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Recapping Day One of the All-Star Festivities

Feb 1, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; Team Hughes pick Tampa Bay Lightning Nikita Kucherov at the Tim Hortons NHL All Star Player Draft during the NHL All-Star Thursday at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The hockey world converged in Toronto on Thursday to kick off a weekend of festivities as the NHL paused their season for their annual All-Star Weekend. The night was “highlighted” by the draft. For the first time since 2015, the league decided to do away with the traditional divisional teams and instead, have the captains (along with their honorary celebrity captains) draft their rosters. Unfortunately, unlike the chaotic 2015 All-Star draft it appeared that the players, sitting on benches in front of the stage, were not provided with the same “liquid courage” the folks in 2015 were. The players may have been sober, but as for the celebrity captains…

The All-Star fun had started earlier in the day as the best of the PWHL faced off in a 3-on-3 showcase. Just a month after the league debuted in Toronto the players divided into two teams (Team King and Team Kloss) to showoff their skills. Savannah Harmon, who plays for Ottawa, had a hat-trick to lead Team King to a 5-3 victory in front of an announced crowd of 16,392 fans.

It was also media day, so Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning’s lone representative had to answer questions from the press. We all know that talking to the media isn’t his favorite thing to do, but he dutifully answered questions for 13 minutes and even cracked a few smiles. When asked if he’d like to play the Leafs again in the playoffs he admitted it would be fun, but the focus is making the playoffs at this point.

He did credit Adam Oates for helping him become a better player along the boards, an aspect to his game that he really didn’t have early in his career.

Prior to the draft, the NHL Alumni Association presented their Man of the Year award to the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs. Among those honored was Brian Conacher, part of one of hockey’s great families that counts Tampa Bay Lightning forward and fan favorite, Cory Conacher as a member (we do so miss “Death. Taxes. Conacher”).

Then on to the festivities. Team Hughes was awarded the first overall pick (as revealed by Wayne Gretzky). After a brief amount of discussion the Hughes brothers (Quinn and Jack) along with their celebrity captain Michael Bublé, announced that Nikita Kucherov was their selection. Kucherov became the first Lightning player to be selected with the first overall pick in an All-Star draft, eclipsing Steven Stamkos who was taken second behind Cam Ward in 2011.

If you want to watch the whole thing, here ya go, but honestly, there are better ways to spend 46 minutes of your life.

Kucherov will be an honorary Vancouver Canuck for the weekend as he is joined by Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, and old friend JT Miller. Rounding out the team is Kyle Connor, Brady Tkachuk, Jesper Bratt, Cam Talbot, and Frank Vatrano.

There wasn’t much excitement in the draft. However, a revelation made after the draft made the social media rounds. In the post-draft press conference, celebrity captains Michael Bublé and Will Arnett (wearing a Maple Leafs cap even though he was captaining a team led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) took some questions from the assembled media. Bublé, your Aunt Susan’s favorite singer, seemed to be an especially happy mood as things kicked off.

“Hey I recognize all of you. I know you and you,” he said with a big smile on his face as he pointed to specific people before complimenting a gentleman for having “good hands, you’ve got silky mitts, my brother.”

Then, while answering a fantasy hockey related question from Matt Larkin from Daily Faceoff, Bublé revealed that his natural cheer might have been, shall we say, enhanced?

“Third. My buddy told me this was a microdose of mushrooms and he was lying! I’ll be honest, I thought I was in Blades of Glory for most of the time I was out there.”

Arnett, who starred in the movie Blades of Glory, took the opportunity to needle his fellow captain, “It just occurs to me that, through all of the incredible songs you’ve done over the years and all the hearts of the women that you’ve won over around the world, with all of that talk about fantasy hockey, you lost them all in one sentence. It all just evaporated. Years of building it up and it’s just gone!”

Bublé laughingly replied that “The mushroom talk cost me all of my contracts.” Arnett agreed, “The mushroom talk definitely lost you a lot of income. Anyone got the guts to follow up on the mushrooms?”

Sadly, no one did as the next question was concerning any side bets between the celebrities. Thank you to the Edmonton Oilers for posting the entire line of questioning here:

The fun continues tonight as the players take part in the Skills competition.

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