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All-Star Game

NHL All-Stars have role reversal

P.K. Subban, Auston Matthews among players excited to meet, chat with idols

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- P.K. Subban was bouncing off the wall. He had just seen one of his idols, one whom he had never met before. So up he went, vying for a photograph with a legend, a member of the NHL 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian. Grant Fuhr was there in front of him, and the Nashville Predators defenseman wasn't going to miss an opportunity to take advantage.

"I remember seeing him and I just had to go shake his hand," Subban said. "I was able to talk with him a little bit. He's a man of few words, but I really enjoyed meeting him."

Subban wasn't the only current All-Star who walked around a little star struck this weekend. There, by the elevator, was Mario Lemieux. There, standing in the lobby, was Wayne Gretzky. Or Peter Forsberg. Or Willie O'Ree. These were players that the current crop of NHL stars idolized growing up, had watched and imitated and believed in.

So it wasn't all that surprising that, when faced with their hockey heroes, some of the All-Stars got a little weak in the knees.

"It was so funny," Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. "I actually was just walking with my agent and Mr. Robinson -- Larry Robinson -- was walking beside me, was talking to me all casually. I got caught off-guard. I was like, 'This is Larry Robinson. He's just talking to me like I'm a just a normal person.'"

Video: Wayne Simmonds on his first All-Star Game appearance

And suddenly, the stars were the fans. The legends were the stars.

"It's really cool," Simmonds said. "I think that's the best thing about hockey. We're all fans of each other, coming together. We may be battling every single day on the ice, but off the ice generally most guys are pretty good with it. Cultivate a friendship, so it's nice.

"Meeting any single one of those guys is an honor. I'm going to try to meet as many of them as I can throughout the weekend."

Not only was Subban thrilled to meet Fuhr, he rattled off a handful of others he had gotten a chance to see over the weekend. There was Mike Modano, Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Lindros. There was hockey history, laid out in front of him.

"I was just kind of hovering around that area," Subban said. "I think I maybe annoyed some of the legends a little bit. I was asking for pictures every five seconds. But that's what it's all about."

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews got a chance to see the ceremony in person, watching the NHL 100 presented by GEICO from the audience on Friday. He was awed.

"It was awesome," he said. "It was so cool. You just see all the history, all the great players that have come before us and paved the way. It was definitely a pretty cool night."

Video: Matthews talks about the legends of the All-Stars

He was not alone. There was excitement. There were even nerves.

"It was crazy even beforehand, the reception before," New York Islanders forward John Tavares said. "Being around those guys, I was really nervous saying hi to some of them. I looked up to a lot of those players, even some of the guys from the '70s and early '80s, a lot of the guys my dad watched and talked about, which was pretty cool as well.

"It's just amazing to see all the generations and all the top players, getting to see them all and all the camaraderie and the stories they have from playing with each other, playing against one another. It was just an unbelievable collection of talent and some of the best players to ever play."

That included Modano, a player that Tavares idolized growing up and had met once before. It included Brett Hull, who introduced himself to Tavares, providing a little thrill. It even included Steve Yzerman, with whom Tavares has been able to form a relationship through Team Canada.

These were special moments.

"I met Mike Bossy, he was a true gentleman, a very nice guy," Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "Met his granddaughter and I signed a book for her right under Bobby Orr. He made sure I did that. It's something I'll remember for a long time."

For some, part of the novelty of the weekend was the role reversal. Many of the current players are used to signing autographs or taking pictures with fans, used to being the subject of adulation. They're not as used to having the starry eyes themselves.

But they were happy to get the chance.

"I always wonder what the legends think when I come up to them and I look like a kid in a candy store," Subban said. "It's pretty special. I think a lot of that comes from my dad because when I tell my dad about who I met, he goes crazy. I guess, like father, like son."

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