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Shanahan stresses fun factor in All-Star fantasy draft

by Dan Rosen
One thing HBO's "24/7" series with the Penguins and Capitals has taught us is that hockey players love to have fun.

NHL V.P. of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan believes the players taking part in NHL All-Star Weekend later this month will embrace the event with the same comedic edge, turning the three-night showcase into can't-miss entertainment.

"There is no intensity in that mustache boy shootout, but it really is entertaining," Shanahan, referring to the Penguins' monthly shootout competition we've seen documented on HBO, told "Let's stop trying to make an All-Star Game a real game and let's stop trying to compare it to a real game. If you enjoy watching the mustache boy shootout, you really could and should enjoy All-Star Weekend. They're still trying to score."

"You've got players picking teams and players shunning teams, and you want them to go out the next day and sort of feel like, 'Hey, I'm happy to be here, we're all here to have a good time -- but you punk, you didn't choose me and I want to beat you.'" -- Brendan Shanahan

Six of the 54 players that will be in Raleigh, N.C. from Jan. 28-30 have already been revealed through the final results of the 2011 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by XM.

Thirty-six additional all-stars and 12 rookies will be selected to join Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Evgeni Malkin in the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco, the Honda NHL SuperSkills and the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.

The remaining participants will be unveiled on Jan. 11. The rookies, who will be broken up in two groups of six, will join the all-stars in the SuperSkills competition.

The 42 all-stars will decide amongst themselves which two players deserve the honor of being captains and which four will be alternate captains at All-Star Weekend. The lettermen will be unveiled in approximately two weeks.

The captains and alternates have the responsibility of choosing sides in the All-Star Fantasy Draft, which is scheduled for Jan. 28 and will be televised live on TSN and VERSUS from NHL Fan Fair at the Raleigh Convention Center.

The team names will be taken from the last names of the two captains.

Every market will be represented at NHL All-Star Weekend, but not every team will be represented in the actual All-Star Game on Sunday night, Shanahan said. It's possible that some markets could be solely represented by rookies.

"I don't know if every player wants to be a GM, but every player considers themselves a good GM," Shanahan said with a laugh. "The GMs' workload is such that a lot of players wouldn't want to be a GM, but while you're playing, whether you're sitting on the back of the bus or sitting on the plane, you play GM constantly."

These captains/GMs will draft 18 all-stars per side to make up a team consisting of three goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards. A coin toss will determine which captain gets to select first.

An interesting rule in the draft is each captain must select his three goalies by the 10th round and his six defensemen by Round 15. Shanahan said the rule was put in so the final picks of the draft wouldn't be pre-determined.

"Originally we had no guidelines until we started doing the mock drafts and realized that it was anti-climactic to come down to the last four or six players and there were three goalies and three defensemen, and I had already picked my goalies and you had already picked your defensemen," Shanahan said.

The draft will take a break at the end of the 15th round to allow the rookies to take over. Instead of being drafted they will get to select which team they want to join for the SuperSkills competition.

A coin toss will determine which rookie set gets to choose its side.

"It's to just turn it around a little bit on the all-stars and to throw a little bit of hot sauce on the event," Shanahan said. "You've got players picking teams and players shunning teams, and you want them to go out the next day and sort of feel like, 'Hey, I'm happy to be here, we're all here to have a good time -- but you punk, you didn't choose me and I want to beat you.' "

The SuperSkills competition will consist of six events, including the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, the BlackBerry NHL Breakaway Challenge, the McDonald's NHL Accuracy Shooting, the XM NHL Hardest Shot, the Discover NHL Elimination Shootout and the G-Series NHL Challenge Relay.

The all-star goalies will participate in the SuperSkills competition, although they're not expected to steal the spotlight.

"We likened it to it being that the breakaway artists are like the Harlem Globetrotters and you're the Washington Generals, so play, compete, but don't outshine," Shanahan said. "It's definitely a tongue and cheek moment for the goalies to be a good sport. It's a show, and this is about having a little bit of fun. I've played with plenty of goalies that go into the net at the end of practice and act like paid comedians with some of the stuff they do. That's what it's about. It's not about embarrassing anybody or anything like that. It's about putting on a show for fans."

These teams, of course, need coaches. Two have already been determined.

By virtue of winning the Stanley Cup last June, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has earned the privilege to coach one of the teams. He's bringing his assistant, Mike Haviland, to be on the bench with him.

Their competition will be determined after all games are finished Saturday night.

The head coach of the team with the highest points percentage (points earned divided by total possible points) in each conference following Saturday night's games will be heading to Raleigh. The two men will serve as co-head coaches opposite Quenneville and Haviland.

If the deadline were Tuesday, the co-head coaches would be Philadelphia's Peter Laviolette and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault.

The coaches will be assigned a captain prior to the coin toss to determine order of selection in the Fantasy Draft.

"I've never played on a more competitive team than the Red Wings, and we were like children. If the coach or anybody asked us to do something and made it a contest, we'd go through a wall with a big smile on our face," Shanahan said. "These players are born to compete and have fun competing, and that's what this is about.

"When you get a look on the inside like '24/7' has done so well, the players love to clown around, love to be loose and have fun, and this isn't asking them to do anything outside of their comfort zone."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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