However, the Sharks roster is littered with players who have participated in the event and brought home fabulous memories.
Besides Thornton (four times) and Nabokov (one), past participants include Jonathan Cheechoo (one), Patrick Marleau
(two), Sandis Ozolinsh (seven) and Jeremy Roenick (nine). Sunday’s contest (3 p.m. on Versus) may seem like a glorified game of shinny with little contact, but the event is a celebration of the game and a unification of most of the game’s greatest players.
Roenick had a unique opportunity when his Chicago Blackhawks played hosts to the affair during his first game in 1991.
“My first game was in Chicago Stadium,” said Roenick. “It was during the Gulf War and they almost canceled it. The fans came out with their American flags and their patriotism was amazing.”
That patriotism was at a zenith when Wayne Messmer gave his rendition of the national anthem. Messmer, who has been a frequent anthem singer at Blackhawks and Chicago Cubs games, always gave fans goose bumps. But on this day, his rich baritone voice brought not only that, but tears and a full arena of fans frantically and passionately waving American flags.
“The anthem was unbelievable,” said Roenick.
Roenick had an odd tie to a former Sharks player in the contest.
“It was funny,” said Roenick. “The writers had voted on the most valuable player and it was me, but the voting happened 10 minutes into the third. Vinnie Damphousse scored two goals and had an assist in the last two minutes and they voted again.”
Damphousse ended up with the vehicle that goes with the MVP honors.
Roenick was also part of a nice quote when he wore a microphone in the 2003 game when Ottawa’s Dany Heatley, then with Atlanta, was the game’s MVP.
“The performance Dany Heatley put on in Florida was unbelievable,” said Roenick. “I said to him, ‘There’s one good thing and one bad thing about this. The good is you’re getting a new truck (as the MVP). The bad thing is your face is going to be on national TV with no teeth.’”
Roenick’s All-Star games have been played in some fairly historic buildings.
“I got to play in Toronto, Madison Square Garden, the old Montreal Forum, Chicago Stadium and the old Philly arena (The Spectrum).”
Ozolinsh, along with Arturs Irbe, played his first All-Star Game in 1994 at the famous Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“The first one, I was so nervous,” said Ozolinsh. “I had no clue what it meant. The media was asking all these questions and I was mumbling. I had no Idea what I was saying.”
Ozolinsh was at least in familiar company and that helped ease his nerves a little.
“I was very fortunate Arturs was there,” said Ozolinsh. “I just tailed him and did what he did.”
Ozolinsh does remember feeling awed by his teammates.
“I was sitting next to Paul Coffey on the bench saying, ‘This is cool,’” said Ozolinsh. “I was shocked to have (Wayne) Gretzky on my team. I saw these guys playing in the Canada Cup when they played against Russia. I was like a little kid.”
Ozolinsh did have an unpleasant All-Star experience in 2003. He was the hometown representative for the host Panthers, but was traded during All-Star Weekend to Anaheim.
Cheechoo took part in his first All-Star Game last season in Dallas where he was voted a starter alongside Thornton.
“It was a fun experience,” said Cheechoo. “The players I looked up to were there. (Colorado’s) Joe Sakic was in the same locker room.”
Cheechoo said the atmosphere was incredible even if the game wasn’t as intense as he was accustomed to.
“It’s not a serious game, but I got to see how some of the guys prepared,” said Cheechoo. “At the game, when they announce your name, it’s pretty cool. It’s a big production.”
Cheechoo’s side excursion was actually the high point of his Dallas weekend.
“To top it off, we went to the NASCAR track and raced,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo’s on-ice experience was also unique – his Western Conference teammates were players who he had played against on a nightly basis.
“It was weird,” said Cheechoo of having teammates such as Anaheim’s Chris Pronger. “I probably had some of my best battles against them.”
Cheechoo did come home with a few mementos that will be part of his life.
“We had a couple of jerseys signed and I gave one to my dad and kept one,” said Cheechoo.
Marleau said the family part made the biggest impression for him when he played in the 2004 game at Minnesota.
“It was my first game and it was really fun,” said Marleau. “I had my family in and that was the coolest part. The first year, I just followed the flow. The second year went better.”
Wilson is looking forward to creating his own All-Star memories this year.
“I’m excited to be going,” said Wilson. “(Coaches) get the opportunity because the team is doing well. You get to see lots of different people and there’s no pressure. It should be fun. I’m just going to enjoy myself.”
Wilson has attended an All-Star Game as a spectator in the past.
“I went to the one here (in San Jose),” said Wilson. “One of my daughters wanted to go. It’s a celebration of hockey.”
There was one strong San Jose memory for Wilson and it was much bigger than Owen Nolan’s called shot against Dominik Hasek.
“(New Jersey and then Team U.S.A. General Manager) Lou Lamoriello gave me my World Cup ring,” said Wilson, whose American squad won the first World Cup of Hockey in 1996.
San Jose will play hosts to St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at HP Pavilion and limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.