In recent years, the skills challenge (with the exception of the Young Stars game, which they finally removed this year) has been more looked forward to than the actual game itself. Competitions like fastest skater, hardest shot, and the breakaway challenge get fans talking. It’s hard not to, when you have guys like Alexander Ovechkin pulling tricks like this:
Whether we’ll see anything like that this year remains to be seen. There are six events, each with their own corporate sponsor:
1) Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
2) BlackBerry NHL Breakaway Challenge
3) McDonald’s NHL Accuracy Shooting
4) G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay
5) XM NHL Hardest Shot
6) Discover NHL Elimination Shoot Out
I envision Kyle Wellwood turning number three into an “accuracy honey mustard sauce dunking” challenge. Anyways, the fastest skater is one that the guys hate getting picked for. Says St. Louis Blues All-Star David Backes, "Apparently, the fastest skater isn’t something that guys like to do, so if that’s what I have to do, that’s what I have to do. I’ll record the highest time ever. Hopefully that timer is a sun dial and not a stop watch."
Each events’ rules can be found on NHL.com. Fan votes decide the Breakaway Challenge, and the Skills Challenge Relay description map looking like something out of a WWI battlefield map of the Western Front.
Chances are good that we’ll see Dustin Byfuglien in the Hardest Shot Challenge tonight. The winner of at the past three All-Star Games, Zdeno Chara, has height on his momentum’s side (he’s 6’9" and 255 lbs), but Buff has sheer strength. The man is built like a tank at 6’4" and 257 lbs. Defenders part when he winds up. Chances are good that he’ll give Chara and his 105.4 MPH shot (a record) a decent run for his money.