ESPN's analysts share their thoughts on the 2004 NHL YoungStars game and SuperSkills competition from Xcel Energy Center in St.Paul:
Well, the Barenaked Ladies interview was certainly a high point, but from my personal standpoint, the biggest thrill of the weekend always comes from the chance to put my skates on and be on the ice with the guys.
I tell you, these guys are super competitive, that's what you notice when you're down there. Martin St. Louis almost caught Shane Doan, who had about a 40-foot lead on him in the puck control relay. You could see it in the look on his face. It was awesome.
And then, to have three guys shoot over 100 miles per hour in the Hardest Shot Competition, that's just incredible. I don't remember the last time we saw that! The funny thing here -- I was talking with Adrian Aucoin before the competition and he was very unhappy with his sticks. Then, he goes out there and is one of the guys who breaks 100 mph.
I asked him afterwards, "Hey, Adrian, is that the stick you didn't like?"
He said, "Yeah. Go figure."
It's interesting ... the other 102-mph shooter, Sheldon Souray, has had four surgeries on his wrist in the last two years. What's more, it's his left wrist: That's his bottom wrist, and that's the one that takes a beating when you shoot hard.
So, I'm so happy for these two guys, Souray and Aucoin. They are both having tremendous years -- breakout seasons -- and for them to tie for this exciting title truly validates their place here at the All-Star Game.
Another guy who really impressed me was Dwayne Roloson. He was just fantastic in goal in front of his home crowd tonight. He's an interesting story; overnight success does not appear anywhere on his résumé. He paid the price to be in the NHL, and he deserves to be here tonight.
Another awesome goalie is Roberto Luongo, boy did he prove himself this evening. Gosh, he's huge when you get out there with him. I was standing with the other shooters, facing Luongo in goal, and you just can't find any net around this guy to aim for. The Florida Panthers are going to be in great shape for a lot of years with him between the bars.
Of course, something special we saw tonight was Jeremy Roenick apologizing to referee Blaine Angus for the water bottle incident. I thought that was pretty neat. I asked Roenick about that, and he said, "Life's too short. I wanted to clear the record and have fun this weekend."
You know, I knew what it was going to be like here. The people of Minnesota are so into hockey. It is just one of the friendliest states, and the weather is cooperating with us and we broke an attendance record and the on-ice guys are having tons of fun -- that's the biggest thing to me -- that's what's different about this weekend than any other weekend of the year. The players are so relaxed; it's really the only time you are going to see that. I love to see them without the pressure just playing hockey and smiling and having fun.
It has been such an awesome experience, and the All-Star Game is still to come.
Let's talk about defensemen, damn it!
Seriously, Kimmo Timonen had one of the best moves of the night coming in on a goalie in the Breakaway Relay. He put on a great show.
More from the defense, Scott Niedermayer -- fastest skater. I think it surprised a few people that Niedermayer won that, especially with St. Louis and Ilya Kovalchuk and the other quick guys in the field. But Scotty is just such a smooth skater, and he's often overlooked.
I gotta talk about Roberto Luongo. His first time there, and he's in goal and he's at home. That's the pressure position where everybody is looking at you and if you make any kind of mistake people are going to see it, and I think he did a great job tonight.
The players were having so much fun. Even Jeremy Roenick, who is playing in his ninth All-Star Game, was just shaking after he went 4-for-4 in the Shooting Accuracy Competition. He's been around a long time and he's been here before, but he is still jacked about doing so well in this thing. That shows what this weekend is all about. The fact that Roenick is not jaded says so much.
Everybody is having so much fun out there, but they are still here for a reason, and they know that. They are having fun and enjoying each other and the fans and they are relaxed and respectful, but, when something's on the line -- they could be playing cards -- these guys want to win. That is their nature, and this weekend in a tribute to that spirit.