We’re in August with not much going on in the NHL, but it’s a good time to start some conversations that should continue into the coming season.
One conversation we would like to entertain is when the NHL will bring its All-Star Game back to the city of Chicago.
The last time the NHL All-Star Game was played in Chicago? It was the 42nd edition of the mid-season event, held at… the Chicago Stadium. In 1991.
Most hockey fans remember the game from 1991 for the Wayne Messmer’s performance of the Star-Spangled Banner, which was drowned out by the cheers. The Gulf War had begun just days before the game; Wayne Gretzky didn’t think the game should even be played because of the conflict. But it was, and Messmer nailed it. As did the fans in Chicago that night.
Stan Mikita served as the honorary captain of the Campbell Conference’s squad for that game. The Wales Conference had Jean Beliveau as their honorary captain.
Yes, the game was so long ago that we were still playing in the Campbell vs. Wales format.
The rosters were loaded with future Hall of Famers. Gretzky was the captain for the Campbell conference, with Chicago’s Chris Chelios wearing an A for the game. Mark Messier was the other alternate for the Campbell Conference. The Blackhawks had three current representatives in the game: Chelios (who started), Jeremy Roenick and Steve Larmer.
The loudest ovation during the player introductions was for a non-Blackhawk, though. Denis Savard, who was with the Montreal Canadiens, received a hero’s welcome when announced. Even though he was playing for the “wrong” conference, Savard knew he was still loved in Chicago that night.
Toronto’s Vincent Damphousse scored four times to lead the Campbell Conference to an 11-5 win and earned MVP honors that night. Roenick and Larmer were credited with assists on the Campbell’s first goal that night, which came off the stick of Dave Gagner. Larmer had two helpers that night (remember: #retire28).
Here’s the first period.
We bring all of this history up because when the game is played in Sunrise, FL, this coming season, it will make 32 years and 24 all-star games since the event was held in Chicago.
The United Center has never hosted an NHL All-Star Game.
The international hockey audience reached Blackhawks fatigue during their dynasty days and the following years in which Chicago appearing in an outdoor game became an assumed reality. But it’s been a few years since one of the biggest US markets has been included in a marquee event, and it’s going to be a few more before the Blackhawks are competing again.
But… we don’t care. We want some action.
So we ask Gary Bettman and the NHL league office: when will we have the game back in Chicago? It’s been long enough!