All Star weekend is here, and it's exactly the distraction the NHL wants. And all this time, hockey people thought distractions were bad. But before we do get distracted, the serious news:
This will be streamed live by the LPS and will also be on TSN. It's extremely unlikely the details will be all that detailed, but might give us an idea of how long until this trial starts. Set your expectations for that timing very low. London is experiencing high levels of some serious crimes and the courts are therefore a touch clogged up. And just in general, justice takes time.
I want to personally thank the MPs who held Hockey Canada to account on this issue, who generated the pressure that led to the LPS (under new management twice over since 2018) to reopen this case. Watching the Heritage Committee in action was one of the most meaningful examples of democracy in action I've ever seen. Hockey Canada wouldn't have undergone the changes it has without that pressure because Scott Smith was determined to keep his job.
We now pause for a moment of cynicism. The NHL knows this is coming right after the ASG. The NHL wants you to be distracted from this story. They will find good news stories even if they have to invent them like they did with that talk of an expansion to Utah. Expect a lot of that this weekend, but the NHL, an organization run by a lawyer, is not going to comment substantively on a case before the courts. That part isn't cynicism, it's just good sense.
And now to the ASG fun.
It should feature some Leafs alumni, but we'll have to watch to find out who else.
Next up at 6 pm is the draft portion of the ASG. There are four teams, with captains, and each captain has a helper and a celebrity mascot. Exactly how this will be formatted is unknown, but the NHL has been super anxious to avoid admitting anyone is last... unless it's a team angling for the first overall at the draft, but that's different. From NHL.com with the gambling ads taken out:
Justin Bieber is celebrity captain for Team Matthews, with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews as captain and defenseman Morgan Rielly his assistant.
Team McDavid will be led by Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, with Oilers center Leon Draisaitl as his assistant and Toronto-born actor Will Arnett the celebrity captain.
Team Hughes will be led by New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes and his brother, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, with Grammy Award-winning musician Michael Bublé as celebrity captain. New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal replaced Jack Hughes (upper body) as a participant in the 2024 NHL All-Star Skills. Jack Hughes is still scheduled to be in Toronto and will join Quinn as a co-captain for NHL All-Star Weekend festivities including the player draft.
Team MacKinnon will be led by Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and teammate Cale Makar. Canadian multiplatinum singer/songwriter and dancer Tate McRae is celebrity captain.
Right away I'm annoyed because it would be funny if Matthews drafted Draisaitl and McDavid picked Nylander, but no, arrange it so there is no fun.
The draft is prelude to the PWHL 3on3 Showcase.
A note on this because there will be whinging from the usual suspects about who isn't there. The PWHL players selected to take part are not someone's idea of worthy "all-stars". They were chosen before the PWHL season even started, as the schedule was being made to accommodate this event. The choices were limited to players under contract in the first free agent signing and those drafted.
The players are all mixed up – so Toronto players are on both teams – and the teams are named for the PWHL's driving force Billie Jean King and fellow advisory board member Ilana Koss.
It's funny to see Jocelyn Larocque and Renata Fast on the same team, and hey, why not play two defenders at three-on-three.
The NHL announced the skills lineups yesterday, put we'll talk about that tomorrow ahead of the event Friday night.
And now, a little dose of reality about the sports media business:
Alex Azzi, one of the best reporters for fact-based, no-drama news on the PWHL was working at The Messneger. The Messenger is shutting down.
Apparently the entire website is gone, so all the old reporting has now vanished.
And in the kind of news that the NHL really wants to see right now, a big distraction:
I never understand these weird throw ins.
And this is interesting:
And this is funny. I could, theoretically check the rosters to see, but I think I can say with confidence, Vancouver did this deal to have more players in the ASG than the Leafs.
This reminds me of something, what is it... something recent... Can't put my finger on it:
And that's enough of that. Have a good Thursday. I'll be watching the three-on-three for as long as it takes me to get bored (I just can't get into fake hockey.)