The National Hockey League is once again revamping its All-Star Game format, going with a 3-on-3 and division vs. division tournament and scrapping the “fantasy draft” that was used in the last three midseason classics, beginning in Raleigh in 2011.
This is, of course, a total bummer.
The NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft format was like watching one of those gourmet cake competitions: Sort of boring with moments of chaotic inspiration and we all just want to see if the damn thing will smash all over the floor in a cringe-filled mess at the end.
Except all the chefs are hammered on Schnapps.
The drunken fun of the “Fantasy Draft” led to some candid moments that didn’t fit the usual stick-to-the-script nature of the NHL. It was one night where it seemed OK for the players to make fun of each other, and themselves. It felt like being a fly on the wall at a party we’re not usually invited to witness.
Alas, the players reportedly didn’t enjoy it, and the NHL decided yet again to tinker with the format. So all we’re left with are the funny, awkward, hilarious and, yes, heartfelt moments of the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft.
Here are our top 10 fantasy draft moments:
10. Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul share a toilet
The former Philadelphia Flyers teammates admitted that the 2012 bathroom lines were too long to wait in, so Lupul tried to cut in front of Hartnell and Hartnell denied him.
So instead, the two admitted they shared a toilet.
"Let's just say we shared the same bathroom at one time. He had to get out there quick. Everyone likes to play swords I guess," said Hartnell, for some reason.
9. Rick Nash at the Columbus All-Star Game
The NHL refused to give Columbus Blue Jackets fans what they would have loved, which was a team captained by Rick Nash against a team captained by Nick Foligno.
Instead, Nash was an alternate captain for Team Toews. And the highly anticipated response from the local fans was … mixed.
8. Drew Doughty Gets Personal
When an NHL player is asking a peer if he’s married in front of a live mic, awkwardness ensues.
Witness Drew Doughty asking Foligno that very question last season.
7. Marc Staal, Eric Staal and Brotherly Love
One of our favorite things about the fantasy draft was the way it caused friends and, in this case, blood relatives to decide on drafting each other.
In 2011, Eric Staal of the host Carolina Hurricanes had brother Marc Staal of the New York Rangers in the draft pool, and made him sweat it out. “We’re blood. I’m disappointed right now. I thought I was going to be the first pick,” said Marc Staal, tongue in cheek. “Classless!”
But eventually, Eric made him stop sweating and drafted his brother:
No word if that threat of Christmas presents was ever carried out.
6. Logan Couture Gets a Car
The “Mr. Irrelevant” aspect of the fantasy draft was always a point of contention for the players and some teams (COUGH Brian Burke COUGH), so the NHL decided to soothe the awkwardness of the last pick by making players actually want to be picked last. So in 2012, Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks was the final pick in the fantasy draft and won a new Honda truck.
This still wasn’t enough to allow people to get over themselves about someone being the last pick, so the 2015 NHL All-Star Game added a twist of a fan vote to decide who would end up being the final pick. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won, giving Filip Forsberg the honor, but the new ending saw both earn cars.
5. Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phanuef Booed in Ottawa
Two Toronto Maple Leafs in Ottawa … what could go wrong?
Well, there was that heavy booing when Dion Phaneuf was drafted by Team Chara, followed quickly by “OVER-RATED!” chants.
They also jeered Joffrey Lupul, who responded appropriately:
The Battle of Ontario does not rest for a fantasy draft.
4. The Sedins Are Split
The Staals weren’t the only brothers affected by the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft.
Please recall when in 2011, Henrik Sedin was drafted by Team Lidstrom after Daniel Sedin was selected by Team Staal. The pre-draft conspiracy theory was true!
“Team Lidstrom go the best twin, that’s for sure,” said Henrik. Snap!
3. The Phil Kessel Trade … Again
The 2015 Fantasy Draft saw Jonathan Toews using his team’s first pick to select Phil Kessel, who was of course the last pick in the 2011 Fantasy Draft. He then called him “coachable,” which was a hilarious zinger aimed at the Toronto media.
But the highlight of the night was when we saw the first Fantasy Draft trade, encouraged by the NHL but conceived by the players: Kessel for Tyler Seguin of Team Foligno, a repeat of the infamous deal between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in 2009. (Seguin was selected with the pick that the Leafs sent to Boston.)
“I was heartbroken about that one,” said Toews, tongue firmly in check. “Didn’t think it was going to come to that point, and had to go with it. It’s part of the business, trading guys you feel strongly about.”
2. Alex Ovechkin Has Too Much Fun (For a Good Cause)
Alex Ovechkin was the clown prince of the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, and in 2015 his Instagram video chronicle of backstage antics was hilarious.
No one was sure why Ovechkin was summarily obsessed with getting picked last – including a hand-written sign that read “I WANT TO BE LAST. I NEED A CAR!” – and he was devastated when he went second to last.
After failing to win the MVP car on Sunday as well, Honda announced it was giving Ovechkin a car anyway. Why? Because his plan was to donate it to Ice Dogs, a Northern Virginia hockey program for special needs youth players.
Ovechkin has worked with the program before. He met a young player named Ann Schaab in the preseason, a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome whom he befriended. She memorably asked the Washington Capitals captain for a sushi date, and the resulting video was a viral sensation.
Ovechkin, of course, also took part in the most famous moment in Fantasy Draft history:
1. Phil Kessel, Mr. Irrelevant
Kessel was forced to sit alone as every player around him was taken, before Team Lidstrom drafted him last in 2011. As you can see, Ovechkin was very excited to capture the finale of the first NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft. But the NHL padded the fall by giving Kessel $20,000 to donate to his favorite charity and giving him a brand new Honda as well.
While the moment was lambasted as a shot at the glory of the Toronto Maple Leafs, history shows us that it helped begin the reframing of Kessel from disappointing focal point of a regrettable trade to schlubby everyman that fans couldn’t help but root for in the face of public ridicule.
Four years later, the Kessel trade was turned into a joke at the All-Star Game.
One that Kessel was actually in on.
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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.