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Skills Competition

Hedman equipment gag among sights, sounds from Skills Competition

Lightning defenseman plays part of staffer; Ovechkin warms up with 4-year-old

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Victor Hedman looked the part with a towel draped over his right shoulder as he sat on the bench. A teammate and a fellow countryman did their best to make him work, too.

 

[RELATED: Ovechkin wins hardest shot | Gaudreau wins puck control relay]

 

Hedman, the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman who can't participate in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend because of a lower-body injury, was instead named assistant to the equipment manager for the Atlantic Division prior to the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

The Lightning even made the announcement in an official press release, which was part of the gag, but that didn't stop Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist from having a little fun with Hedman.

Video: The greatest scenes and moments from All-Star Weekend

Stamkos started it by asking Hedman to get him tape from the dressing room.

"I dusted him off," Hedman said while sitting on the home bench reserved for the Atlantic and Metropolitan Division all-stars. "He can get it himself."

Prior to going into the net for the GEICO NHL Save Streak event, Lundqvist approached Hedman and, in Swedish, asked him to get him a skate sharpener. Hedman initially looked around and jokingly said, "Where's an equipment manager when you need one?"

Video: NHL Tonight on best moments of the Skills Competition

Lundqvist wouldn't let him off the hook.

"I told him he's the highest paid equipment manager in the game," Lundqvist said. "He agreed."

Because it's true; Hedman is in the first year of an eight-year, $63 million contract.

Hedman, though, said he was going to make Stamkos tip him at the end of the night.

"If he wins his event, I expect a good tip," Hedman said. "It's all me."

Stamkos' cash is safe. He finished fourth in the PPG NHL Hardest Shot competition.

"It's just hilarious," Hedman said. "Being around the guys is the best."

The guys were having a ball Saturday.

Here are some of the sights and sounds from the Eastern Conference bench during the event:

 

Kid stuff

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, the Metropolitan captain, was the first player on the ice for warmups. He wasn't the first skater on the ice, though.

Ovechkin let 4-year-old Jonas Smailys lead the Eastern all-stars onto the ice.

Jonas, who is the son of one of Ovechkin's closest friends, Sigitas Smailys, skated out by himself and did a quick twirl before Ovechkin joined him. Jonas stayed on the ice for all of warmups.

"A very good friend of mine is his dad and I told him if we were going to be in the All-Star Game I would take him on the ice," Ovechkin said. "It's a lifetime experience. Let him go out first, just see the crowd. I look at him right now and he's smiling all the time, so it's pretty cool."

 

What an ovation

New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle was almost speechless.

Moments after he was introduced to the crowd and received a raucous ovation, Boyle, who played for the Lightning from 2014-17, was asked what that moment was like.

"Oh," Boyle said.

He smiled. He took a deep breath. He looked around.

"Crazy," said Boyle, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September and is at his first All-Star Weekend.

Boyle also received a standing ovation when he was introduced as the first contestant in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting competition. He was named to the Metropolitan roster Thursday, replacing injured New Jersey forward Taylor Hall (hand).

Video: NHL All-Star Skills Competition: Brian Boyle

 

Speaking of ovations …

Shortly after the introductions were finished, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby was asked if he thought the sound of the fans booing him was louder than the sound of the fans cheering for the Lightning all-stars, particularly Stamkos.

"No," Crosby said quickly, "but it was louder than [Brad Marchand's] boos."

Marchand, the Boston Bruins forward, was booed loudly too, but agreed that Crosby got it worse.

"It was definitely louder than my boos," Marchand said. "I told him it was coming. I knew mine was coming. But I love it." 

 

Close but not quite

Lightning forward Brayden Point was on the bench watching the other seven competitors try to beat his time of 13.579 seconds in the Enterprise NHL Fastest Skater event. He was hearing it from the players too.

"It's yours," Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson told Point after Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon went sixth and skated the lap in 14.056 seconds, which at the time was the closest to Point's time.

"We got a few fast guys to go," Point, who had led off the event, said matter-of-factly.

He was right. Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid defended his title as the fastest skater by skating his lap in 13.454 seconds, 0.125 faster than Point.

"I thought he had it," Stamkos said. "I knew that was the only guy with a chance, right there, that last one."

Video: Enterprise NHL Fastest Skater Competition Recap

 

Karlsson in costume

Karlsson wore a pirate hat during warmups. And when he was asked if he was able to enjoy a little bit of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival going on around the downtown area Saturday, he shyly said yes, but it was obvious that he did because he dressed up as a pirate to join the festivities.

"How can you not?" Karlsson said. "I'll never be here again for it. Or, probably not."

Karlsson later said dressing up as a pirate was something he always wanted to do.

"Unfortunately, my wife always dresses me as a woman during Halloween," he said. "So, this was my big chance."

Video: Karlsson sports pirate hat during warmups in Tampa

 
Passing Challenge is just that

Boyle watched Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov struggle through the course in the Dunkin' Donuts NHL Passing Challenge, and his jaw dropped.

"Oh, my God," Boyle said. "This is a nightmare."

Kucherov finished in 1:39.562, second slowest of the eight participants to Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (1:47.415). Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who went second after Kucherov, said he was thankful he had a chance to watch Kucherov steer through the course first.

"I almost lost the puck there two times," Giroux said right after finishing sixth in 1:07.419. "Those give-and-gos, they're not easy."

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo won the event (46.610).

Video: Dunkin' Donuts NHL Passing Challenge Recap

 
Giroux snaps into action

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne had not allowed a goal on 13 consecutive shots in the Save Streak event. Giroux didn't want it to continue.

He came down in the shootout drill, wound up as he got close to Rinne and put a slap shot past him. His stick snapped, but didn't break in half. Giroux then snapped his stick over his leg and raised the two twigs up in celebration.

"I had to get in his head," Giroux said. "I think breaking my stick was the way to do it."

Video: GEICO Save Streak: Giroux breaks stick, beats Rinne

 

Crosby happy for Fleury

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury edged Rinne by not allowing a goal on 14 consecutive shots to win the Save Streak event. Crosby said watching his former Penguins teammate and close friend win the event was his highlight.

"Seeing [Fleury] do his thing, I've seen him do that in practice so many times," Crosby said. "He was rubbing his post, thanking his post. It's so fun. In practice, that's how he is every single shot. It doesn't matter if it's early or two hours into practice, that's how he is. He has fun."

Crosby, by the way, said he misses Fleury, who was selected by Vegas in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21.

 

Karlsson's handiwork

Karlsson said he had to find a creative way to get through the gates in the Gatorade NHL Puck Control Relay because he is incapable of scooping the puck from the ice onto the blade of his stick.

"I'm not that skilled like some other guys," Karlsson said. "I can probably do it, but in a setting like this, it's not like I practice it, so if I start failing I'll panic."

Video: Puck Control Relay: Karlsson makes up his own rules

Karlsson instead picked the puck up with his hand, placed it on the blade of his stick, and pushed it through the gate. But he was laughing at himself as he came back to the bench because he even struggled to get it through the low opening on the third gate.

"I tried to cheat and I can't even do that," Karlsson said.

 

Main image courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter (@TBLightning)

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