The 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend was to be a showcase for the Carolina Hurricanes, for the City of Raleigh and for the Triangle. It was long-promised by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who finally delivered, and the three-day event came to Raleigh in late January.
Who would have thought it would be nearly upstaged by the youngest All-Star of them all?
Rookie Jeff Skinner of the Hurricanes was given fawning teen-idol treatment during the All-Star Weekend.
There were long lines of autograph seekers, all clamoring to get close to the 18-year-old forward with the boyish looks and dimpled smile.
When the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft was held at the Raleigh Convention Center, fans screamed Skinner's name until the Hurricanes' Eric Staal, a fantasy team captain, finally selected him.
"It's almost overwhelming. It's crazy, almost surreal," Skinner said, and more than once.
The All-Star Weekend was a success by any measure. The weather was pleasant, and the city and area well-received by the media attending, even by some of the crustier Canadians still skeptical about Raleigh as a hockey market after all these years (and a Stanley Cup). Skinner, the youngest All-Star ever, didn't score in the All-Star Game despite the best efforts of his teammates, but no one seemed to mind.
The Canes' first-round draft pick in 2010, Skinner later would be named the Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's rookie of the year. But the adulation, the craziness, of that weekend in January was something to behold.