Auston Matthews top ASW moments

TORONTO -- Celebrities, changes to the All-Star Skills competition, current great ones and The Great One were all part of the 2024 NHL All-Star Weekend.

So, before the regular season resumes with two games on Monday, let’s look back at the greatest moments from the festivities.

Here are 10 of the best:

Scintillating Skills

With input from the players, the NHL changed a few things for the 2024 NHL All-Star Skills presented by DraftKings Sportsbook on Friday. There were some familiar contests, such as the Fastenal NHL Fastest Skater and Cheetos NHL Accuracy Shooting. But new events, such as the Honda NHL One-on-One, where each player basically did wind sprints while grabbing pucks and shooting against a goaltender they chose for one minute, were impressive. Ditto for the Pepsi NHL Obstacle Course. No, this was not your older brother’s skills competition. Players were challenged, they were winded, and they rose to the occasion. And speaking of top skill …

McDavid skates away with the big check

Yes, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid reminded us all that he is the best player in the world right now by winning the Skills and its $1 million prize. McDavid won four of the eight events: Fastest Skater, the Upper Deck NHL Stick Handling Challenge, Accuracy Shooting and the Obstacle Course. McDavid called the evening “entertaining,” and his performance certainly added a lot in that department.

McDavid's magnificent night at Skills Competition

Rick Tocchet, soothsayer

Rick Tocchet coached the Vancouver Canucks to first place in the Pacific Division entering the All-Star break. This weekend, however, he was honing his extrasensory perception skills. Tocchet called two goals before they happened for Team Hughes, which he was coaching at the 2024 Honda (U.S.)/Rogers (Canada) NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday. He predicted Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk would score seconds before he did at 7:02 of the second period, then called Anaheim Ducks forward Frank Vatrano’s goal just 33 seconds later. His third attempted call, that Canucks forward Elias Pettersson would get the next goal, failed. “I predicted Pettersson to score. I guess I meant turnover,” he said.

Celebrities 'star-struck' as captains

They get plenty of attention due to their own respective talents. But this weekend, Michael Bublé, Will Arnett, Justin Bieber and Tate McRae, celebrity captains of the four All-Star teams, played the part of fans to the NHL players. The four Canada natives helped their respective team captains select their squads at the Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Player Draft on Thursday. Arnett said, “I get starstruck around hockey players, for sure” and Bublé said he was living a “childhood dream." Prior to the All-Star game, Bieber skated in warmups with Team Matthews and took pictures with various players. Yes, even the stars can get dazzled sometimes.

Justin Bieber’s coat

Seriously, there’s really no need to go bold in the headline. The Canadian singer’s jacket, which he wore behind the bench for Team Matthews’ two games on Saturday, was bold enough. How to describe this jacket, really? Puffy, pink, polka-dotted, did we mention it was puffy? But hey, it’s cold in that rink, so Bieber was just making sure he was prepared for the chill. Auston Matthews said players were trying to convince Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, at the helm for Team Matthews, to wear Bieber’s jacket. Montgomery didn’t. Now that would’ve been an Instagram moment.

Bieber and Team Matthews for ASG championship reca;

The Great One is present

Just when you didn’t think there wasn’t enough star power at this year’s All-Star Game, Wayne Gretzky was behind the bench for Team Hughes with his good friend Tocchet on Saturday. Tocchet was Gretzky’s assistant with the Arizona Coyotes in 2005-06. Gretzky also joined the Canucks coach when Tocchet coached the Pacific Division to a win in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis. “I did it in St. Louis and we won, so he called me,” Tocchet said to laughs. “No, anytime you have Wayne Gretzky, I don’t know if as your assistant, but he just loves being around the guys.”

PWHL makes history

The Professional Women’s Hockey League, in its inaugural season, made a splash with the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. It was Team (Billie Jean) King vs. Team (Ilana) Kloss, named in honor of the PWHL Advisory Board members and longtime advocates of equality for women in sports. Savannah Harmon scored the first hat trick of her life to lead Team King to a 5-3 win against Team Kloss. It was the fifth time women have participated on the ice at NHL All-Star Weekend, this time playing in front of a crowd of 16,392 fans. A great night for women’s hockey.

Recap: Team King @ Team Kloss 2.1.24

Connor Bedard makes his All-Star debut

No, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft didn’t play in the game, as he was selected to do on Jan. 4, because he’s out with a broken jaw sustained against the New Jersey Devils the following day. The Chicago Blackhawks forward was there nonetheless, passing to a few participants in the Tim Hortons NHL One Timers, part of the skills competition on Friday. Despite not playing for a month, the 18-year-old still leads all NHL rookies with 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 39 games. Bedard didn’t get to show off his patented wrist shot in Toronto, but his passing to Nathan MacKinnon helped the Colorado Avalanche forward win that contest.

Welcoming the boo birds

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak both heard the boos during the skills competition, but neither minded them. As two Eastern Conference foes in an arena full of Maple Leafs fans, it comes with the territory. Kucherov said, “That was good, I like that.” Pastrnak felt like one of his Bruins teammates. “I knew I’m coming after William (Nylander, Maple Leafs forward), so I knew I’m probably getting booed. At the same time, I’m not ‘Marshy’ (Bruins forward Brad Marchand ), so I was like, ‘Maybe I won’t get booed.’ But I heard some boos. I just kiss the logo to let them know I’m a proud Bruin.”

There’s no place like home

I mean, there’s nothing like the home team winning on home ice, right? The Toronto Maple Leafs faithful got the result they wanted when Team Matthews defeated Team McDavid 7-4 in the All-Star Game final on Saturday. It was high scoring in both games for Matthews’ crew, which won the semifinal against Team Hughes 6-5 in the shootout. Oh, and Matthews took home, er, brought home MVP honors with four points (two goals, two assists) in two games. The Scotiabank Arena crowd gave a standing ovation at the end of the final, the perfect way for the Maple Leafs to cap the weekend. Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner said: “You always dream of being a part of one. To have it in this city, it's pretty remarkable, and to be able to enjoy with the ones that got me to where I am, it's even better.”