Native St. Louisan and actor Jon Hamm was back with a video message before the NHL All-Star Game. Charles Glenn returned to sing the national anthem. Laila Anderson, the superfan battling a rare immune disease who inspired the St. Louis Blues last season, introduced the Blues players who made the team.
Saturday night’s All-Star Game at Enterprise Center had a distinctly St. Louis feel.
Players on the defending Stanley Cup-champion St. Louis Blues were eliminated in their first game. The single-elimination tournament pitted the NHL’s four divisions against one another.
The Blues are in the Central Division and currently sit atop the Western Conference standings.
“It was a lot of fun seeing the crowd and how excited they were,” said Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly after the game. "It would have been nice to win for them and give them more to cheer about, but the reception from everyone was outstanding. It was electric and really cool to be a part of.”
The Blues were well represented as many of the NHL’s best players met in St. Louis. The Central Division was led by Blues coach Craig Berube, who took over last season and guided the team to its first Stanley Cup championship.
In addition to O’Reilly, all-star players included Blues forward David Perron and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Jordan Binnington – last year’s rookie-sensation goalie – was also deemed all-star worthy.
Berube started an all-Blues lineup as the Central Division faced off against the Pacific Division. The All-Star Game features a style of play akin to what happens during overtime during a regular season game. The 3-on-3 competition leads to more breakaways and goals.
Although tied after the first of two periods, the Central Division lost 10-5 in the first-round game.
“It was a tough outcome obviously,” Binnington said. “It’s a lot of fun being in front of our home fans and seeing that elite talent and players from all different teams just hopping on the ice and being able to connect with each other.”
The Pacific Division won the tournament and divided a prize pool of $1 million.
Held Friday evening, the NHL All-Star Skills competition – a series of events that tests speed, accuracy and more – featured guest appearances from several Blues alumni including Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky, whom many regard as among the best to play the game, called St. Louis one of the greatest cities in the world.
Blues alumni Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis and Keith Tkachuk also joined the festivities. Tkachuk’s sons – Brady, who plays for the Ottawa Senators, and Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames – represented their teams as all-stars. Both grew up in the St. Louis area.
A poignant moment before one of the skills contests featured a hug between Matthew and his father.
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington earned a $30,000 prize for winning the Save Streak contest with 10 consecutive saves. He bested seven other goalies, including Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who came in second with nine saves.
Friday night’s skills competition also featured a game between some of the best hockey players in the world. The Elite Women’s 3-on-3 contest pitted all-stars from the U.S. and Canada. The Canadians won by a score of 2-1 and netted a $75,000 prize.
The All-Star Game brought to a close festivities at Enterprise Center and marked just the third time the franchise has hosted the event, the last in 1988 at the Arena. The week’s events, which included a fan fest that continues Sunday, were a coup for the city and capped an unprecedented run.
Wayne Pratt contributed to this report.
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