by Chuck O’Donnell
1. AT TORONTO, 1951
Final score: Fast Team 2, Second Team 2
Starting with the first modern All-Star Game in 1947 and continuing for years, the game was very competitive and enthusiastic. Players weren’t afraid to take the body and defenders put their bodies on the line to block shots. In the first game, Chicago‘s Bill Mosienko suffered a broken left ankle when he was checked into the boards. In the second game, Detroit‘s Gordie Howe fought Toronto defenseman Gus Mortson.
But probably the most spirited game was played in 1951, when the First Team All-Stars played the Second Team. Although the unusual setup pitted regular-season teammates against each other–for instance, the Rangers’ Frankie Eddolls, Don Raliegh, Reg Sinclair, and Gaye Stewart were on the First Team, shooting at Rangers’ goalie Chuck Rayner, who was on the Second Team–the game bubbled over with emotion.
There were two full-scale fights between future Hall-of-Famers. Detroit‘s Ted Lindsay and Toronto‘s Ted Kennedy went at it, but the main bout was between two of the game’s greatest legends. In the third period, the Canadiens’ Maurice Richard and the Red Wings’ Gordie Howe brawled.
As if the fights didn’t make it memorable enough, the game was nip and tuck all the way. The Second-Teamers earned a 2-2 tie in the third period on a goal by Montreal‘s Ken Mosdell.
2. AT MONTREAL, 1969
Final score: East 3, West 3
Expansion forced a format change in the All-Star Game, and suddenly it was the established East against the weaker West.
When Montreal coach Toe Blake looked down his bench, he saw some of the greatest players the game has ever known: Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Tim Horton, Jean Beliveau, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Frank Mahovlich, and Gordie Howe.
When St. Louis coach Scotty Bowman looked down the West roster, well, he saw some decent players: Noel Picard, Dan O’Shea, Jimmy Roberts, Bill Hicke, Ted Hampson, Ken Schinkel, and Ab McDonald.
It shouldn’t have been close, but thanks to the goaltending of aging stars Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante, and newcomer Bernie Parent, the West led, 2-1, entering the third period. The East came out and took the lead after quick goals by Mahovlich and Bob Nevin. The West stars could have rolled over and settled for a loss and everyone would have complimented them on how they gave a game effort against a mightier band of stars.
But Guy Larose, a right winger who was in and out of the Canadiens lineup for years and finally landed full-time work with the North Stars after expansion, had other ideas. He stunned the Montreal Forum crowd of 16,256 when he beat Eddie Giacomin with less than a three minutes to go as the West earned a hard-fought 3-3 tie with the East.
3. AT NEW YORK, 1973
Final Score: East 5, West 4
Two unlikely heroes emerged as the East edged the West.
First, there was Pittsburgh‘s Greg Polis. Polis’ wife had given birth to the couple’s first child a day earlier, and the Pens winger almost didn’t make it to the game at Madison Square Garden.
The steady winger who was thankful just to be mentioned in the same breath as some of his All-Star teammates arrived hours before game time, got dressed, and emerged as the game’s Most Valuable Player. He scored at 55 seconds of the second period to give the West a 1-0 lead. When he scored an unassisted goal at 4:27 of the third period, he had clinched MVP honors.
But the game-winning goal was scored by a guy who had been waived out of the league the previous season. Vancouver‘s Bobby Schmautz was a small winger who had never scored more than 12 goals in a season up to that point. Somehow, however, here he was with the game on the line and the puck on his stick. His goal with 6:01 to play gave the East the win.
4. AT BUFFALO, 1978
Final Score: Wales 3, Campbell 2 (OT)
The vast majority of the 16,433 fans that had filed into the Buffalo Auditorium were there to see the hometown team’s stars come out. The Sabres’ Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault did not disappoint.
Under yet another new format, the Campbell Conference All-Stars had taken a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by the Flyers’ Bill Barber and the Islanders’ Denis Potvin.
The Wales Conference All-Stars responded with a solid checking effort, holding the Campbell Conference to just 12 shots on goal. This helped buy time for the Wales to get back in the game.
First, Toronto‘s Darryl Sittler scored in the final minute of the second period. Then, Martin tied the game with less than two minutes remaining.
In overtime, Gilbert–who teamed with Martin and Rene Robert on the famed French Connection line–beat Wayne Stephenson to give the Wales Conference the win and the hometown fans a huge thrill.
5. AT DETROIT, 1980
Final Score: Wales 6, Campbell 3
At an age where many men consider a stroll through the local mall strenuous, Gordie Howe was still going strong. He was a 51-year-old graying grandfather. Yet that spark for the game still burned inside him, and he earned a trip to play in what would prove to be his 23rd and last All-Star Game.
Coincidentally, the game was being played in Detroit, where Howe had built his legendary “Mr. Hockey” status decades earlier.
Now with the Hartford Whalers, Howe received a thunderous ovation from the 21,002 fans at the new Joe Louis Arena. They rose to their feet every time the puck neared their hero.
