2018 NHL All-Star Game

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Brad Marchand embraces villain role during NHL All-Star Weekend

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TAMPA — Brad Marchand is pretty used to the reception he received during NHL All-Star Weekend. Even without his current five-game suspension — which he’ll resume serving on Tuesday — his reputation around the league has earned him plenty of boos in opposing arenas.

As he spent All-Star Weekend having fun playing the role of ‘bad guy,’ Marchand embraced it and enjoyed himself.

When he was introduced before the Skills Competition Saturday night, he gave a royal wave to the AMALIE Arena crowd as boos rained down. When Tampa Bay Lightning fans held up a sign reading “EXTERMINATE THE RAT” and featuring a caricature of him eating cheese, he smiled and took a photo in front of it. When he was tripped up by the Pacific Division’s Johnny Gaudreau in the All-Star Game final, he played up his reputation as an embellisher while trying to draw a double minor.

Before the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament began on Sunday afternoon, the All-Stars entered the rink on a red carpet and through a throng of fans wanting photos and autographs. Marchand heard the boos there as well.

“I thought there’d be some flying objects going around, but luckily I didn’t get hit by anything,” he joked.

The specter of flying objects or being booed every time he touched the puck didn’t rattle Marchand as he scored a goal and added two assists as the Atlantic Division fell in the final. It was all about enjoying the weekend.

“That’s what this weekend’s about: having a good time,” he said. “Just trying to take it all in. Very rarely do you get to come to these things. [I’m] really, very happy to be here, so I just want to enjoy every second of it.”

Despite Marchand being a good sport this weekend and taking in the hate that was sent his way, he doesn’t see his reception in other opposing arenas changing any time soon.

“I think it’s been following [me] for the last 10 years now,” he said. “It’s not going to be any different than it is anywhere. It’s how it is. There’s always guys like that in the league. You can’t change how the fans think.”

MOREWhy Brad Marchand is NHL’s most frustrating player

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: NHL All-Star Game

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE AT 3:30 ET

Atlantic Division

Forwards:

Steven Stamkos
Nikita Kucherov
Brayden Point
Auston Matthews
Aleksander Barkov
Brad Marchand
Jack Eichel

Defensemen:

Erik Karlsson
Mike Green

Goalies:

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Carey Price

[Best, funniest, most heartwarming 2018 Skills Competition moments]

Metropolitan Division

Forwards:

Alex Ovechkin
Brian Boyle
Sidney Crosby
Josh Bailey
John Tavares
Claude Giroux

[Alex Ovechkin fires hardest shot at 2018 All-Star Skills Competition]

Defensemen:

Zach Werenski
Noah Hanifin
Kris Letang

Goalies:

Henrik Lundqvist
Braden Holtby

[Brian Boyle ‘thankful’ to be a part of NHL All-Star Weekend]

Central Division

Forwards:

Patrick Kane
Nathan MacKinnon
Blake Wheeler
Brayden Schenn
Eric Staal
Tyler Seguin

Defensemen:

P.K. Subban
Alex Pietrangelo
John Klingberg

Goalies:

Pekka Rinne
Connor Hellebuyck

[NHL All-Star Game returns to thriving Tampa Bay market]

Pacific Division

Forwards:

Connor McDavid
Johnny Gaudreau
Brock Boeser
James Neal
Rickard Rakell
Anze Kopitar

[2018 NHL All-Star Skills Competition Fastest Skater: Connor McDavid]

Defensemen:

Drew Doughty
Brent Burns
Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Goalies:

Mike Smith
Marc-Andre Fleury

[Coolest hair wasn’t enough, Boeser wins accuracy competition]

NHL All-Star Game returns to thriving Tampa Bay market

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By Fred Goodall – AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The NHL All-Star game is being played in Tampa Bay for the first time since Wayne Gretzky made his last appearance in the showcase and many still questioned whether the league could prosper in a non-traditional market better known for sunshine and beaches than winning hockey.

Nearly two decades later, the answer is a resounding yes.

