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2/1/19 - By Ken Smyth
The gathering of the tribes otherwise known as NHL All-Star weekend has come and gone. My wife was wondering just how many people from the far-flung reaches of North America would show up on the West Coast for a weekend. She was impressed.

If you're judging an All-Star experience by the game itself, this one was a real dud. If you judge by the events around the game, it was a great success. Top item was the NHL Fan Fest. Outside of the insane line for the Stanley Cup photos it was great fun for all ages. (Should they have brought two Cups? That would have ruined the story!) And yes, my wife is a better shooter than me. The Friday night skills test was fun to watch from our seats up in the center-ice heights of section 201 and seeing the female professionals get a spot in the tournament was a welcome addition.

The NFL-style media chat was open to season-ticket holders, and Paul covered it well. We were sitting opposite the spot about 5 o'clock from the main stage on the first level, grabbing that area mainly to see Eric Karlsson . Gary Bettman even showed up, unannounced so nobody booed him, but he was the only suit with no ID lanyard and security guys behind him. But one of the real stars of that show was Seth Jones.

Maybe because he's a second-generation pro athlete, maybe because he's obviously a smart guy. He came across well without going too much into cliché speak. Karlsson didn't shed much light on whether he'd stay or leave at the end of the season, but did show why he was so adored in Ottawa.

PK Subban's show at the Improv was worth the watch. You can catch the show online. You may wince at PK's defensive work at times but he is a personality. In a league that seems to take pride sometimes in playing behind the NBA he's a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, time for some awards. Being aware of copyrights on "Big Game" weekend, some adjustments are made. (some direction) Airlines "Wanna Get Away?" award - to Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Some background: the Oilers fired their GM, Peter Chiarelli, on January 24th between periods of their game against Detroit. (Owner Daryl Katz obviously has a bit of the Steve Jobs in him.) McDavid spent most of his interview time in the NHL Media session being quizzed about the Oilers latest management change and looking like he'd be happier almost anyplace else. The first rule of some Canadian hockey writers is if you're not part of the problem we'll try harder to make you one. Though credit them for bringing up just how many ex-GM's are still on the Oilers' payroll.

Honorable (?) Mention - goaltender John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, who played like he wanted to catch an early flight home. Alex Ovechkin at least was honest about not showing up to not show up.

(some last name) Hotels Lucky Seat award - to Sidney Crosby. For his All-Star MVP award. Missing for the press interviews and the skills event due to "illness". Anyone know if he really stayed overnight during the weekend?

Oakland A's Hometown Heroes award - to Auston Matthews. Showing the love for Patrick Marleau is always a good move with a Sharks' crowd. He's another guy who'll be a good face for the NHL.

Honorable Mention - The two dudes puffing on a huge blunt in the middle of all the photo pucks in Cesar Chavez Plaza. Ahh, well...

(odd but truthful two-letter pair) Moving Seat Upgrade - to Jake Muzzin of the LA Kings. Having booed the Kings for many years, I've always appreciated how many of their supporting cast members go on to better roles after being traded. This is being described as a "step back to take a step forward", but given the circumstances it could be a step back to take another step back. The Leafs gave up what will be a lower first-round pick and a couple C-level prospects for a #2 defenseman.

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