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An in-person NHL All-Star Experience Recap

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Tyler Yaremchuk
9 months ago
Let’s set the scene: it’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada. There’s music going outside the arena and fans walking around crushing beers. Inside the rink, you can see a jersey from every fan base, mascots running around, and plenty of young fans taking in the festivities. 
For someone who has never been to an NHL All-Star Game, it was very cool to see the way that everything going on around the game felt like a celebration of the league. Everyone really seemed to be having a good time.
Some of my favourite jerseys: A Georges Laraque Canadiens sweater, some guy who just had the full name of his dental office on a Lightning jersey (the name bar was two rows), and our friend Jordan Buhat’s Todd McFarlane Oilers jersey!
As for the game itself, well it was pretty clear that the players were really only going like 25% speed. They were gliding around and having fun. No real backchecking, not too many hustle plays or anything like that. It was just casual.
I suppose for someone who wanted to see the NHL’s best go full-tilt for 20 minutes, it would be a  disappointment and I totally get that the game doesn’t translate very well on TV. But for the fans in the building, it was fun. Some guys pulled off some really cool moves and there was some neat playmaking. But the bottom line is that it was light-hearted and fun.
The first game was won by the Metropolitan Division and that was a little disappointing. This crowd went NUTS for the Vegas Golden Knights players and when they scored the building got loud. It would have been good to see them go on a bit of a run and keep the crowd really into it.
As for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they were alright. McDavid cranked up the speed a couple of times. He was also forced to defend a two-on-one early in the game and you could see his big grin from the press box as he did it. There was some concern that McDavid wasn’t even going to play this weekend so just to see him out there was nice.
So if you’re a Golden Knights fan or someone who bet on both the Pacific Division and the over, then maybe the first game wasn’t actually a lot of fun. But it didn’t bring down the vibe in the rink at all. 
One thing that was really interesting as the way the NHL used their new tracking technology. They were flashing up how hard the shot was on every goal, how far players had skated so far in the game, and how fast the players on the ice were skating at any given moment. I’m really excited for when the league starts to have this available for every game. The possibilities are endless
The second game of the day featured the Atlantic taking on the Central. The start of this game seemed to have a much quicker pace to it. There was more end-to-end action and not as much slow cycling in the offensive zone which is what really slowed down the first game.
Something that I found a little funny in both the games was how the players who at least appeared to be trying the hardest were the veterans. Claude Giroux was really moving quick in the first game and in game two, Patrice Bergeron and Steven Stamkos stood out as players who were putting in a little bit of extra effort. Auston Matthews had a few really hard rushes too.
Cam Talbot had one sequence of saves that was just straight-up unbelievable.
Anyways, the Central division won and moved on to face the Metro in the finals, but first, Machine Gun Kelly took to the stage. He was alright. I’m not a big fan of his music but the show element of it was pretty good I suppose.
In the final, the Metro got off to a good start and held a 4-2 lead at halftime. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Claude Giroux were both really moving in the first ten minutes and looked like two players who were gunning for that MVP award. 
The game actually got pretty intense towards the end. It was a two-goal game with two minutes to go and with a $1 million pot on the line, there was actually some pretty hard stick checking. The Central thought they had pulled within one with 1:45 to go but it was called back after an offside review. The Metro held on and won the game 5-3, putting an end on what was a pretty fun afternoon. The MVP was Claude Giroux and it was very well deserved.
My only real complaint about the in-person experience at both the game and the skills competition is that there was a lot of time in between events/periods of the game. I suppose this gave fans a chance to get out of their seats and explore the concourse a little, but I do think they could tighten up the transitions and keep the crowd engaged for the entire two and a half hours.
If I could pick apart the game itself, I think there are a few ways that they could make it better. First off, they should have music playing the entire game. They had Zedd to DJ while they did player intros, but why not have a DJ spinning songs while the games going on? It would give the game a more lively feel. 
Also, there should never be any whistles. After a goal, the team that scored just have to tag up. Puck go out of play? The other team just starts with possession. It would create a more wide-open game which would keep the crowd in it more.
I had an absolute blast covering this event. You couldn’t take more than 20 steps on the strip without seeing someone wearing NHL gear, every casino had either ASG advertisements or Golden Knights branding in it, and the atmosphere in T-Mobile was fantastic. 
One day Edmonton is going to get an All-Star weekend and I cannot wait.

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