NHL All-Star Weekend Respects Camaraderie In A Violent Sport
Modern All-Star Game Created In A Moment Of Violence
A thunderous, near-lethal bodycheck created the modern version of the all-star game. During a clash between the Maple Leafs and Bruins, Boston’s Eddie Shore responded to a King Clancy trip by checking Ace Bailey on the numbers, flipping the winger head-over-heels. Bailey’s head struck the ice with such force that people weren’t sure whether he would survive.
This severe injury would end Ace’s career, so the NHL responded to help the Bailey family through unfortunate times with an NHL all-star benefit game, held on Valentine’s Day in 1934. The Leafs retired Bailey’s number six uniform, the first NHL player awarded with the honor. Toronto faced a team of the best players from around the NHL, raising money for the fallen Maple Leaf.
The most impressive moment occurred when Ace presented Eddie Shore with an all-star jersey and shook Eddie’s hand before the game, showing the type of forgiveness which survives in today’s game. After the whistle blows, hockey players mostly leave the bad blood on ice, respecting harsh, physical play as the business side of the sport, instead of personal.
All-star games in the 1930s would continue with a benefit game for Howie Morenz, who passed away due to a heart attack weeks after fracturing his leg in several places because of a bodycheck. Another would take place for Babe Siebert’s family, who drowned in Lake Huron. These all-star games set the standard for future events, displaying the most honorable aspects of a sometimes-brutal sport.
Changing All-Star Formats Lets The Game Breathe
All-star games predate the NHL. The first event took place in 1908, involving a fundraiser for Hod Stuart, who passed away in the waters of Lake Huron a few months after winning the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Wanderers.
For a long period of time, the format consisted of an elite team in hockey going up against a group of top players from competing squads. The NHL consisted of the original six teams between 1942 and 1967, which stifled the game somewhat due to powerhouses like the Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s.
After expansion occurred, the NHL all-star game changed to conference-based selection for decades, responding to the growing talent within the sport flourishing across North America. International hockey would take center stage during the 1979 all-star game, pitting the best in the NHL against an elite Soviet team.
Skills competitions and alumni games were added to the all-star weekend in 1990, celebrating the amazing athleticism of the modern game while remembering the legends who grew hockey through unforgettable performances.
After more than a half-century of two teams playing a single game, the NHL changed the format to a three-on-three tournament involving four divisions playing single elimination matches. This allows the on-ice product to breathe, giving more space for players to pull off slick moves and crispy passing plays, showcasing the incredible talent of professional hockey stars.
The first tournament-style all-star game included a shout out to the tough roots of hockey. A fan vote carried by a viral campaign voted John Scott, noted enforcer, into the all-star game. Scott ended up demoted to the minors before the event, creating controversy as to whether he should play.
Instead of acting like the fun police, the NHL let Scott play, much to the delight of hockey fans around the world. He would earn the MVP trophy for the 61st NHL all-star meeting, becoming another great example of the camaraderie inherent in one of the most bruising sports in the world.
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