(No, the first decade of the 21st century doesn't technically end until 2011. Save your bellyaching. But we've had nine NHL seasons and one stolen from us since 1999-2000, and Yahoo! Sports has decided it's time to rank the best and worst of the last "decade." Enjoy, and snark freely in the comments.)
Ah, the "Mid-Winter Classic"; an NHL tradition that began in 1908 but didn't become an annual event until 1947, has provided some long lasting memories over the years. Wayne Gretzky's first appearance overshadowed by Gordie Howe's last; Owen Nolan(notes) and his called shot; Mario Lemieux scoring four times in front of the Civic Arena crowd and Ray Bourque's winner at FleetCenter in 1996 are just some of the more recent images that have resonated.
Thanks to the 2004-05 lockout and the 2006 Olympics in Torino, the NHL All-Star Game took place eight times this decade; and since the work stoppage, a growing number of voices have cried to end the festivities altogether.
While the future of All-Star weekend remains to be seen, we do have some lasting memories from this last handful of games. Away we go now with the 10 most memorable All-Star Game happenings this decade ...
10. Nash waits a dozen seconds to open the scoring in 2008
If it weren't for the Western Conference losing 8-7 after a Marc Savard(notes) tally with 21 seconds left, Rick Nash(notes) would have walked away from Philips Arena in Atlanta with the MVP award and a shiny new truck. Giving his best effort to drive back to Columbus in said truck, Nash ended the game with a hat trick and etched his name into the NHL record book by scoring 12 seconds into the game.
9. "All-American Line" dominates World in 2001
It took until his 10th NHL season, but Bill Guerin(notes) found himself on an All-Star roster as a member of the North American team in Colorado. During the game, Guerin found himself on a line with fellow 1996 World Cup of Hockey teammates Doug Weight(notes) and Tony Amonte(notes). The trio led the way for a 14-12 North American victory over the World team by having a hand in six of the North American goals and combining for 13 points on the night. Guerin made the most of his All-Star debut by notching a hat trick and two assists and being named the game's MVP.
8. In his next-to-last All-Star appearance, Sakic calls for hats
The performance of the Western Conference team in 2004 was all about one line: Joe Sakic(notes)-Todd Bertuzzi-Markus Naslund(notes). The line factored in three of the West's four goals and failed to receive any help from the rest of the lineup as the East prevailed 6-4. Despite Daniel Alfredsson(notes) scoring two goals an adding an assist, Sakic was named the Game's MVP, the only time he won the award in his career.
The city of St. Paul, Minnesota was so excited to host, they built the famous Ice Castle for the first time in 20 years as part of the city's winter carnival.
7. Versus mics capture beginning of DiPietro's latest injury saga
We all know the injury struggles of Rick DiPietro(notes), but to watch his latest drama unfold before us during the 2008 Skills Competition was entertaining to say the least and provided us with yet another YouTube gem.
DiPietro participated in the shootout competition and after making two separate saves on Minnesota's Marian Gaborik(notes), the New York Islanders goaltender didn't realize his mic would be left on after his time in goal and was heard uttering (using the Kevin Smith profanity filter for hockey-writing), "My [Gretzky'in] hip" and "I just [Gretzky'd] my hip up again".
DiPietro would play until mid-March when it was announced he would miss the rest of the season after undergoing, you guessed it, hip surgery. That summer he would also have surgery on the meniscus on his left knee and after playing just five times during the 2008-09 season, shut things down in January with "post-arthroscopic surgical swelling in his right knee."
Warning: NSFW language, as you can tell by the title of the clip.
6. Red Wings all-stars play hooky, get suspended
Tired of seeing its star players pull out of the All-Star festivities, the NHL decided to put its foot down and punish those players who were selected to the game, but declined to show up even though they weren't participating in any of the events. The NHL decided that if a player were to pull out, they would have to miss a regular season game either before or after All-Star Weekend.
Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and Pavel Datsyuk(notes) of the Detroit Red Wings tested the NHL's patience on the policy by deciding to skip the weekend entirely due to injury and were thus handed one-game suspensions. The Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby(notes), who was also injured at the time and was going to miss, showed up and was not punished.
5. NHL introduces its answer to the Slam Dunk competition
The 2008 All-Star Game in Atlanta saw a major overhaul to the YoungStars Game and Skills Competition. The YoungStars Game was now a fast-paced, three-on-three competition with pucks being thrown onto the ice if they went out of play and the scoring team would have to skate to their end of the ice before they could engage again. The sometimes exciting Skills Competition saw a new obstacle course replace the Puck Control Relay, an Elimination Shootout and, to end the night, the NHL's version of the NBA Slam Dunk competition.
