Photo credit:Tyler Yaremchuk
Live from the NHL Skills Competition
23 days ago
Coming to you from the centre of the hockey universe and the NHL Skills Competition in Toronto!
This is my third year getting to cover the NHL’s All-Star weekend, and I’ll fully admit, I’m a sucker for it.
Every year I come into things excited to see the events and for the last two seasons, I’ve left both the skills competition and the All-Star Game disappointed. I full buy into the hype and I’ve been let down twice.
This year, with the event in a hockey-mad city, the league made some changes.
The fantasy draft returned, they added celebrity captains, revamped the way that the skills competition and added a $1 million prize pot for the winning player.
I loved all of these changes and additions. The fantasy draft gave the teams for the All-Star game a little bit of a different twist, which was welcomed in my eyes.
As for tonight’s event, the Skills Competition, I loved what they did.
In the past, they would have every player attending All-Star weekend participate in at least one event. There was also no significant award attached to winning each event. It led to a long night that featured a lot of disinterested players and a lot of waiting around.
This added some stakes. Even for the highest-paid players in the NHL, the chance to win $1 million in one single night of work is wildly enticing.
They also only had 12 players participating in the event, and those players got to choose which four events they wanted to participate in.
Connor McDavid reportedly worked with the league in redesigning the way that the night worked and I think that’s meaningful as well. The league’s best player probably has a pretty good idea as to what the players do and don’t want to do in the night.
So with all of that being said, let’s talk about tonight’s event.
I came into the evening pretty optimistic about how it would turn out and for the first time, it did not disappoint.
Things moved at a much better pace than they did in years past and for the most part, the players seemed to be pretty invested in things.
The most awkward part of the evening was, without a doubt, watching Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov gingerly skate his way through the passing challenge. He was awful at it and looked like he didn’t care, and the crowd responded by booing the ever-loving hell out of him.
He then followed it up by doing… the exact same thing in the puck relay race. The crowd was not pleased. Kucherov just wanted to have this thing over with. It was both painfully awkward and hilarious at the same time.
It is worth noting that his fellow All-Stars seemed to think his antics were quite funny. I caught Leon Draisaitl having a good chuckle while Kucherov strolled his way up the ice.
On the positive side of things, Connor McDavid really showcased what an absolute machine he is.
He won the fastest skater event over Matt Barzal and then absolutely breezed through the relay race. It was stunning to watch just how effortlessly he cruised through the event compared to his colleagues.
The dominance from the Oilers’ Captain didn’t stop there either.
He won the accuracy shooting and was one of only two players who went a perfect four-for-four, the other being Auston Matthews.
McDavid moved on to the second round of the competition while his lone teammate at the event, Leon Draisaitl, was one of the four players eliminated.
The next twist was that players who moved on got to pick which goalie they were going to go head-to-head against in the shootout challenge. The goalie with the most stops won $100k, while the top six point leaders, after this event, moved on to the final event.
This event was, without a doubt, my favourite. It’s taken the NHL a long, long time but they appeared to have finally figured out a perfect way to do a shootout event.
The timer, the two-point pucks, all of it just led to an absolutely perfect event. The crowd was into it, there was a lot on the line for everyone. It was great and it added even more drama to the final event because McDavid couldn’t solve Georgiev more than twice. The race for the title got even tighter.
In the final event, Connor McDavid went last and needed to finish second or better to secure a $1 million top prize.The drama was unbelievable, and the best player in the league stepped up and delivered.
The NHL finally put together an exciting and dramatic All-Star event and it was capped off in the perfect way. For once, the NHL Skills Competition didn’t disappoint.
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