Not only has the league flourished in Tampa and other Sun Belt locations where the game continues to grow, the hometown Lightning have evolved into what generally is regarded as a model franchise – not merely for hockey, but all of pro sports.

Now a community that’s hosted four Super Bowls, the World Series, two Stanley Cup finals and last year’s college football national championship game welcomes the spotlight for its first NHL All-Star game since 1999.

Gretzky made the last of his 18 All-Star appearances that year and had a goal and two assists to capture MVP honors.

”It’s very special to be named to an All-Star game, regardless of where it’s played. But when it’s in your home city, it’s that much more special,” said Lightning star Steven Stamkos, a five-time selection.

”I know the amount of work that’s gone into preparing for it,” Stamkos, one of four Tampa Bay players in this weekend’s game, said. ”It’s going to be a great showcase of a hockey city. … I’m sure we’ll put on a great show.”

Downtown Tampa, along with 19,000-seat Amalie Arena, has been transformed into a colorful tribute to the league’s biggest stars.

Festivities began Friday with a free outdoor concert headlined by Fitz and the Tantrums and the opening of All-Star PreGame, a three-day fun fest open to the general public as well as fans fortunate enough to land game tickets.

Media Day and the All-Star Skills Competition are Saturday, followed by Sunday’s main event featuring teams from the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific divisions playing a three-game tournament in a popular three-on-three format adopted in 2016.

And if the game’s brightest stars coming to town isn’t a big enough reason to celebrate, All-Star weekend is being held in conjunction with Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, an annual event that attracts about 200,000 people for a parade along the city’s downtown waterfront.

”It’s a big block party. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a season ticket member or somebody who just enjoys catching an occasional Lightning game on TV,” former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster, now the club’s executive director of community hockey development, said.

Feaster assembled the team that won Tampa Bay’s only Stanley Cup title in 2004, however the Lightning never fully reaped the benefits of the championship run because a labor strife wiped out the next season.

A growing fan base ready to embrace the club’s success suddenly didn’t have a defending champion to cheer.

Feaster is excited about a resurgence led by owner Jeff Vinik, coach Jon Cooper and Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman, who as the current general manager has composed a talented young roster built for long-term success.

The Lightning, celebrating their 25th season, reached the All-Star break with the league’s best record and have re-emerged as a championship contender after narrowly missing the playoffs a year ago.

The Lightning dropped the Stanley Cup final to Chicago in six games three years ago, then came within one victory of returning to the NHL’s biggest stage the following season.

”What Steve Yzerman has done I think is just masterful, the way he’s assembled this team,” Feaster said.

”He’s assembled it (to be) not just one and done. We won one Stanley Cup when I was general manager,” Feaster added. ”We got back to the playoffs after the lockout a couple of times, but never got close to an Eastern Conference final or a Stanley Cup final again.”

The Lightning will be represented by a league-leading four players in Sunday’s game – Stamkos, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and forwards Nikita Kucherov and Bryden Point, a replacement for injured Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman.

Feaster, who worked for the Lightning from 1998 to 2008, returned to Tampa in 2014 to lead the club’s youth and high school outreach efforts after a stint as GM of the Calgary Flames.

While he always felt the region had the potential to thrive as a hockey market, Feaster said the growth of the sport locally in the years since the community-minded Vinik took control of the team in 2010 has far exceeded his expectations.

In the two seasons following the Lightning’s latest appearance in the Stanley Cup final, the number of youth hockey players in the Tampa Bay area increased by 747 kids, up from a base of about 1,000.

”Jeff has done such a tremendous job of growing the brand, and the hockey team has helped, too,” Feaster said.

”As you know, if you’re not winning, the mustard isn’t yellow enough in the building,” Feaster added. ”It’s the team. It’s what Jeff puts into the community. … It truly is exponential growth.”

More AP hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Brian Boyle ‘thankful’ to be a part of NHL All-Star Weekend

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TAMPA — Taylor Hall’s injured hand opened the door for another Metropolitan Division player to head to Tampa for NHL All-Star Weekend. And in a perfect choice, Brian Boyle, Hall’s New Jersey Devils teammate and a former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was selected to go in his place.

