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John Garrett: All-Star experience

Thursday, 22.01.2009 / 6:16 PM / Features
By John Garrett
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John Garrett: All-Star experience
The All-Star game is an event that’s near and dear to my heart. I had a chance to play in three WHA All-Star games and one in the NHL.

My opportunity to play in the NHL game came back in 1983 when Richard Brodeur was injured three days before the actual All-Star game. There was no other representative from the Canucks that year. Since Richard couldn’t make it to Long Island for the game, the powers at the time decided they would simply send the other Canuck goalie. That was me.

The Oilers were just coming into their own and had a mess of players on the Campbell Conference squad including Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Glen Anderson. Along with Denis Savard, Brian Sutter and Lanny MacDonald, it was a pretty solid group.

The Wales Conference was represented by Mike Bossy, Brian Trottier, Denis Potvin, Peter Stastny and Larry Robinson. Talk about a thrill – especially for a kid from a small Air Force town in rural Ontario.

INSIDE THE BOX
John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.


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Call-it divine inspiration, blind luck, or whatever suits you, but I managed to shine in that game (a 9-3 Campbell Conference victory).

The Wales Conference had hammered us in the second period. I had managed to hold the fort and thought I was a lock for MVP honours - and the brand new car that came with it.

As my Campbell teammate Lanny McDonald famously put it: “I think John was up to the glove compartment, a horn and two tires when Wayne Gretzky took over.”

Gretzky potted a record-setting four goals in the final ten minutes of the third period to steal the keys out of my pocket. Though I can think of worse fates than getting upstaged by Wayne Gretzky and a record-setting performance.

They didn’t have fan voting back then and I wouldn’t have been voted in on a first ballot anyway. Players were selected based on how they were playing at the time, and the line-ups reflected that.

Today's NHL All-Star game has turned into a popularity contest and a schmooze-fest. I understood when the league wanted to let the fans get involved by voting for their favorites, but it has degenerated into a contest to see which team can create more voting machines to get their players into the game – hello Habs.

If you haven’t heard about Greasemonkey, you should do a quick Google search: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/story/2008/11/14/canadiens-all-star-voting.html

Mike Komisarek has played very well for the Canadiens but should he be playing instead of say Dennis Wideman? Komisarek has five points, is plus-seven and averages 20:38 per game.Wideman has 30 points, is plus-eight and averages 25:47 per game.

Roberto Luongo has played only 22 games. This is not his year. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are having career years and could have represented the Canucks.

So what’s the point? The selections should made by the coaches who know who is, and just as importantly, who isn’t having an all star season. If each coach submitted three names from his team to a league panel, then a legitimate team could be selected. This truly would ensure the best players on their respective are getting the credit they deserve.

Maybe they make the panel consist of two coaches from each division? That way you would ensure a more objective view.

It is obvious that the Commissioner's picks are reserved to bring specific star players to the event in order to glad hand with sponsors. That's OK. They’re selling the game, and given the current climate, that’s not easy task.

I’m speaking from experience when I say that players would rather have the four days off to get ready for the stretch drive. I mean who wants to get hurt in a skills competition? And how do you tell a professional hockey player to "take it easy"?

Don’t get me wrong, the All-Star weekend is a lot of fun, and to be recognized as one of the best players in the best league in the world is a great honor, but the game itself and the other on ice activities are more bother than benefit.