ESPN Network: | | | | | ABCSports | EXPN | FANTASY | INSIDER

  Message Board
  NHL Stat Search
  Minor Leagues
  More Sports


Thursday, February 1, 2001
An All-Star accident could affect regular season

Athletes know how to temper their game-time intensity when practicing against teammates. In hockey, the only time practice is overly competitive is during training camp, when young players are fighting for jobs and veterans are making sure everyone knows who's in charge.

But once the season starts, practice is for preparation. Players are accustomed to checking with less contact and shooting the puck without jeopardizing their goalie's health – or head.

Opposing teammates
Team World N. America
Penguins Jagr, Kovalev Lemieux
Kings Palffy Blake, Robitaille
Devils Mogilny Brodeur, Niedermayer, Stevens
Avalanche Forsberg Roy, Sakic, Bourque
Canucks Naslund Jovanovski
Coyotes Numminen Burke
Oilers Niinimaa Weight
Flyers Cechmanek Gagne

But in Sunday's All-Star Game with its World vs. North America format, teammates find themselves on opposing sides in an environment somewhere between practice and regular-season intensity.

Alexander Mogilny streaking down the wing in front of New Jersey teammate Scott Stevens will be a little different for both of them this Sunday.

"I know his moves," said Stevens with a smile. "He's going to go outside, then inside, and that's going to be it. I'm going to be ready for him.

"But he says he's going to dump it in the whole time."

If it were a real game, Mogilny might actually do that if he was faced with going one-on-one with Stevens. After all, Mogilny had a front-row view of Stevens' open-ice hit on Eric Lindros during last year's playoffs.

But Stevens will be shoulders-up and elbows-in throughout Sunday's game, especially if his valuable teammate is in front of him.

How about Ziggy Palffy coming out of the corner with only Rob Blake to beat and Luc Robitaille backing him up -- well, maybe Robitaille won't be too close in that rear-view mirror.

"We made a few jokes with Ziggy," said Robitaille of Palffy playing on the World Team. "We told him Blake would catch him at center ice. Yeah, it's a little strange, but everyone knows it's an All-Star Game and to have fun. No one wants to hurt other players."

The whole dynamic raises an interesting issue. Under the old Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format, the game usually was devoid of heavy hitting and many of the other physical sacrifices a typical NHL game possesses, like blocked shots, backchecking and even fighting.

And under the old format, an incident or injury wouldn't affect the team dynamic after the break. Not so under the North America vs. World format, where a teammate could injure a teammate, even accidentally.

"A guy like Stevens, he's been to nine or ten of them already, so he knows how to react to things," New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "It's for the fans. We go out, the intensity is there to a certain extent when the puck is in the offensive zone. I don't think anyone is trying to take anybody's head off or trip anyone. If it's in the open, good. Good luck and leave it to the goalie."

Six teams are in a situation like the Devils, who also have Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer skating for the North America squad.

Palffy, Robitaille
Palffy and Robitaille won't be backing each other up on Sunday.
Of course, the big-name matchup is Mario Lemieux vs. Jaromir Jagr. Then, there's Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque bearing down on Peter Forsberg. Or how about Markus Naslund streaking down the wing in front of Ed "JovoCop" Jovanovski. Perhaps, Simon Gagne will get an open shot on Roman Cechmanek.

For the record, although it's not quite as prime-time, defenseman Teppo Numminen opposes fellow Coyote Sean Burke and Doug Weight will be facing Oiler mate Janne Niinimaa.

So how do players navigate that gray area between practice against teammates and the intensity of an NHL game?

"You still want to work hard and don't want to be embarassed," Stevens said. "There's a lot of talent out there, so you have to be sharp. You can't take it off, but I'm definitely more relaxed (than during a regular-season game)."

The tenor of the game is accepted by all. Yet, like any other fast-paced and physical sport, hockey requires a minimum level of intensity or else someone will get hurt. It's the same reason why most NFL players detest the Pro Bowl. How can you play full-contact football for fun?

Despite the commentary that North America vs. World is more competitive than East vs. West, the welfare of teammates is another reason players might let up on All-Star weekend.

Brian A. Shactman covers the NHL for He can be reached at
Where East meets West

Head to Head: Teammates face off

2001 NHL All-Star Game coverage  HELP |  ADVERTISER INFO |  CONTACT US |  TOOLS |  SITE MAP
Copyright ©2000 ESPN Internet Group. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. Employment opportunities at