particular player will not be shortchanged.

The conference that finishes the competition with the most goals will be declared the winner. In the event of a tie at the end of the competition, each team captain -- Jarome Iginla of the Western Conference and Vincent Lecavalier of the Eastern Conference -- will pick a goalie and alternating players to compete in a sudden-death shootout.

Obstacle Course Relay

The skinny

While it may look like a fire drill, this relay course is quite simple when you break it down.

First off, there will be three skaters and a goalie on the ice at the same time. For simplicity purposes, we’ll call them Skater 1, Skater 2, Skater 3 and Goalie. Each team will do the relay twice, and each time they’ll have 45 seconds to complete the course.

On the whistle, Player 1 starts with the puck from behind the net near the right side of the trapezoid. He will stick-handle through a line of stationed colored pucks that are set up within the faceoff circle to his right. If he loses the puck, he still has to skate the course to complete the first leg of the course.

As soon as Player 1 finishes zig-zagging his way through the maze of colored pucks, the referee will blow the whistle for Player 2 to begin the second leg of the course.

Player 2, who is positioned at the neutral-zone faceoff dot, will attempt four saucer passes over a barrier and into a net stationed across the rink, near the opposite faceoff dot on the same side of the red line.

When the fourth puck reaches the net, the referee will blow his whistle to get Player 3 going. Player 3, who is stationed between the blue line and the faceoff circle, will attempt to one-time four cross-ice passes sent from Player 1 to a target inside the net.

When the fourth shot is completed, the referee will blow his whistle to start the last leg of the course.

Basically, this leg is a goalie’s dream because the goalie gets to stand between the faceoff circles and fire four shots down the ice to see if he can put the puck in the net. The Goalie will be receiving passes from Player 3.

The reward

Teams will receive two points for successfully stick-handling through the puck maze, and one point for each saucer pass that hits the back of the net, for each one-timer that hits the target, and for each goalie goal.

The team in each round that has the most points will get one goal credited to their team’s overall score.

Fastest Skater

The competition

In the Fastest Skater contest, skaters will start at the goal line and race to the far blue line.

OK, so maybe the Obstacle Course Relay isn’t quite as simple as we led on at the get-go, but you’ll pick it up pretty quick now after reading the primer.

On the other hand, this event is about as simple as it gets.

There will be three skaters per team and the contest consists of four head-to-head heats. The first three heats will pit one skater from the West vs. one from the East. The final heat is the skater from each conference with the fastest time.

The skaters will start at the goal line and race to the far blue line. There shouldn’t be any quarrels either because winners will be determined by electric eyes that record time in the thousandths of a second.

The reward

One goal is awarded to the team with the lowest average time in the preliminary heats, and another to the team of the skater who wins the final head-to-head heat.

Elimination Shootout

The Competition

This will look just like the shootout you see when a regular-season game remains tied after overtime. Six shooters and all three goalies from each team will participate in this event, which is broken down into two rounds: Qualifying and Elimination.

In the Qualifying Round, all six shooters will get one shot and each goalie will face two shots. If a shooter scores he moves on to the elimination round.

How many shooters score in the Qualifying Round will determine the length of the Elimination Round. If a shooter scores, he continues on. The rounds will continue until only one player scores. The goalies will alternate rounds.

The Reward

Two goals are awarded to the team of the player who wins this event.

YoungStars Game

The Competition

This new-look YoungStars Game should be quite entertaining and offer a glimpse into the League’s dynamic future. It’s a 12-minute, 3-on-3 game broken down into two six-minute periods. There are eight rookies and one All-Star goalie on each side.

Defensemen Alexander Edler, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, and Matt Niskanen, plus forwards Sam Gagner, Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller and David Perron make up the Western Conference’s YoungStars. Blue-liners Tobias Enstrom, Kris Letang, Mike Lundin and Marc Staal plus forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Brandon Dubinsky, Dave Clarkson and Milan Lucic are the Eastern Conference YoungStars.

There are some unique rules in place, so pay attention:

There will be a faceoff to start each period, but that’s it because after goals the team that scored will concede the puck and retreat to the defensive side of center ice before they can turn around and attack again. If a team sends the puck into the stands, a new one will be given to the opposite team.

When the puck is frozen, all three players on the offensive team must clear the zone before they can attack. If a player goes in offsides, or ices the puck, his team will surrender puck possession.

The only time the clock will stop is if a penalty shot is awarded. Once the penalty shot is completed, the player and his linemates must clear the offensive zone for play to resume.

The Reward

One goal to the team that wins the first period, and another to the team that wins the second period.

Accuracy Shooting

The competition

There are four targets in the Accuracy Shooting event that will be attached to the posts with one in each corner of the net.

This event will look familiar to anyone who has previously watched an NHL All-Star Game. You all remember those Styrofoam targets positioned on the goal posts getting destroyed. Some of these events have become part of NHL All-Star Game lore.

Well, this season it will look virtually the same.

The four targets, each 15 inches in diameter, will be attached to the posts with one in each corner of the net. The shooter stands 25 feet from the goal line and will receive passes from players stationed to the right and left of the goal posts.

The shooter has a maximum of 18 seconds to shoot up to eight pucks. If any part of the puck hits a target that shot is considered a hit. However, multiple hits on the same target will not increase the shooter’s score. Passes the shooter can’t handle are also considered attempts.

The final round is a head-to-head competition, and the participants will be determined by who hits the most targets in the fewest shots from each team. If two shooters on one team are tied, than the captain will select his shooter for this round.

The shooter now has a maximum of nine seconds to shoot up to four pucks at the targets. If they wind up tied, they will go to overtime and attempt to hit one target in three seconds. If they’re still tied after three overtimes the event will end in a tie.

The Reward


One goal to the team that hits the most targets in the fewest shots in the qualifying round, and one to the team of the shooter who wins the head-to-head challenge. If there are any ties, each team will receive a goal.

Hardest Shot

The competition

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll dissect it for you anyway.

There are four shooters for each team in the Hardest Shot event and each shooter will get to take two shots which must be on goal to count.

There are four shooters for each team and each shooter will get to take two whacks, and the shot must be on goal to count.

The puck will be placed 30-feet from the net between the hash marks. A shooter can take a skating start to build up power, but he has to start from the nearest blue line. Of the two shots, the one that travels the fastest will count for the shooter.

The Reward

The team with the best average score in miles per hour will receive a goal. The player who records the fastest shot will also score a goal for his team.

Breakaway Challenge

The Competition

We may have saved the best for last here. The Breakaway Challenge is brand new to the SuperSkills competition and it’s the only event that involves a panel of celebrity judges.

The judges will evaluate each attempt based on creativity, execution and ability to put the puck in the back of the net. They will award a score anywhere between one through nine to each shooter. An additional point is added to the score for any goal scored.

There are three shooters and three goalies from each team participating. The shooters can start their routine from anywhere in the offensive zone and take the puck anywhere they want in the offensive zone.

Each shooter has two attempts to perform his highlight-reel routine and the top shooter from each team advances to a head-to-head final.

Creativity, of course, counts big time.

In the head-to-head matchup, each shooter will get two more attempts to dazzle the crowd, and more importantly, the judges. The shooter with the highest single score from one of his attempts wins.

The Reward

The team with the best average score in the qualifying round picks up a goal, and the team of the shooter who wins the final will get one, as well. In the event of any ties, both teams will receive a goal.

There you have it. Now get ready to be amazed because your favorite stars are planning to make this one memorable night in Atlanta.

Enjoy the show.

Contact Dan Rosen at

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