The National Hockey League set the table for its annual All-Star Game with a fantasy draft on Thursday but the light-hearted evening lost some of its glitter with the sport’s biggest names not part of the fun.
Honouring a hockey tradition played out by children on rinks around the world, Ottawa Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson and Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara took turns selecting players from a pool of talent featuring many of the league’s best forming the two teams that will meet in Sunday’s mid-season showcase in Ottawa.
The All-Star draft, however, went off without the NHL’s two most popular players with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby missing the event for the second consecutive year recovering from concussion-like symptoms.
Washington Capitals’ Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin opted out after being handed a three-game suspension earlier in the week for an illegal hit.
Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom, who captained of one of the All-Star teams a year ago and Anaheim Ducks’ hugely popular Finn Teemu Selanne also declined invitations.
However, the evening still attracted plenty of attention with the draft carried live on television across Canada and the United States.
Chara, a former-member of the Senators before joining the Stanley Cup champion Bruins, had the first pick and used it to select silky smooth Red Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk while Alfredsson took his Ottawa team mate and fellow Swede Erik Karlsson.
With his number two pick, Chara also turned to a known commodity taking Bruins netminder Tim Thomas, who created a stir on Monday when he boycotted the Stanley Cup champions’ reception at the White House in protest over a U.S. federal government that he believes has grown out of control.
“I followed my conscience,” said Thomas, when questioned about his decision by the draft’s television host. “I am extremely grateful for all the support I’ve gotten from my team mate fans and friends, I said in that statement that would be the only time I would be addressing that topic.”
Each captain was allowed to pick three netminders, six defensemen and 12 forwards, Alfredsson using his choices to take all three of his Senators team mates available (Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek).
He also cornered the market on his countrymen as well, grabbing Vancouver Canucks’ high-scoring Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin along with defenseman Alexander Edler.
Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel, the final player taken in last year’s All-Star draft, went in the eighth round this year.
The dubious distinction of being the last man standing on Thursday was San Jose Sharks Logan Couture, who went in the 19th round to Team Alfredsson.
To help ease the sting, Couture was awarded a new car and a donation to a charity of his choice.