Howe responded with a splendid game, picking up an assist on a goal by Real Cloutier at 16:06 of the third period. The Wales Conference scored four straight goals and won, 6-3.
It also proved to be the first All-Star Game appearance for a 19-year-old kid named Wayne Gretzky.
6. AT LONG ISLAND, 1983
Final Score: Campbell 9, Wales 3
The Canucks acquired John Garrett, a 31-year-old journeyman goalie, from Quebec to be the backup to Richard Brodeur. But in Garrett’s first week on the job, Brodeur was injured. Garrett instantly became the Canucks’ No. 1 goalie and their lone representative on the Campbell Conference All-Star Team.
He went into the All-Star Game at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., with a 6-8-3 record on the season. Cinderella was invited to the ball, and dance she would.
Garrett was soon making unbelievable stops on the Pens’ Rick Kehoe, the Isles’ Mike Bossy and the Devils’ Hector Marini. He looked like a lock for the MVP award, and the $14,000 sports car that came with winning the award.
Wayne Gretzky had other ideas. “The Great One” had been just “the Good One” in the three previous All-Star Games. He wanted to do something special. So he shrugged off a sore shoulder, suited up, and had the most dominating period of any player in All-Star Game history.
In the game’s final 14 minutes, Gretzky did whatever he pleased, toying with the league’s best as if they were a peewee team. He scored four times as the Campbell Conference won, 9-3–stealing the car away from Garrett.
“I think John was up to the glove compartment, a horn and two tires when Mr. Gretzky took over,” said the Flames’ Lanny McDonald.
“He kept them in it when the score was still 3-2,” said the Capitals’ Rod Langway. “I think Garrett should have won the car.”
7. AT ST. LOUIS, 1988
Final Score: Wales 6, Campbell 5 (OT)
The Wales Conference won, 6-5. Mario Lemieux had six points. See a correlation?
Mario was as magnificent, scoring three goals including the game-winner in overtime, adding three assists and giving the 17,878 fans at The Arena in St. Louis a show they’ll never forget.
By the time he rode off the ice in the new pickup truck he won in collecting his second AU-Star Game MVP award, he had left the hockey world shaking its head.
“I don’t think we could have checked Mario with six guys,” said Campbell Conference coach Glen Sather.
Lemieux deflected much of the praise, redirecting it to All-Star linemate and Canadiens winger Mats Naslund, who had five assists in the contest. “I’d like to thank Mats Naslund for making great plays to give me a chance to score those goals.”
8. AT PITTSBURGH, 1990
Final Score: Wales 12, Campbell 7
The All-Star Game came to Pittsburgh, so all eyes were on “Super Mario.” He did not disappoint.
The Pens captain scored three first-period goals as the Wales won, 12-7. Lemieux scored a fourth goal in the third period, but it was the third goal that left everyone talking.
Lemieux was coming down the right side with the puck when he dodged defenseman Al Iafrate’s charge, put the puck on his backhand and beat goalie Mike Vernon while being knocked down by defenseman Doug Wilson.
Wales teammate Ray Bourque called the goal simply “phenomenal.”
9. AT CHICAGO, 1991
Final Score: Campbell 11, Wales 5
The United States was at war in the Middle East and hockey fans in Chicago wanted to show their patriotism.
The 18,472 fans at Chicago Stadium waved flags and nearly drowned out the signing of the U.S. national anthem with an emotional surge of cheers. One sign in the balcony was intended for Iraq leader Saddam Hussein: “And Saddam thought the B-52s make a lot of noise.”
Players, such as the Islanders’ Pat LaFonTaine, found it hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the moment. “We know the real All-Stars are sacrificing their lives in the Persian Gulf,” he said.
When the puck was dropped, a 23-year-old center named Vincent Damphousse, the only representative from the lowly Maple Leafs, scored four times. Playing on a line with Steve Yzerman and Adam Oates, Damphousse took home MVP honors.
10. AT BOSTON, 1996
Final Score: Eastern 5, Western 4
West coach Scotty Bowman called it “a great ending.” And he was on the losing end of a 54 decision. But Bowman had to tip his cap to Raymond Bourque, who thrilled the hometown crowd at the FleetCenter by scoring the game-winning goal with 37.3 seconds left in the third period.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better for me,” said Bourque, who joined former Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr as the only two defensemen to win All-Star Game MVP honors. “Scoring the winning goal in your own building in front of your own fans, you can’t ask for a better feeling when that puck went it.”
HONORABLE MENTION: 2000 (Pavel and Valeri Bure combine to lead the World Team to its first win over the North American All-Stars); 1999 (Wayne Gretzky wins MVP honors with a goal and two assists in his final All-Star Game); 1957 (Recently traded Ted Lindsay is reunited with Production Line mates Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio); 1968 (Minnesota’s Bill Masterton dies the day before the game from head injuries suffered on the ice three days earlier, casting a pall over the All-Star Game in Toronto); and 1986 (the Islanders’ Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier combine on the game-winning goal in overtime).
published in the Hockey Digest
courtesy of Century Publishing and the Gale Group