The 2001 NHL All-Star Game

Friday night I landed in Denver. Everywhere I turned in Denver International Airport were banners welcoming travelers to the NHL All-Star Weekend. Many of the car services were waiting for hockey people – staff/crew from "Hockey Night In Canada" for instance. Driving into Denver, it was amazing how focused on the All-Star game the city was. Bars had signs welcoming everyone, street lightposts had banners draped from them, and there was even an NHL All-Star Boulevard. Clearly, this was a hockey town!

Check out pictures of Denver, including their new NFL stadium.

Saturday morning I overheard people saying that the North Americans were practicing at 9:00 and the World at 10:45. Since I had come mainly for our Russian Washington Capital who was on the World Squad, I arrived at Pepsi Center about 10:30. There didn’t appear to be anyone taking tickets at the door so I headed in for my visit to the Can. I found a seat upstairs – to compare to MCI’s upper level – and was disappointed to see the North Americans come out. I stayed for a few minutes – they weren’t practicing, just skating around and giving the people who weren’t able to go to the All-Star game a chance to take pictures.

I walked around the Pepsi Center and found it similar to the First Union Center. The concourses were wider than at MCI and the concession stands seemed to have much more selection. One thing they do that I liked is that each stand has one item that is a specialty of Denver. That made it interesting for the many people that were just visiting.

Saturday afternoon, I headed back to the Can for the Skills Competition. Parking was $25 outside; never thought MCI Center could look cheap. The players were introduced and skated out in their NHL team sweaters. It was rather interesting to see 2 or 3 Captains on one team. The Skills competition was fun, with the North Americans surprisingly having a lead the whole time. The NHL had an interviewer in one of the penalty boxes where she would interview different players for a few minutes. As always, it was fun to see the players’ personalities emerge. To add a little excitement to the competition, the NHL was giving a 2001 Dodge Stratus to the best goaltender in the competition. There was a tie between San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and Phoenix Coyotes ‘tender Sean Burke. Each faced a series of shooters and whoever allowed the fewest goals won the car. Definitely the most exciting aspect of the weekend as everyone knew these guys were actually playing for something. To the disappointment of this World fan, Sean Burke won.

Check out pictures from the Skills competition.

The highlight of Saturday – and the weekend – was getting to chat with one of my all-time favorites – Dale Hunter! He was a part of the Heroes of Hockey game Saturday before the Skills competition. Dale played for the Rockies/Nordiques/Avalanche Alumni who then played the other NHL veterans. All I can say is that I have never seen a guy so happy to be playing hockey! He was really happy to see the Caps jersey and for some reason didn’t believe that I came all the way out to Denver just for him. Truth be told, I didn’t even know he was going to be there, so it was an amazing bonus! Seeing Dale made me realize how much I, and the Capitals, really missed him.

See pictures from the Heroes game.

Sunday was THE day. I started off by attending the pre-game celebration at the Convention Center. I was able to check out the FANtasy event (games, exhibits, displays, etc.) -- I participated in a hockey trivia contest but only managed to come in second. All of the trophies and cups were there – how awesome to see Kolzig on the Vezina! Of course the Stanley Cup was there for people to get a picture with.

Look at pictures of the NHL trophies


I headed over to the Pepsi Center (parking went up to $40 that day) and was thrown into a hockey extravaganza. What amazed me is how many Avalanche jerseys were there. It really looked like the fans got an opportunity to go to the game – not just guests of the NHL. Obviously cheers were loud for the Avalanche players (there were five: Forsberg, Hejduk, Roy, Sakic and that Boston guy). Sandis Ozolinsh (a former Av) was also warmly welcomed. Lemeiux got a standing O while Hull and Fedorov were booed. Fedorov said on the Denver news that night that it was ok, they are diehard fans and that’s what rivalries are all about.

The game was exciting for the entire 60 minutes. Granted, there was no defense, and the goalies were flopping all over the place, but definitely fun for the fans. The North Americans jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the World quickly tied it up at the end of the first. Forsberg scored on Roy for the first time in his career. Hasek played better than expected. In the third period, the World appeared to score a goal (the puck just barely crossed the red line) but play continued for a moment or two. Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner was being interviewed about a dozen feet away. I yelled up “Gary, we need a review” and all of a sudden play stopped. I don’t take credit, but thought it was funny.

Check out highlights of the 2001 NHL All-Star Game

Bill Guerin – with his hat trick and two assists – was the Player of the Game and received a crystal something and a Dodge Durango for his efforts. He played on a line with Doug Weight and Tony Amonte – the American line – and it was a nice preview of what the Olympics may be next year in Salt Lake City (sans thrown chairs). Tony Amonte said after the game that Doug Weight said that whoever scored the first goal, the North Americans would set up the rest of the night. “Unfortunately for me,” said Amonte “Billy scored first.”

After the game, unlike MCI Center, the ushers didn’t force people out. Fans were welcome to stay and watch the post-game interviews or just soak in the atmosphere one last time.

  • Read Sergei Gonchar's thoughts on his first NHL All-Star Game

  • Dave Fay reports on Dale Hunter and the 2001 All-Star Game

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