As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the NHL announced Thursday the postponement of the 2021 All-Star Weekend and its annual showcase of the league’s best and brightest stars.
Originally scheduled for Jan. 29-30, 2021, the All-Star Weekend and, therefore, the All-Star Game have been pushed back to 2022. The announcement also noted the 2021 Winter Classic, the NHL’s annual outdoor game to ring in the New Year, has also been pushed back a year.
“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended,” Steve Mayer, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer, said in a league statement.
“We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season,” Mayer added.
While the NHL did not state that teams that lost 2021 events would host their respective 2022 events, it did ensure that the marquee events would return to these locales in the “near future.”
The NHL’s announcement also stressed that the previously released Jan. 1 start date for the next NHL season was still on target to occur. As commissioner Gary Bettman said during his annual Stanley Cup press conference, “It’s conceivable that we start without fans, that we move to socially distant fans at some point and by some point in time, maybe, our buildings are open. . . . How we start doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how we have to finish.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 All-Star Weekend’s postponement.
Where was the 2021 All-Star Weekend supposed to be held?
The yearly event that marks the approximate midway point of the NHL season was scheduled to take place at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., and be hosted by the Florida Panthers.
“We are excited to bring the NHL’s midseason showcase for the best and brightest stars from around the League to the home of the Florida Panthers and South Florida hockey fans,” Bettman said in announcing the 2021 event. “Next year’s Honda NHL All-Star Weekend promises to be an incredible celebration of our game and everything South Florida has to offer.”
“The Florida Panthers are thrilled to welcome hockey fans from around the world to South Florida for NHL All-Star Weekend,” Panthers president and CEO Matt Caldwell said last January. “This is one of the league’s premier events of the year and we couldn’t be more proud to have it in our backyard.”
The Panthers organization hosted the event at the same arena in 2003, although the building was then named the Office Depot Center. That weekend included the YoungStars Game (the Capitals’ Brian Sutherby was named Most Valuable Player), a skills competition (of note, Al MacInnis won the hardest shot competition at age 39, registering 98.9 mph) and the Thrashers’ Dany Heatley was named All-Star Game MVP with four goals despite the Western Conference winning in a shootout.
What events are usually held during All-Star Weekend?
The NHL’s All-Star Weekend brings together the sport’s best and brightest stars for myriad events over the course of three days. Last year’s event took place in St. Louis and showcased the annual skills competition along with a new event — a 3-on-3 women’s scrimmage that pitted the best U.S. and Canadian players against each other. The NHL also gave back to the local community over the course of the weekend.
LOOKING BACK: 2020 Skills competition | 2020 All-Star Game
The weekend culminated with the All-Star Game on Saturday night, with the Pacific Division skating away victorious. The winning team included Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, the Flames’ Mark Giordano, David Rittich and Matthew Tkachuk, and then-Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, who signed with the Flames as a free agent this offseason.
During his annual press conference at the event, Bettman hinted that things could have looked a little different in 2021. “We are in discussions with the Players Association about giving a distinct international flavor to next year’s All-Star Game,” he said.
Is the game canceled or postponed?
The NHL used the term “postponed” in its statement regarding the 2021 weekend; however, it did say that “we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022.” Technically, then, the event is postponed to 2022, which is when another All-Star Weekend would have, in theory, taken place anyway.
Last 10 All-Star Games
The last time an All-Star Weekend did not occur was in 2014; that was due to the NHL’s involvement in the Winter Olympics. It was also skipped in 2013 (lockout), 2010 (Olympics), 2006 (Olympics) and 2005 (lockout).
When the game was canceled in 2013, it was scheduled to take place in Columbus, which did hold the event in 2015. Atlanta was supposed to hold the event in 2005 and eventually hosted in 2008; Dallas served as the locale in 2007.
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