With the 2018 NHL All-Star weekend set to take over Tampa Bay towards the end of the month, we decided to take a look back at the first time the Lightning hosted the 49th NHL All-Star weekend — 1999.
You can picture it now. The hair, the jerseys, the aesthetic. Today, ‘99 feels vintage. The world operated a little differently twenty years ago, and the trends were sure interesting.
It seems the turn of the century was an odd time for numerous professional sports leagues and their franchises, the NHL being no exception. Of course there was the expansion. It brought the total of teams to 30 by the year 2000 beginning with the San Jose Sharks in 1991. After the Sharks, the dominoes began to fall. Add the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning in ‘92, Florida Panthers and Might Ducks of Anaheim in ‘93, Nashville Predators in ‘97, the Atlanta Thrashers in ‘99, and finally the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild in 2000, it was a time when the league was seeking its identity.
Now, the NHL seems more polished (depending on who you ask). It may be hard to argue, however, that a little bit of modernity has since helped the league gain a new face. The ensuing 20 years featured turmoil, including the lockouts and dead puck era in the 2000’s. The league still has its issues, but the end of the expansion added some stability.
Then of course came the success of the sunbelt. The Panthers sprinted into the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, just four years after the inception of the team. The Dallas Stars won in 1999 and returned in 2000. The traditional ways of the NHL had surely begun to thin out, to the enjoyment and dismay of a myriad of fans.
The 1999 All-Star weekend happened on January 24th. The NHL’s best met at the Ice Palace for the skills competition and an exhibition game. The game featured a Team North America and Team World. Team North America featured players originating from the continent, Team World with players from the rest of the countires. Thus, NHL teammates were now able to face one another in a game.
There isn’t a single detail from the ‘99 weekend that doesn’t immediately conjure up a total blast from the past. Just look at the roster.
The Lightning sole representation was winger Wendel Clark. You will also notice Nikolai Khabibulin with the Phoenix Coyotes — he would become a record breaking goaltender for the Bolts — as well as Mattias Ohlund, who would also play with the Lightning.
Wayne Gretzky was in his final year in the league while playing with the New York Rangers. All-Star Games are aptly named, but between Paul Kariya, Mike Modano, Dominik Hasek, and Jaromir Jagr, just to name a few, the ‘99 weekend was jam packed with talent.
Team North America, coached by Ken Hithcock, defeated the Lindy Ruff coached Team World 8-6.
As for the skills competition winners, well, thanks Wikipedia...
- Puck Control Relay – Paul Kariya
- Fastest Skater – Peter Bondra – 14.640 seconds
- Accuracy Shooting – Ray Bourque/Keith Tkachuk/Jeremy Roenick – 4 hits, 6 shots
- Hardest Shot – Al MacInnis – 98.5 mph
- Goaltenders Competition - Arturs Irbe - 2 GA, 16 shots
The player intros are just a thing of beauty. Between the wonderfully unnecessary laser sound effects and lighting, the videos are just incredible. And of course, a night in a Lightning arena isn’t completely without arena PA announcer Paul Porter.
Want to watch the whole game? YouTube’s got that too.
And last, below is a sing-through some of the nation’s top musical hits from the year. There are definitely some bangers.
What are we in for this year?
If it’s anything like 1999, we’ll get to see star power, good-natured rivalry, and unabashed cheese.