TORONTO -- The show opened with a video on the scoreboard screens. Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews narrated the story of a kid who grew up playing hockey in Stratford, Ontario.

That kid became one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but he’s still a hockey fan, like millions of other people in this province.

And so, imagine what it was like for Justin Bieber to be the celebrity captain for Team Matthews in the 2024 Honda (U.S.)/Rogers (Canada) NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday, to take warmup in full uniform, to stand behind the bench in an oversized red polka-dot coat and to celebrate a 7-4 win against Team McDavid in the final of the 3-on-3 tournament.

Here, Bieber Fever went both ways.

“This has been unbelievable,” Bieber told ESPN. “I feel like I’ve actually had vivid dreams about this at night, so it’s beautiful.”

Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner knows Bieber well enough to call him “Biebs.” He said he has hung out with him a couple of times, and Bieber loves to play games -- and to play for keeps.

What kind of games?

“Anything,” Marner said. “He’s got a ton of games at his house. It didn’t matter what we were playing, if it was us two versus (Nashville Predators defenseman) Tyson Barrie and Auston Matthews. It was do or die every time.”

Marner said as soon as Team Matthews selected him in the Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Player Draft on Thursday -- putting him together with Matthews and two other Maple Leafs teammates, forward William Nylander and defenseman Morgan Rielly -- he knew Bieber would tell them, “We’re winning this thing.”


When the teams took the ice for warmup Saturday, Bieber came out in full uniform with Team Matthews. His jersey was No. 6 in blue, but really, all the All-Star jerseys were his -- blue, yellow, red and white. They were designed in collaboration with drew house, the fashion brand he co-founded.

“I don’t think anyone expected him to be out there with us,” Los Angeles Kings goalie Cam Talbot said. “But he actually had some pretty good hands out there, so it was fun to go one-on-one against him.”

Did Bieber get one on Talbot?

“He actually missed the net both times,” Talbot said with a laugh.

Oh, well. The photographers got their shots of Bieber with the Maple Leafs, Bieber with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Bieber with … well, almost everyone. The players literally lined up to take photos with him.

As Bieber sings in one of his songs, “You smile. I smile.”

“I think I started that,” Talbot said sheepishly. “The Leaf guys were doing it, and I was the first one to kind of go one-on-one with him, and I think I kind of started something for him, so I apologize.”

Toward the end of warmup, Bieber did a weave passing drill with Marner and Matthews. They had to be coaxed off the ice so the crew could prepare for the pregame show.

“I think it was a cool moment for him to get on the ice and snap it around with some of the fellas,” Matthews said. “I think everybody got a kick out of that, honestly.”


Not as much as they did out of the cocoon coat, though.

It was a Marni Fuzzy Wuzzy Brushed Dot Padded Jacket in Tulip. Retail price: $4,600.

It was striking, especially with Bieber standing next to Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who went casual in a light blue sweater while coaching Team Matthews.

“We were loving it,” Matthew said. “We were saying ‘Monty’ should chuck it on for the second period. I don’t know if it happened or not. I don’t know, if you were pretty high in the stands, there was no doubt you could pick him out of the crowd pretty easily.”

Unfortunately, Montgomery didn’t get to make a fashion statement.

“I love the coat,” he said. “I wanted to wear it. I have no look, so I might as well be loud with my clothing.”

But Montgomery did get to talk music with Bieber.

“On the bench, I was picking his brain on, like, ‘What do you listen to when you’re just relaxing at home?’” he said. “He said right now, he’s listening to some new band from Austin, Texas. I’d never heard of them. I wrote them down, though, so I’m going to check them out.”

Toward the end of the final, Bieber had one foot propped up on the bench, watching the action intently. When Detroit Red Wings forward Alex DeBrincat scored to give Team Matthews a 6-3 lead with 1:51 to go, he stood on top of the bench with his hands in the air.

Finally, after New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal scored to give them a 7-4 lead with 1:06 to go, Montgomery put his arm around Bieber. At that point, they were all ‘Beliebers’.

“We knew we clinched it,” Montgomery said. “It was great being around him. He was so into it, and he had real emotion.”

Those were his only intentions.

“He was fired up,” Marner said. “He wanted to win. Yeah, man, he was awesome to have behind the bench.”