There was a distinct Rangers flavor at NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
Last Friday night, the top 100 players in the 100-year history of the NHL were honored at Microsoft Theater, adjacent to Staples Center. Sixty-seven of the 76 living honorees were on hand, taking part in the largest collection of hockey superstars ever assembled.
The greats were introduced on stage (and to a nationwide television audience in the U.S. and Canada) by decade; prior to the All-Star Game on Sunday, approximately 50 members of the group took to the ice and exchanged autographed pucks with the current All-Stars.
The NHL100 included 25 (yes, 25!) players who played at least one game for the Rangers: Andy Bathgate, Max Bentley, Johnny Bower, Pavel Bure, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, Mike Gartner, Bernie Geoffrion, Wayne Gretzky, Doug Harvey, Tim Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Jari Kurri, Guy Lafleur, Pat LaFontaine, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros, Mark Messier, Howie Morenz, Brad Park, Jacques Plante, Jean Ratelle, Luc Robitaille, Terry Sawchuk and Brendan Shanahan. In addition, four of the 100 served as Rangers head coach: Esposito, Geoffrion, Harvey and Bryan Trottier.
Voting for the top 100 all-time players was not an easy task for the 58 owners, executives, general managers, coaches, players, broadcasters and media members who took part; given that 267 NHL players have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That means that 167 Hall of Famers were left off the list!
Two omissions in my mind: Rod Gilbert (Rangers all-time leading scorer) and Glenn Anderson (498 career goals, 6 Stanley Cups).
Fast forward to the All-Star Game on Sunday, a four-team, 3-on-3 tournament for the second straight year.
The Metropolitan Division (coached by Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, filling in for John Tortorella) advanced with a 10-6 victory over the Atlantic, preceded by the Pacific Division’s 10-3 win over the Central. In the championship game, a late “kick save” by Blueshirts captain Ryan McDonagh helped preserve the 4-3 triumph by the Metro.
The day is sure to be a lifetime thrill for McDonagh, who was paired with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for most of his shifts.
It was a huge honor to attend the NHL100 on Friday night, as well as broadcast the Skills Competition on Saturday (for NBCSN) and the All-Star Game on Sunday (for Westwood One Radio with Joe Micheletti).
There may never be a similar collection of hockey talent on one stage again in our lifetimes. The NHL did a tremendous job in bringing the 100-year history of the game to life, in living color, in Los Angeles this past weekend.