Our very own Blades of Teal contributor Michael Gutnick took a trip to the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend. Here are some highlights from his unforgettable weekend hosted by the San Jose Sharks.
The 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend hosted by the San Jose Sharks definitely lived up to the hype with the biggest stars from around the hockey world taking center-stage for some hi-tech hockey at SAP Center.
The city of San Jose did a fantastic job decorating the streets and skylines with an electric and exuberant atmosphere. Gigantic All-Star pucks spread across the landscape. From SAP Center to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, the streets flashed brightly with the NHL’s finest. The Sharks representatives, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson welcomed guests at all at the gates of SAP Center. It made for a grand entrance to the main events, and it was a photo opportunity you couldn’t pass up.
Fan Fair Festivities
The Fan Fair, which was just a Lime or Bird scooter ride away from SAP Center, had everything a hockey fan could have asked for. The San Jose McEnry Convention Center housed all the breathtaking extravagant hockey exhibits and displays. Getting to walk through the iconic San Jose Sharks head was a very clever way to preview what lies ahead. I felt like a Shark getting to skate out onto the ice before every home game.
There were over 30 venues to explore, but my favorite was taking a picture with the Stanley Cup, the greatest trophy in all of sports. It was the first time I have ever came within five feet of the Stanley Cup.
Of course, I did not touch it, but getting to take a picture with such a prestigious and coveted trophy is a one-in-a-lifetime experience. It was definitely worth the wait and the Stanley Cup was the ultimate highlight of the night at the Fan Fair.
However, there was so much else to dive into. I couldn’t resist trying out the different skills competitions. I struggled with the hardest slap shot, but my puck-handling and sharpshooting was on point and I won multiple prizes, including a pair of sunglasses and a lanyard.
One of my favorite events at Fan Fair was the Mascot Showdown. First of all, seeing nearly every single mascot on one stage was extremely exciting. Gritty is a character from another world. I loved watching him serve water on the Red Carpet while continuing to make silly mistakes and practical jokes. As the host, SJ Sharkie wisely buddied up with Gritty. They were a dynamic duo sharing laughs and photobombs together. Those two certainly made the most of the weekend’s festivities.
During the showdown the Mascots turned up the heat in all the competitions. It was really fascinating to watch them come up with unique ways to present themselves and earn points to win the contests
The dance competition was definitely a hit and the choreography was spectacular. The Coyotes’ Howler, the Avalanche’s Bernie, and Flames’ Harvey the Hound stole the show with their Moana routine. They racked up big points for the Western Conference with their showmanship. The last performance included all the Western Conference mascots teaming up for one huge performance that surprised everyone. They busted out the classic “I’m A Little Teapot dance” which ignited the room into a fit laughter. It should go without saying that the Western Conference mascots took home the dance competition trophy easily.
The last amazing experience of the night was the Virtual Reality booth. With a VR headset, you got the chance to be the head coach and make very difficult game-time decisions using the power of the new SAP NHL Coaching Insights app.
It was 4-4 game heading to overtime between the San Jose Sharks and the New York Rangers. As the coach, you chose the lines to start the extra frame. In my experience, I needed a shootout to seal the deal. I opted for Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Logan Couture as my three shooters. After falling behind after the first round, Burns and Couture both dazzled and deked out Henrik Lundqvist to send the Sharks fans home happy with the 5-4 victory.
At the end of the night, I couldn’t leave without buying something from the Fanatics shop. I badly wanted a black All-Star Sharks jersey, but opted for a San Jose All-Star Weekend shirt and I proudly wore it the next day underneath my own Sharks jersey for the All-Star Game.
A Futuristic All Star Game
Before the NHL stars took the ice, it was the mascots turn with an All-Star Game of their own. Fan favorite Gritty started in the penalty box and for good reason. He was constantly knocking over other mascots regardless of which team they were on. His presence was felt all over the ice, but it was the hometown hero who stole the show. SJ Sharkie was dominate in all three zones and tallied a hat trick that lifted the Western Conference over the Eastern Conference to take home the trophy.
After the Mascot shenanigans it was time for the NHL All-Stars to take the ice. Every fan in the SAP Center was equipped with a light-up wristband which created a playoff like atmosphere during the introduction of all the players. They were accompanied by the Stanford marching band who provided the entrance music for the players. Of course, boos rained down to the Sharks notorious enemies, names like Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Kings’ Drew Doughty. Sharks fans don’t forgive very easily and why should they?
The All-Star Game started out with a bang, unfortunately the Pacific Division took most of the shrapnel . The Central Division destroyed Anaheim Duck’s goaltender John Gibson early in the first half, who later earned half-hearted cheers whenever he actually did make a save.
Avalanche captain Nathan MacKinnon sipping cup of coffee behind the bench coached his teammates Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and the rest of the Central Division Stars to victory. His presence sparked a furious streak of goals from his Avs teammates which created an uproar among the fans in attendance.
Despite the impressive efforts from Burns, Pavelski and Karlsson, the Pacific Division fell short and were eliminated first from the main event. That put a sour taste in my mouth, but there was plenty more action to see. Even with the early exit the San Jose Sharks’ representatives did a spectacular job hosting the event
The Eastern Conference game was a bit more competitive but ultimately the Metropolitan Division narrowly fended off the Atlantic Division. The line of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Mathew Barzal carried the torch for the Metro All-Stars.
In the finale the Metropolitan Division doubled up on the Central with the score ending at 10-5. The pair of Penguins and Barzal displayed their magical passing abilities which dazzled the crowd at the SAP center.
After the dust settled it was time to announce the All Star Game MVP. Welcomed by a large amount of boos, Crosby was crowned the Most Valuable Player. It wasn’t the first time Sid the Kid had won an award in San Jose… let’s hope it never happens again.
All in all, the San Jose Sharks were phenomenal hosts. Silicon Valley helped propel this new generation of high-tech hockey to a rousing start. Hockey is definitely going be a little different now after a successful weekend in the Bay Area. I will never forget my weekend at the All Star Game.