Ranking NHL All-Star Game music acts: 1998-2017

Drake hangs with Dion Phaneuf at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty)

In light of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game’s poptastic musical offerings — John Legend, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony, and Robin Thicke will all perform this weekend — we take a look back at the past 20 years* of the NHL All-Star Game soundtrack.

Together, hockey’s mid-season showcase has brought us sounds from a medley of countries, genres and eras. The niche, the multi-platinum, the timely and the completely obscure are all reflected here in our NHL All-Star Game Musical Act Power Rankings. We feel comfortable saying this year’s lineup has a shot to crack the top 10.

14. 2011, Raleigh, North Carolina: Where you’d rank 2011 depends on how yuge of a 3 Doors Down fan you are. The platinum rock band has sold millions of records, so you might bump their first-intermission medley to the top of the list. American Idol sensation Clay Aiken might not be the first name you associate with the sport, but he is from Raleigh, so it makes sense the league tapped the well-known name to sing the U.S. anthem.

13. 2002, Los Angeles: Five for Fighting — the hockeyest of band names — crooned softball hit single “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” which is barely a face-wash, during the first intermission. Jewel handled the national anthem (a cappella) and belted out “Standing Still” during the second intermission. She was raised in Alaska (and no, not in Mystery).

12. 2007, Dallas, Texas: Not even Mötley Crüe could assemble such a motley crew. Ten winters ago, this was the ASG lineup: pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph & The Family Band, country duo The Wreckers, Italian soprano Giorgia Fumanti, and Florida alt-rock outfit The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Notable for its pure randomness.

11. 2015, Columbus, Ohio: Fall Out Boy donned black leather and cranked out its ubiquitous top-10 pop smash “Centuries” in the home of the Blue Jackets, but the bonus was getting Locksley, who performed Columbus’s goal song. Sound the cannon!

10. 2000, Toronto, Ontario: Keeping things local, the Barenaked Ladies sang “O Canada” at Air Canada Centre, and Moxy Fruvous (unlikely to get the invite again) highlighted intermission entertainment. The Ladies are no strangers to the rink, having opened multiple Maple Leafs games.

9. 1998, Vancouver, B.C.: Divided on this one. Canadian safe bets Bryan Adams (an NHL go-to 19 years later) and Spirit of the West were wise domestic choices to handle anthem duties in Vancouver at the time, but most grown men — a popular NHL demographic — have a difficult time popping in that Hanson CD. “MMMBop” ruled ’97 pop radio, though.

8. 1999, Tampa, Florida: The NHL was ahead of the curve on this one. Nine years before they came back (again) to croon “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2008 World Series, Bettman & Co. brought in the Backstreet Boys to open up the millennium’s final All-Star Game. Who performed pre-game, you ask? None other than Sprung Monkey. Yep.

7. 2003, Sunrise, Florida: The Goo Goo Dolls entertained during intermission, but the weekend belonged to singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who opened up the game with “Soak Up the Sun” and hosted an outdoor concert after the buzzer. Crow would use the All-Star Game as a springboard to sing the national anthem at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game. Crafty.

6. 2009, Montreal, Quebec: All Quebecois, all the time. Simple Plan (second intermission) headlined a French-Canadian entertainment program that featured Marie-Mai, the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, Mes Aïeux and circus artists Cirque Éloize. The All-Star Game is always big locally, and the roster catered to the crowd.

5. 2004, St. Paul, Minnesota: After singing the national anthem at the 50th All-Star Game in 2000, Canada’s Barenaked Ladies took centre ice during the second intermission in 2004.

4. 2016, Nashville, Tennessee: Full disclosure, I’m not the biggest fan of country and/or western. But when the show’s in Smashville, there’s only one appropriate way to go. Jennifer Nettles, Lee Brice, and Lennon & Maisy are stomped around for the boots ‘n’ bourbon set. But it was the national anthem, sung by Predators partner Vince Gill and daughter Corrina, that vaults this one into the top five. Gill earns bonus points for serving as a celebrity coach during the 3-on-3 tournament. Dierks Bentley, Charles Kelley, and Chris Young got a taste of bench boss life as well. 

3. 2001, Denver, Colorado: Talk about coming out of the woodwork. KISS at a 2014 Stadium Series event has nothing on this one. Nineteen years after striking gold with “She Blinded Me with Science” (not an ode to the FoxTrax puck — heey-oh!), Thomas Dolby rocked the All-Star Game after Great Big Sea warmed up the Pepsi Center.

2. 2008, Atlanta, Georgia: Swedish rock band The Hives opened the game by ripping their hit single, “Tick Tick Boom.” The Atlanta Boy Choir and highly regarded Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards took care of their respective national anthems. And under-rated R&B artist Ne-Yo performed “Because of You” with a marching band — on ice!

1. 2012, Ottawa, Ontario: Never before , or since, has the NHL been able to secure an artist more relevant to the era or its players. Vivid is the memory of watching a handful of NHLers themselves sneak out of the dressing room and onto the ice’s shadows (smartphones alight) to watch Drake‘s intermission set. At the time, Drizzy — who cheesed with the players in the dressing room and signed autographs for them — called it “one of the greatest honours I have ever received.”

That, of course, was before he was honoured with the No. 1 spot on this rankings list.

“I figured I won’t be able to see him in concert during the season, so I might as well do it while I can,” Carey Price told us. “I [appreciate that] as a player, being able to shoot the breeze with an international superstar.”


*Note: The NHL does not have records of All-Star Game entertainment pre-1998.