The 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend in Ottawa, Ontario officially kicked off on Thursday night with the second annual 2012 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft.
And for the first time in 15 years, the Rangers were represented by three players at the All-Star Game – Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the alternate captain for fellow countryman and hometown favorite Daniel Alfredsson’s team, first-time all-star defenseman Dan Girardi, and winger Marian Gaborik. Rookie Carl Hagelin is also involved in the Skills Competition and John Tortorella will coach Team Alfredsson as well. Those are enough reasons for a live diary of Thursday night’s draft.
8:11 PM – Things that just happened: The introductions of the captains – Alfredsson and Lundqvist for Team Alfredsson, and Zdeno Chara and Joffrey Lupul for Team Chara, who set up camp at something resembling a dais from Family Feud. On a related note to Lupul, the first “Leafs Suck” chant of the night is heard. We also see a stand in Ottawa selling “Beaver Tails”, and TSN’s James Duthie, the host of the evening, quotes “modern philosopher Drake.” Solid start.
8:15 PM – Still haven’t started yet. Interviews are done, and footage of last year’s draft is shown – including a clip of Colorado’s Matt Duchene being selected, in which he says “eh” about five times while resembling a young Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. Last player looks comparison, I promise.
8:20 PM – The draft finally begins after Chara wins the opening “puck toss” over Alfredsson and goes with Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit. Hard to imagine someone as talented as Datsyuk being considered an “upset” pick, but with two other Bruins on the team, it comes off as exactly that.
8:22 PM – Honoring a time-honored tradition going all the way back to last year of using your first pick to go with a homer choice, Alfredsson grabs Senators’ defenseman Erik Karlsson and his long, flowing hair, while Jason Spezza sarcastically seethes back stage. “Spezza’s pissed over there.” said Karlsson. “You can see his black eye going blacker.” Alfredsson compliments Karlsson on his baby-sitting abilities.
8:26 PM – Chara unsurprisingly grabs Tim Thomas as his first goalie. Must not make a “Will Thomas skip out on a visit to Parliament Hill if Team Chara wins the All-Star Game?” joke. No! I will not do that. Alfredsson then grabs Spezza, ensuring that this game will resemble a bizarro universe in which the Senators drafted Henrik Lundqvist.
8:30 PM – Last five picks – Evgeni Malkin selected by Lupul for Team Chara (likely the only event on earth in which Erik Karlsson goes before Malkin), Lundqvist pulling the trigger for Alfredsson in grabbing another goalie, Jonathan Quick of the Kings, and Chara grabbing fellow Slovakian Marian Hossa. Alfredsson then takes his first big-time scorer in Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, thus setting up an unholy alliance between Ranger and Flyer. Giroux’s teammate Kimmo Timonen is then selected next by former teammate Lupul for Chara’s team. Flyer on Flyer crime!
8:31 PM – Alfredsson takes Kris Letang, who will absolutely have to pair with Karlsson to give Team Alfie the greatest long-haired defensive combo in recent memory.
8:39 PM – More events – Chara takes “Corey Perry of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks”. We’re bringing it back? Alfredsson then grabs Steven Stamkos to continue his team’s long history of even longer locks. With Ottawa fans continuing to boo Lupul, as they have all night, he grabs Carey Price for Chara. Price, in mid-gulp from a bottle of water, nearly does a spit-take before springing onto the stage. Henrik takes former Senator Brian Elliott next.
8:41 PM – Our long national nightmare is over – Phil Kessel is finally selected somewhat early in an All-Star Game Fantasy Draft, grabbed by his teammate Lupul. In the hopes of getting a juicy quote, Duthie asks Kessel if it’s better to be selected early, or selected last but to get a car. “I don’t know,” said Kessel through nervous laughter. “I don’t really think it matters.” So much for that.
8:44 PM – More picks – Dueling Predators! – Alfredsson grabs Shea Weber (a steal at this point), while Lupul (who Chara is openly enjoying the fact that he’s being booed) grabs Ryan Suter. Alfredsson then grabs Daniel Sedin and then, with the eyes of two nations on Chara to repeat last year’s Separation of the Sedins while, in the process, chipping away at the Bruins/Canucks blood feud……Chara remembers that he’s forced to take a goalie, and takes Jimmy Howard of Detroit.
8:45 PM – For the first time ever, Dan Girardi is able to walk out to the podium of a draft to receive a jersey! Henrik makes the call, naturally. Girardi looks confused, slightly bewildered. Team Chara begins preparing for a steel curtain of blocked shots.
8:56 PM – The last few picks – Brian Campbell to Chara, Keith Yandle to Alfredsson, Patrick Kane by Lupul for Chara, Milan Michalek capping off the Ottawa Trifecta (quadfecta?) on Team Alfredsson, Dion Phaneuf to Chara to officially make them Public Enemy Number One for the weekend, and Henrik Sedin to Alfredsson. There seems to be a slight Swedish influence on this team.
8:59 PM – After Chara grabs Jarome Iginla and Alfredsson takes James Neal, Chara forgets the rules that this is the last round that you can draft a defenseman in, and calls Dennis Wideman’s name. He didn’t get too fired up to make that pick, but to be honest, it’s Dennis Wideman, so you really can’t blame him. Alfie takes Alex Edler to cap off the Canucks Safe Haven while adding one more Tre kronor.
9:07 PM – Time for the rookies to be assigned to teams, and Philly’s Sean Couturier announces that his group will join Team Alfredsson. One of those on his group? Carl Hagelin! Even though TSN’s cameras, moving in the opposite direction, show Nashville’s Craig Smith. But who’s keeping track anyway?
9:08 PM – Uh oh, Chara just selected fellow countryman Marian Gaborik. A rift in the Ranger Universe! Worlds are colliding! Gaborik, obviously realizing that his rightful place is with Lundqvist, Girardi and Hagelin, accidentally walks over to Alfredsson’s side before being directed over to the hostile blue territory.
9:11 PM – John Tavares is selected by Alfredsson, meaning that now Rangers fans get to cheer for a team with an Islander and a Flyer on it. After Lupul takes Jordan Eberle, Alfredsson grabs Scott Hartnell – a player many Ranger, and non-Ranger fans, had hoped would be this year’s Mr. Irrelevant. Make that two Flyers and an Islander to root for. On a side note, between Karlsson, Letang, Stamkos and Hartnell, along with Hagelin in the skills competition, Team Alfredsson should take the ice to the theme from “Hair”. And how did Alfredsson not take this time to grow his early 2000’s locks back?
9:18 PM – Chara finally grabs Boston teammate Tyler Seguin before Alfredsson takes Jason Pominville, who Duthie cites is part of the “great Senators/Sabres rivalry.” Apparently we’re back in 2007.
9:20 PM – With two names remaining, Chara grabs Jamie Benn, leaving San Jose’s Logan Couture as the winner of the car and the final piece of Team Alfredsson.
Thus ends the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft. An enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, but somehow not quite the same without a hysterical Alex Ovechkin snapping a picture of Kessel sitting by himself among 40 empty chairs.