Above are my tickets stubs from the 1991 NHL All-Star Game (left) and 1991 Heroes of Hockey and Skills Competition (right–otherwise known as “All-Star Friday.”
My Aunt and Uncle had seasons tickets to the Blackhawks games. They took me to a lot of games when I was a kid, and probably were going to take me to the game anyway. But my Grandmother paid them for my tickets to the game and skills competition as an early birthday present.
For some reason, our seats at the All-Star Game were better than our usual seats. Normally, we were in Mezzanine Row H, but for this weekend we were in Row D–4 rows closer than usual. Heck, we sat closer than Gordie Howe, who was in our section but about 5 or 6 rows back from us.
What I remember from Friday’s Heroes of Hockey game:
- Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr did not play in the Heroes of Hockey Game in protest of the poor pensions that former NHLers were receiving.
- Bobby Hull was also going to boycott the game, but changed his mind since it was in Chicago.
- Some Old Time Hockey pranks were played, such as a puck that exploded after Hawks Alumni goalie Murray Bannerman caught it, and the “puck on a string” gag courtesy of Stan Mikita.
- In the middle of the game, Mikita decided to “trade” goalie Bannerman to the NHL Heroes team for Bob Sauve. For the rest of the game, Sauve tended net for the Blackhawks, while Bannerman tended for the NHL Heroes. Strange and ironic, since Sauve usurped Bannerman as the Chicago Blackhawks number one goalie during the 1986-87 season
- At the end of the game, Phil Esposito threw his stick into the stands, and it landed about 4 rows in front of where I was standing. I watched a bunch of grown men grab and pull the stick until one of them emerged victorious.
The Skills Competition:
- Denis Savard was a surprise All-Star. He was a last-minute replacement for the injured Brian Skrudland. No one knew he was going to be there until his name was announced during Friday night’s player introductions. Savard had been traded to the Canadiens the past summer, and got a standing ovation from the Chicago Stadium crowd.
- Bill Ranford was booed by the Chicago fans because he was selected as the reserve goaltender instead of Blackhawks rookie Ed Belfour, who was having a remarkable season.
- In the Accuracy Shooting challenge–where the player has to hit each corner of the net–I’m pretty sure Trevor Linden missed all of his shots. I remember feeling bad for him.
- Paul Coffey won the Fastest Skater competition. I remember him being kind of a jerk to the guy who interviewed him afterward, giving one-word answers and just generally being rude.
And the All-Star Game itself…
- The National Anthem was AMAZING. The fans at Blackhawks games are always loud during the Anthem, but were extra loud because it was the All-Star Game…and because of an overwhelming sense of patriotism from the Desert Storm war. This still sends chills down my spine…
- But the game itself was actually kind of boring. Really no hitting (though I think Jeremy Roenick checked someone) or physical play.
- Phil Housley got 2 minor penalties in the 3rd period. Otherwise, the game would have been penalty-free.
- When Bill Ranford came in midway through the 2nd period (to replace starter Mike Vernon), the crowd started chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” to both mock Ranford and show their support for All-Star snub Ed Belfour.
- Vincent Damphousse scored 4 goals. Not really a “memory,” because I wanted Roenick to win the MVP Award. But still, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a player score 4 goals in a game. At least not in person.
- During one of the intermissions, my Aunt ran back from the hallway and told me to come with her–NOW!!!! We hurried down the corridor, where future first-round draft pick Eric Lindros was surrounded by people asking for autographs. I got my ticket stub signed by The Big E:
- I was going to bring a Lindros rookie card with me to sell to one of my friends at the game, but didn’t for some reason. If only I had brought one–and a Sharpie marker, of course.
- My Uncle’s cousin–a nice man from Toronto–had a field day getting his program autographed by all the retired NHLers in attendance at the game. I think he got ‘graphs from Stan Mikita, Bobby and Dennis Hull, Darryl Sittler, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr.
- Besides the Upper Deck All-Star Game Sheets, there was one other giveaway at the game: a paper goalie mask, courtesy of McDonald’s, that instructs you to “Put your face on when there’s a face-off.”
Twenty years later, and the thing still fits me well.