The money mattered, of course, even to well-paid professional athletes.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s a million dollars on the table,” Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said. “When you can reach out and grab it, you want to put some effort in.”
The format mattered more, though.
In the past, generally each player involved in All-Star Weekend would appear in one event. The rest of the time, he’d sit around and watch. The good part was that every NHL market was represented. The bad part was that there was no narrative that connected everything, and the fans saw only glimpses of the best of the best.
This time, not every NHL market was represented, but the fans got to see 12 of the NHL’s brightest stars. Each skater competed in four of the first six events. The top eight moved on to the seventh event. The top six moved on to the final event. The drama kept building through the night, and McDavid didn’t clinch the win until the very end.
“I mean, especially when you’re kind of winding down the last couple events, you kind of see where you’re at on the leaderboard,” Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said. “It definitely adds a little extra motivation to try to sneak into the [seventh and eighth rounds]. Anything can happen, right?
“I thought it was cool. This is the first year doing this. It’s never going to be perfect, but I think it’s a good base for the future to continue to have skills competitions somewhat like this one that are competitive and fun for everybody.”
This was a true test. How hard was it?
Draisaitl and Kucherov each has won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion and been voted the winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. Pastrnak has won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL goal-scoring champion.
Kucherov leads the NHL in scoring this season with 85 points (32 goals, 53 assists) in 49 games. Pastrnak is third with 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) in 49 games. Hughes leads NHL defensemen in scoring with 62 points (12 goals, 50 assists) in 49 games.
“That was really fun, probably better than what they did in the past,” Hughes said. “Just to challenge yourself and be able to do some of those things, especially with the 12 guys that were there, is pretty cool.”
The next two players cut were Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon and Canucks forward Elias Pettersson. MacKinnon, a three-time Hart Trophy finalist, is second in the NHL in scoring with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 49 games. Pettersson is eighth with 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) in 49 games.
McDavid earned 25 standings points for winning four events. He earned five each for the Fastenal Fastest Skater, Upper Deck NHL Stick Handling and Cheetos NHL Accuracy Shooting, and he earned 10 for the Pepsi NHL Obstacle Course, worth double as the finale. But even he earned zero points in two events — Scotiabank NHL Passing Challenge and Honda/Hyundai NHL One-on-One — for failing to finish in the top five.
Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev won $100,000 for making the most saves among the eight goalies in the One-on-One, and he faced McDavid.
“I think it was quite diverse,” Georgiev said. “There were a lot of different skills. You have to be a really complete player, I guess, to win it all. It was fun to watch.”