Picturing Alex Ovechkin(notes), Evgeni Malkin(notes), Mike Ribeiro(notes) and other NHL players given free reign to perform their most outrageous trick shots had so much potential and was built up as the most exciting portion of the evening.
Unfortunately, things didn't go as dreamy as most had planned. The attempts at doing some of the crazy moves were fun to watch, but the executions weren't always there. Ovechkin ended up winning on his form alone as he was unable to complete his attempts in the final.
It was a noble attempt by the NHL to bring some added excitement to the Skills Competition and let its top players show off their talents. The event is likely here to stay and over time, with the right players involved (and execution), could evolve into the signature event of the Skills Competition.
4. Al MacInnis and Ray Bourque: masters of their domain
If there were two players who were most synonymous with a Skills Competition event, it was MacInnis in the Hardest Shot and Bourque in the Accuracy Shootout. MacInnis and his feared blasts earned him seven Hardest Shot crowns, including a four-year reign to end the last decade. The legendary Boston Bruins defenseman was the first player to win the Accuracy title in 1990 and was a 5-time champion by himself, while three other times he had to share the trophy as the NHL's version of William Tell.
Bourque ended his dominance of the Accuracy Shootout in 2001 with a 4-for-6 performance and retired with two perfect showings in 1992 and 1993. MacInnis rode off into the sunset in 2003 in the middle of the composite stick revolution. His winning slapshot was clocked at 98.3 using his old reliable: a wooden stick. Scoffing in the face of technology, MacInnis was quoted after the event saying, "So much for technology, eh?"
3. Voting scandals
When the NHL introduced Internet fan voting for the All-Star Game, there was bound to be some monkey business. Write-in campaigns for players were always around in the days of paper ballots, but the 2007 game in Dallas almost saw one of the biggest voting upsets when the "Vote for Rory" campaign was born.
Devised as a way to point out the flaws in the NHL's voting process, what started out as a grassroots campaign exploded nationally and eventually saw Fitzpatrick -- of the zero points through 18 games at the time of the game -- finish third among defensemen in the Western Conference behind Scott Niedermayer(notes) and Nicklas Lidstrom. The Internet prank managed to give Fitzpatrick 550,177 votes, just under 23,000 away from Lidstrom for second place.
Two seasons later, with hopes of transparency, the NHL unveiled real-time voting, but that, of course, didn't stop ballot stuffers in Montreal from using automated voting for their favorite Habs last year.
The controversy caused the NHL to strip thousands of votes away from Canadiens players like Alexei Kovalev and institute CAPTCHA technology after voting had begun. In the end, four Canadiens: Kovalev, Andrei Markov(notes), Mike Komisarek(notes), and Carey Price(notes) were voted as starters to the 2009 Game at Bell Centre. Kovalev would score twice in regulation and once in the shootout and win the MVP in front of the Montreal crowd.
2. No. 99 is taken out of circulation in 2000
There are many numbers in hockey that are defined by certain players, but none more than Wayne Gretzky's No. 99. When the Great One retired after the 1998-99 season, the NHL announced that his number would be taken out of circulation and retired league-wide -- with inspiration from Major League Baseball's retiring of Jackie Robinson's No. 42. The gesture was done even though no player would have the gall to sport a "99" on their back after Gretzky began his dominance of the scoring record books in the 1980's.
In a pre-game ceremony at Air Canada Centre during the 50th edition of the All-Star Game, a banner featuring No. 99 was raised to the rafters in front of the Toronto crowd, one of many ceremonies honoring his career that he would attend in the year after his retirement.
The 2000 Game also saw the NHL debut this legendary "Pond of Dreams" opening montage.
Sunrise, Florida hosted the 53rd edition of the All-Star Game and saw the best one of the decade. The game was tight throughout and the sold out crowd at the (then) Office Depot Center watched Heatley tie Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Vincent Damphousse and Mike Gartner with four goals. Despite having a period to go, Heatley was unable to break the record in the third period and overtime.
Nearing the end of the extra frame, many wondered what was going to happen if the game ended as a stalemate. At the previous summer's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the infamous tie game occurred in Milwaukee; to avoid continuing that embarrassing trend, the NHL decided that a shootout would be in order to determine the game's winner.
Heatley would tally his unofficial fifth goal in the shootout, the Eastern Conference's only goal and grab the MVP of the game.
- Wayne Gretzky
- Ray Bourque