“I’m very thankful to be here. This is a tremendous honor for me,” Boyle said Saturday before the Skills Competition. “I don’t really care how I got here. This is a phenomenal event just to be here for a few hours. I got here today. The amount of support the players have gotten, the support from my family… My wife has been a rock star. I’m not playing regular games, never mind coming here, without her support. It really is just kind of a pinch-me moment. I can’t believe this is my life. I’m very thankful. I always have been. I’ve never taken it for granted to play in this league. To be here and to see all these stars, the guys, how humble they are and then how supportive they’ve been for me, throughout the year and even today, it’s been wild. It really is. I’m just going to try to enjoy it the best I can.”

Boyle was a beloved player during his two-and-a-half seasons in Tampa and the love continued inside Amalie Arena. The crowd gave him rousing ovations during warm-ups and an even bigger roar erupted during player introductions. Four months after he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia , the 33-year-old feels great and it’s shown in his play where he currently has 11 goals and 17 points in 38 games played.

Boyle’s treatment consists of four pills a day and throughout the process he said he’s lost 12 lbs. He noted that his side effects are “nonexistent,” which is something that he’s been amazed by in regards to how money raised to fight the disease is helping those affected by it.

“It’s tremendous what they’ve been able to do,” he said. “It’s pretty eye-opening in terms of what they’ve done with research and money and funding to be able to treat what I have, instead of having to go through bone-marrow transplants and chemo and radiation. So it’s an opportunity for me now to try to get people to join me in raising some money, because if we can do that across the board with cancers, I think that’s a great thing for humanity.”

The decision to accept the All-Star invite wasn’t a easy one for Boyle. He told the media that his two-year-old son, Declan, was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a vein disorder that was putting pressure and stunting bone growth in his jaw. After New Jersey’s final game before the break Thursday night, he drove to join his wife, Lauren, at Boston Children’s Hospital where Declan had been intubated for 36 hours after being operated on.

“We’ve had [to go] through [that] four times now. I’m not playing if it’s not for my wife,” Boyle said. “She’s taken the brunt of this. She’s had so many sleepless nights in hospital beds with my son. He’s going to be fine. The doctors have assured me everything’s fine. It’s just kind of scary to see. When I got the news, he was already in the hospital for some pre-op stuff. I had come down for our last game before the break, and I was going to go back up. So there was a decision to be made.”

Once they knew their son was going to be fine, Boyle’s wife urged him to go and take part in All-Star Weekend, and he’s been enjoying it so far with his dad and brother.

“Hopefully we have some clips to show [Declan] and we’ll get some swag,” Boyle said. “But yeah, it’s pretty special to be here. It’s tough because I want to be there, too, but we made the decision to come. The decision was a little harder than we thought it might be, but we think it’s the right thing.”

Now that his cancer is being taken care of, Boyle is focusing his efforts on raising awareness and money for research.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m living a fairy-tale life,” he said. “It’s a tremendous blessing for me, and I won’t take it for granted, and every year I seem to love it a little bit more.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: NHL All-Star Skills Competition

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Fastest skater challenge:

Participants:
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

[NHL All-Star Game: Top moments from the Fastest Skater competition]

Passing challenge:

Participants:
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

[A simple request for future NHL All-Star Skills Competitions]

Save streak:

Participants:
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, vs. Central Division
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, vs Pacific Division
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, vs. Metropolitan Division
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, vs. Atlantic Division
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, vs. Central Division

[NHL All-Star Game: Fun Skills Competition moments]

Puck control relay:

Participants:
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

[NHL All-Stars see lack of Olympic participation as ‘missed opportunity’]

Hardest shot:

Participants:
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

[NHL All-Star Game: Top moments from the Hardest Shot competition]

Accuracy shooting:

Participants:
Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

[NHL All-Star Game: Top moments from the Accuracy Shooting competition]

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who are celebrating their 25th season, and the city of Tampa will host the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. The League’s midseason showcase will take place at AMALIE Arena and will include the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 27 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) and 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 28 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).