NASHVILLE — When Matt Duchene, who likes both kinds of music*, scored a goal and tossed his cowboy hat into the crowd, he made sure to retrieve the hat from the kid who caught it, signed it, and returned it to the kid.
These guys get it.
Like Wu-Tang, All-Star Weekend is for the children.
Free Sunday: Users in Canada can watch the the 3-on-3 NHL All-Star tournament on Rogers NHL GameCentre Live.
And each year, the NHL’s all-stars reveal a little more personality in the Skills Competition, which was won by the Eastern Conference 29-12.
“It’s all about fan-player interaction,” said P.K. Subban. “The new generation are almost more fans of individual players than they are the logos on the front of the jersey.
“That’s us out there, having fun. It’s a pretty cool job.”
Here are 12 things we learned Saturday night in Nashville:
1) Most. Creativity. In. Breakaway. Challenge. Ever: James Neal showed some imagination with a hidden puck and bringing out crowd-pleaser Dierks Bentley for a 2-on-0, but Brent Burns and Subban trumped him easily.
After juggling the puck all the way to the net on his first attempt, Subban came out dressed as vintage Jaromir Jagr — mullet, Cooperalls, Panthers sweater, Jofa bucket — and finished with a salute.
Burns had his adorably showboaty kid take his first shot, then dimmed the lights and turned into Chewbacca as the Star Wars theme blared and The Evolution of Brent Burns splashed on the Jumbotron. Incredible.
Subban won the fan vote, 31 per cent to Burns’ 26 per cent, and posed for a photo with Jagr.
“It’s a tribute to Jags and the great career he’s had so far,” Subban said.
Jagr quipped that Subban should join the Travelling Jagrs after he retires from hockey.
2) Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo still make a good duo: Somewhat lost amid the Brent Burns Jr. Show, the former Vancouver Canucks teammates, who have been hanging out all weekend, literally fought over the crease as Burns’ son scored. Good sports.
3) The many theories behind Shea Weber’s legendary shot: The Nashville point man’s notorious slap shot, which he clapped 108.5 m.p.h. to win Hardest Shot in 2015, and won again with a 108.1 m.p.h. rocket tonight, was the most feared weapon heading into the Skills Competition.
A bunch of all-stars were asked what makes Weber’s blast so lethal. Some cited strength, others size, a few meanness.
Erik Karlsson credited Weber’s timing and technique. Aaron Ekblad, who entered the contest for the Eastern Conference, said it’s because Weber “uses a stiff, stiff stick.” Subban described once blocking a Weber blast with his well-padded shin and how much it hurt.
Weber himself once told us his secret is repetition.
“As a kid, I loved shooting the puck. My dad, he worked at a lumber mill, so he’d bring home pieces of plywood for me to shoot at beside the house,” Weber said. “Out in the yard, we’d set up a net with some cans and just shoot. I’d race home with my friends after school and just shoot and shoot till I was just sick of shooting.”
4)Brent Burns won best dressed… by a country mile:
5) John Scott did not embarrass himself at all, even versus Steven Stamkos: Scott joked before the Skills contest that he was going to grab lunch with his new pal Gary Bettman on Sunday. Maybe dinner Monday, too.
During the player introductions, Scott received the loudest cheers of any player not decked out in Predator gold. The best part: Those cheers came as he was laughing at Patrick Kane for getting booed.
Scott later got a standing ovation from the 17,009 in the crowd in Smashville and the other all-stars before blasting his hardest shot: a respectable 95.9 mph, but no match for Stammer’s 103.9 bullet.
6) That Larkin kid can wheel: The youngest all-star broke Mike Gartner’s 20-year-old record for fastest lap, clocking a time of with 13.172 seconds.
Gartner’s skate of 13.386 seconds took place when Larkin was in the womb.
Perhaps it was Larkin’s pre-skate strategy: “I think I just gotta give ’er here.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Subban. “He’s going to be a star in this league for a long time.”
7) Ekblad made a stick swap to compete with Weber: In game action, the Panthers sophomore uses a stick with an 87 flex to wrist “muffins” (his word) on net through traffic.
“That’s a whippy, whippy stick for a tall defenceman,” said Ekblad, six feet, four inches of handsome. “When you’re off-balance on the point, you can get little wristers through. Somehow they work for me. But I’m switching to a 95 or 102 for this contest.”
He also donned the Panthers infamous Spacey in Space hoodie for the occasion, but topped out at 93.4 mph.
8) Ben Bishop’s selfie game is on point:
9) Gio wanted to one-up the Swede: Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano took notice last week when Linus Omark nabbed the idea of lighting a stick on fire for the Breakaway Challenge.
Fellow Flame Johnny Gaudreau was going to do the same thing last year in Columbus, but the plan was nixed due to safety concerns.
“Someone in the KHL all-star game stole his thunder,” Giordano said. “Maybe we’ll light his whole body on fire and send him down there.”
Sadly, Johnny Hockey remained unlit.
10) Claude Giroux has hands: “He has so much skill,” Jagr said of his former teammate in Philly.
“Every year he should be top three in scoring.”
11) Brandon Saad considered stealing from his old teammate: The Columbus Blue Jackets star joked that he wanted to borrow Patrick Kane’s Superman cape from the 2012 All-Star Game for the Breakaway Challenge.
Sadly, Kane didn’t pack it.
Kane, who was getting absorbing boos all night, also didn’t bring his best shot. The scoring leader failed to defend his Accuracy Shooting title, which was claimed by John Tavares.
12) John Scott can spin-o-rama: Yeah, Cory Schneider was able to do the splits and kick it out with his left pad, but it was a valiant breakaway effort.
NOTE: *country and western