Great All-Star memories

Staff WriterJanuary 23, 2011 

Since the NHL abandoned the All-Stars-vs.-champions format in 1969 to pit the league's best against the league's best, these games stand out above the rest:

1. Only two days after the first bombs of Desert Storm fell in Iraq in 1991, the NHL gathered at Chicago Stadium for a game many thought should have been canceled. Instead, Wayne Messmer's anthem - almost drowned out by Blackhawks fans, as always, cheering throughout - became one of the most stirring moments of patriotism sports has ever seen.

2. The home crowd went home happy in Boston in 1996 when Ray Bourque scored the winner with 37.3 seconds left in regulation. Teemu Selanne tied the score with less than four minutes to go, but the Bruins' legend thrilled the home fans with his last-minute dramatics.

3. A late penalty and an extra-attacker goal made for the kind of last-second drama rarely seen in an All-Star Game in Hartford in 1986. Dale Hawerchuk scored to force overtime, where Bryan Trottier won it.

4. At 51, Gordie Howe made his last All-Star appearance in 1980 in the uniform of the Hartford Whalers, but in Detroit, where the glory days of his career took place. While Howe exited, another star entered: Wayne Gretzky played in his first All-Star Game.

5. Up 7-1 at the second intermission, the Wales Conference was on its way to an easy win in Philadelphia in 1976. But Dennis Ververgaert scored twice, only 10 seconds apart, to open the third as the Campbell Conference made a game of it, getting to 7-5 before running out of time.

6. Three years before the NHL decided to use shootouts to settle ties in the regular season, they tried it out in the All-Star Game. The 2003 event, hosted by the Florida Panthers, was tied 5-5 before the Western Conference scored on all three of its shootout attempts for the win. Dany Heatley, with a record-tying four goals, was named MVP.

7. Bobby Orr was so good, he could be named MVP of an All-Star Game despite recording only one point. Orr's defensive performance in a 3-2 win for the East Division in 1972, played at the old Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., earned him those honors, although helping to set up the winning goal didn't hurt.

8. Nothing that happened on the ice in 1993 compared to what happened before the game, a tribute to cancer-stricken Mario Lemieux in his hometown of Montreal. The last of 13 All-Star Games to be played at the old Forum, Lemieux's presence at the game raised the ceremony to another level.

9. The West team scored twice in the first five minutes of the game, and goalies Tony Esposito and Ernie Wakely held on the rest of the way in goal at the old Boston Garden in 1971. Bobby Hull, who scored the winner on a power play, was named MVP.

10. Rarely is goaltending a factor in an All-Star Game, but Nikolai Khabibulin's perfect 17-save third period in 2002 helped the World team turn a 5-3 second-intermission deficit into an 8-5 win. After Eric Daze was named MVP for scoring twice for the losing side, Khabibulin's snub forced change in the way voting is handled.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, 919-829-8947 or blogs.newsobserver.com/decock

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