Minus Olympics, hockey’s best must turn to All-Star Game

Minus Olympics, hockey's best must turn to All-Star Game

TAMPA, Fla. — The highest gamers within the NHL descend upon the Sunshine State for the All-Star Recreation on Sunday afternoon at Amalie Area.

Whereas the All-Star Recreation is a spotlight occasion on the hockey calendar as an opportunity to indicate off the highest gamers within the recreation, it isn’t the showcase many hoped to see the highest gamers on the planet compete on this 12 months.

For the primary time since 1994, the NHL won’t briefly shut down the season to be able to permit the gamers to participate within the Winter Olympics. For the previous 5 Winter Video games, the most effective gamers on the planet competed for his or her respective nations, however when the 2018 Video games open Feb. eight in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the NHL can be gearing up for the playoff stretch.

The one purpose there may be an All-Star recreation this season is as a result of the league opted to not permit gamers to go play for his or her nations.

“You form of shut that off when you understand you are not going to you do not actually give it some thought. Nevertheless it’s a missed alternative to develop our recreation,” Winnipeg ahead Blake Wheeler mentioned. “Lot of informal viewers that possibly aren’t hockey followers, they’re going to watch USA-Canada they usually cheer and that is a possibility for us to develop the sport, make extra followers the place possibly we did not have the chance to do in any other case.

“That is form of the bummer about it, you see a few of these moments on prime-time TV, we do not get that as a lot in hockey as possibly we should always generally.”

The variety of points surrounding the league’s determination to not disrupt their season this time round are longer than Santa’s naughty listing and simply as difficult to type out. However for the gamers, all that weighs on their thoughts is the absence of the best-on-best event that has produced some memorable moments, together with Sidney Crosby’s golden purpose in 2010 and T.J. Oshie’s shootout efficiency to assist defeat Russia in 2014.

“It is all the time disappointing for gamers to not be within the Olympics,” mentioned Calgary goaltender Mike Smith, who was the No. three goaltender for Group Canada in 2014. “I believe it is one thing that each child desires rising up. You dream of enjoying within the Olympics and enjoying for the Stanley Cup. To not have NHL gamers there, I believe is disappointing for lots of men.

“I had that have in 2014 — I did not play a lot — however I had the Olympic expertise which I believe is one thing that I will always remember. For gamers who would have had that likelihood this 12 months they usually do not have it now might be irritating and disappointing all on the similar time.”

–TAMPA FLAVOR: The NHL All-Star weekend coincided with Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Pageant, a convention since 1904 that options an invasion of pirates who “take over town” annually and parade down Bayshore Boulevard.

Whereas Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson joined within the spirit, sporting a pirate hat throughout warmups for Saturday’s abilities competitors, it wasn’t the one taste of town on show in the course of the weekend.

The Atlantic Division options 4 gamers from the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on the roster, most of any group, enjoying in entrance of their house followers — captain Steven Stamkos, forwards Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Level (who was a alternative for injured defenseman Victor Hedman) together with goaltender Andrei Vaskielvskiy and coach Jon Cooper.

“It wasn’t even a charity case to throw extra Tampa Bay guys on, we most likely might have had extra, it has been that a lot enjoyable and profitable on the season to this point,” mentioned Stamkos, who’s collaborating in his fifth profession All-Star recreation. “So to have the ability to share that with teammates is fairly particular.”

–BOYLE RETURNS: Former Tampa Bay ahead Brian Boyle was a late alternative for New Jersey teammate Taylor Corridor, returning to the city and area he known as house for the three earlier seasons.

It is a particular return for Boyle, who was recognized with continual myeloid leukemia earlier than the beginning of the season however has returned to the ice and is having fun with a powerful season with 11 targets by way of 38 video games. Boyle obtained a loud ovation as he was proven on the video board, acknowledging the followers with a wave.

“I’ve quite a lot of time for Brian Boyle,” Cooper mentioned. “He’ll be as widespread right here as Stammer, (Kucherov), (Vasilievskiy).”

Boyle was thrilled to get the decision to come back to Tampa this weekend.

“I am very grateful to be right here,” Boyle mentioned. “It is a super honor. I do not actually care how I received right here, that is only a phenomenal occasion. And the quantity of prayers and help I’ve received, the help from my household. My spouse has been a rock star. I am not enjoying common video games and I am not right here with out her help.

“It truly is a pinch-me second. I am unable to consider that is my life. I am very grateful and I’ve by no means taken it as a right to play on this league and to be right here and see all these superstars and the way humble and supportive they’ve been for me.”