The 2016 NHL All-Star Game is almost upon us. This year, the best players in the NHL will head to Nashville to compete in the 61st All-Star game.
The format this year will be very different than what fans have witnessed in the past. The usual five-on-five game has gone out the window. In its place fans will see a three-on-three tournament format.
Each of the four divisions will enter the game with an 11-man roster. The team that wins the tournament will walk away with $1 million to split between them.
With an incentive like that, players have a bottom-line reason to do more than show up in Nashville and have a fun weekend.
The reason for the three-on-three format is to try to capture some of the energy of the current regular season overtime format. With more room on the ice, the game should be faster and more dynamic. There should also be a lot more scoring chances, and, therefore, more opportunities for players, both the skaters and goalies, to make memorable plays.
It’s hard to tell if the format will change things up enough for one of the 44 players competing in Nashville to break into the most impressive All-Star Game performances list.
Oh, who is on that list, you ask? Well, here you are: the five best NHL All-Star game performances — ever.
5. Ray Bourque – 1996
The 1996 NHL All-Star game was held in Boston. The game took place in front of 17,565 fans in what was then called the FleetCenter and is now known as TD Garden. Playing for the Eastern Conference team that year was hometown superstar Ray Bourque.
The Eastern Conference team was up 3-0 in the second period when the Western Conference woke up. By the end of the second stanza the score was 4-3 with the Eastern Conference leading. With 3:29 left in the last period, Teemu Selanne tied the game for the West. As time ticked down on the clock, Bourque found the puck in front of the Western Conference crease and backhanded the puck past Felix Potvin with 37-seconds left in the game. Bourque was awarded the MVP for the game.
4. Wayne Gretzky – 1983
The 1983 NHL All-Star Game was played in front of 15,230 fans at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., the former home of the New York Islanders. The starting center for the Campbell Conference team that year was Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers.
Gretzky didn’t do all that much in the first two periods, but in the third he came alive, scoring four goals in the final period. With that outburst, Gretzky set an All-Star record for most goals in a game or period and points in a period.
At the end of the game, Gretzky would be named All-Star MVP.
3. Dany Heatley – 2003
The 2003 NHL All-Star Game was played in the Office Depot Center, now the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., the home of the Florida Panthers. 19,250 fans attended the game that year. The Eastern Conference scored a total of five goals during that game. Olli Jokinen of the Panthers netted one of those goals, the other four were all scored by Dany Heatley, who also assisted on Jokinen’s goal. When the game went to a shootout, Heatley scored yet another goal. However, his heroics that day were not enough to win the game for the Eastern Conference, as the West scored three times in the shootout to take the game. But Heatley did take home the MVP award for his play in Florida.
2. Mario Lemieux – 1988
The 1988 NHL All-Star Game was held at the St. Louis Arena, which, at the time, was the home of the St. Louis Blues. 17,878 fans attended the game that year.
In one of the best single player performances in the history of the All-Star game, Mario Lemieux scored three goals and added three assists to that number for a six-point game. No other player has ever scored that many points in a single All-Star game.
Lemieux took home the All-Star MVP award for his performance.
1. Owen Nolan – 1997
The 1997 NHL All-Star Game was held at the San Jose Arena, now the SAP Center, the home of the San Jose Sharks. 17,442 fans witnessed the game live.
Owen Nolan, of the home Sharks, had already scored two goals when he broke in alone on Eastern Conference goaltender Dominik Hasek and scored a goal for the hat trick. While the hat trick in front of a hometown crowd is nice, that’s not the reason Nolan makes the top of the list. No, Nolan makes the top of the list because he called his shot.
While closing in on Hasek, Nolan took his hand off his stick, pointed at the net and scored the goal.