Freezing rain and a spitting of snow greeted the NHL’s best and brightest for All-Star Weekend in St. Louis. That will not be the case next year.
South Florida will host the 2021 festivities, league sources told the Globe. The gala will land at the Panthers’ BB&T Center for the first time since 2003. If anything is going to curb the trend of stars choosing rest over representing at the league’s midseason showcase, it’s a vacation to nearby Fort Lauderdale, with its beaches, boats, and balmy seabreezes.
Before he was concussed, Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask chose to skip St. Louis to rest, noting it was a “selfish” decision. Alex Ovechkin, who was elected Metropolitan Division captain, begged out for the second year in a row. Both will take a one-game suspension, per league rules. Unlike previous seasons, in which players have sustained minor injuries of mysterious nature in the days before the break, both Rask (age 32) and Ovechkin (34) acknowledged time off was more important.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN earlier this month skipping the event was a concern.
“Last year I was much more willing to look the other way,” Daly said. “But two years in a row is probably something we do need to address with the players’ association, so it doesn’t become a trend.”
One card the NHL could play, and one that had several fans among Bruins players who were polled last week: rotate the event among more enticing locations, such as Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa or Sunrise.
“Especially if it’s going to be in the middle of a bye week,” Brad Marchand said last week. Marchand was honored to be an All-Star in 2017 and ’18, but was more thankful for the rest and family time (he escaped to Turks and Caicos).
“We’re expecting to have another good run, so we need the time to recover and feel good going into the playoffs,” Marchand said. “If it’s in warm places, nice cities, then people want to go. I don’t think guys are eager to go to some of the cities around the league.”
Bruins defenseman John Moore, a Winnetka, Ill., native who started his NHL career in Columbus, had a different perspective.
“I want to take nothing away from St. Louis,” he said. “You think about the boost to the local economy. That’s a tangible thing. Should we be catering to million-dollar athletes because they want to be somewhere warm? I don’t know.”
Moore has sunny memories from his lone pro All-Star appearance. In 2011, at the AHL’s game in Hershey, Pa., his East team won and each player earned $500. “I bought my parents a snowblower,” he recalled. “Also, there was chocolate-flavored toothpaste in the hotel room.”