NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- From country music stars to celebrating kids to an homage to an ageless wonder and, of course, John Scott, the All-Star skills competition had a little bit of everything. Here are my most memorable moments.
1. John Scott rocks the house: Did you wonder what it would be like for Pacific Division captain John Scott? He sure did. But what a nice moment for the oft-discussed former Arizona Coyotes tough guy, who was controversially voted into the All-Star event by fans. He took part in the hardest shot competition and the packed house at Bridgestone Arena rose to its feet to give him a great ovation. Scott was defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos in the head-to-head hardest shot competition but still delivered a respectable 95.9 mph shot. Stamkos immediately went to Scott to congratulate him. Later, Scott was denied on two shootout attempts, including on a very nice spin-o-rama move that was stopped by the New Jersey Devils' Cory Schneider. "I could barely even hold my stick, I was shaking so much during the whole thing," Scott told reporters after. "My heart was just pounding and I couldn't really calm down. ... I'm happy with what happened but I'm still nervous right now, it was such a kind of a cool experience." He admitted he wasn't sure how the fans would respond to his being on the ice but their warm response will stay with him for a long time.
2. Best move of the night: First, goalies Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, teammates with the Vancouver Canucks before both were traded after several turbulent seasons, "argued" over who would be in goal for the Eastern Conference during the breakaway challenge. Then San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns brought out his son, Jagger, 4, and teammate Joe Pavelski's son, Nate, 5, and Jagger capped off a three-way passing play by scoring into the open net, after which Jagger celebrated in front of the cameras before fist-bumping every player on the ice. Burns admitted the celebration was definitely not planned. "No, that's scary," Burns said afterward. "I didn't know what we were getting into there." But the chance for players to share moments like this with their children is one of the great attractions of the event. The youngsters play on the same youth team back in San Jose. "I think these are just really special moments we can share with them," said Burns, who donned a Chewbacca mask when he was part of the breakaway challenge. "To get them on the ice, to hear them talk about how loud the crowd is. That's pretty special. I think, selfishly, it's just really cool to be able to share that with them and have that moment."
3. Close second: Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban sported a Jaromir Jagr jersey, fake Jagr mullet circa 1992 and the familiar Jofa helmet to pay homage to the Florida Panthers star during the breakaway challenge. "He had no idea, I didn't want to ruin the surprise for him," Subban said. "I could see his smile when I came out, he had a pretty good smile on his face. I was just happy that he liked it and embraced it. He's had such a long and amazing career. I know when it's over for him, he's going to go down as one of the best players ever. Who knows, I don't know where this ranks in his highlights of his career but hopefully it's up there." Jagr joined an on-ice interview and joked that he had to talk to his mother about a brother he didn't know he had. Later the 43-year-old said he enjoyed the getup, although he did complain there was too much gray in Subban's mullet. "That was very funny, no question about it," Jagr said. "Yeah, I didn't know he was going to do it. It was cool."
4. Like the wind: What a nice night for one of the bright young stars of the game as Dylan Larkin, the Detroit Red Wings' sparkling rookie forward, had the fastest time in the fastest skater competition and then broke Mike Gartner's all-time record for lap-around time set in 1996. In fact, Gartner set the record six months before the 19-year-old Larkin was born. Larkin admitted later that he almost fell on his race to the record. "It could have been bad, it could have been my last All-Star Game if I had kept going, but luckily I got my footing," he said. Larkin is a lock to make the Team North America squad at next fall's World Cup of Hockey and is tied for the team lead in points with Henrik Zetterberg with 33. "I've always been a good skater, but as I started working out and gaining strength, my speed has kind of taken off," Larkin said.
5. Slap happy: Colleague Pierre LeBrun likened the hardest shot competition to the 100 meter race at the Olympics. A stretch? Maybe. But it's a valid point: that this part of the skills competition is old-school. Man versus puck. And usually when Shea Weber is involved, the puck doesn't stand a chance. Weber defended his hardest shot title at home with a blast of 108.1 mph. Weber's teammate Pekka Rinne wasn't surprised. "I've seen that a thousand times," Rinne said with a laugh.
6. That's one crazy scoring system: I really like the skills competition. The actual skating, shooting and passing parts. I really like when the players have to pass into those little nets all the way across the ice (where do they get those nets, by the way?). But what I really struggle with is how they actually come up with a system for determining a winner in the skills competition. Picked up the guide for scoring the skills competition and it had to have been written by Copernicus. Or the triangle guy, Pythagoras. Do the players even know who is winning? Nope. Not a chance. Rivaling the scoring system for most perplexing element of the skills competition? The skills challenge relay which, if I started describing it now, would take you until tomorrow morning to finish. Suffice it to say, the best part of the relay is having goalies shoot the puck over a barrier and into an open net at the opposite end of the ice. For the record, the Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference 29-12. How did they get that score? Your guess is as good as ours.