Skills competition to feature players shooting pucks from stands

A new skills competition at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will feature players shooting pucks from the stands, over the fans and at targets on the ice, sources tell ESPN.

Debuting at the skills competition event in St. Louis on Friday, Jan. 24, eight players from the All-Star Game rosters will stand in a section of Enterprise Center above the lower bowl of seats. From there, they will fire pucks down to circular targets positioned on the ice below.

The targets will all have different point values, based on the difficulty of the shot attempt. Pucks that hit the middle of the targets will also carry higher point values than the ones that hit the sides.

"It's hockey meets Topgolf," according to a source, citing the popular driving range where golfers knock microchipped balls into large targets on the greens, often from tees in the second deck of the facility.

Another inspiration for the event was a 2019 video produced by the Pittsburgh Penguins that featured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin launching pucks from Section 220 of their empty arena into an open net on the ice:

Seeing as how the arena in St. Louis will not be empty that evening, sources tell ESPN that the NHL is taking unique safety precautions.

To protect fans in the lower sections of the arena, seated below the flight path of pucks, the protective netting behind one of the goals will be "reconfigured" and stretched above those sections to cover them. It will be the only event of the skills competition where the netting will be placed above the crowd, as it is the final event of the evening.

The NHL has tested this new skills competition in St. Louis already this season, with rave reviews from those who have seen it.

The NHL All-Star Weekend is scheduled for Jan. 24 and 25. The game itself will feature a 3-on-3 mini-tournament between teams from each division.