COLUMBUS, Ohio – The NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition has an event called the Breakaway Challenge that affords players the chance to act like prop comedians.
On Saturday night in Columbus, Johnny Gaudreau was that aforementioned prop.
Ryan Johansen, the Columbus Blue Jackets star, did was fan favorites do and invited a child to participate in his shootout routine. He skated the puck near the crease, stopped, retrieved the son of his team trainer, and then had him shoot the puck home. It was all quite adorable.
Jakub Voracek, the NHL’s leading scorer from the Philadelphia Flyers, needed some way to trump that attempt. So he decided to borrow that idea by using the smallest skater he could find to take the shot.
That would be the diminutive Calgary Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau.
“He came up and asked me first if it was all right. I thought it would be pretty funny to do something like that,” said Gaudreau.
“To be honest, it was actually Ryan Suter’s idea. He came up to me and he said I should do it,” said Voracek. “I think that little kid was bigger than [Gaudreau]. Let’s be honest."
Voracek said that had Gaudreau nixed the idea, his next plan was to potentially use Dustin Byfuglien. Or, failing that, asking Columbus public enemy Rick Nash if he could borrow his jersey.
So that was fun. But it could have been even more fun had the NHL allowed Gaudreau to follow through with his initial plan: Lighting his own stick on fire.
“Me and Mark Giordano were talking about it on the bus a little bit earlier and thought it would be a good idea since we play for Flames,” said Gaudreau of his Calgary teammate.
“I asked one of the player safety guys here and they said no,” he said.
This is correct:
Unfortunately I had to be Director of Funland Security on that one after every attorney in our offices had simultaneous heart attacks.
— Patrick Burke (@BurkieYCP) January 25, 2015
“I should've just did it,” said Gaudreau.
Giordano said he would have supervised the fire.
"I was all for it. I was going to help him do it. Didn't get the OK at the end of the day,” said Giordano. “Maybe next year."
He couldn’t use a fire stick, but Gaudreau was given another chance to make an impression in Columbus: He was added to Jonathan Toews’ team in Sunday’s All-Star Game as a result of late injuries.
“I'm really excited. It's going to be a great experience for me,” said the 21-year-old. “This whole weekend has been a blast so far. I'm excited to get a chance to play in the game.”