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The Skills Competition, often the most talked about and enjoyed part of NHL All-Star weekend (although now CBA debates seem to be creeping closer to the most talked about aspect).  For several years now, the top players in the NHL put their pride on the line and go head-to-head in the Skills to put on a show for the fans, as well as to try to get their name in the record books.  The most recent one, held Saturday night, was no exception.  Although there were no records broken, there was a new winner in every competition, something that hasn’t been done in quite some time.  We’ll now run through the various events of the Skills, to see where our winners fit in compared with the results of years past.  We’ll also see what conference has been the most dominant over the years of the competition (see scores after each chart.)

First, let’s start with the Puck Control Relay.  In 2003, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis ended then Anaheim’s Paul Kariya’s 4 year winning streak.  But would St. Louis begin a winning streak of his own?  Well, no, not officially, that honour goes to Columbus’ Rick Nash.  But it was clear to all that watched on Saturday that St. Louis was indeed the fastest, but was unable to win because he was not involved in the individual race.  Now, let’s look at the results from prior years:

Year Winner Team/Conference
1994 Russ Courtnall Dallas-Western
1996 Pierre Turgeon Montreal-Eastern
1997 Geoff Sanderson Hartford-Eastern
1998 Teemu Selanne Anaheim-Western
1999 Paul Kariya Anaheim-Western
2000 Paul Kariya Anaheim-Western
2001 Paul Kariya Anaheim-Western
2002 Paul Kariya Anaheim-Western
2003 Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay-Eastern
2004 Rick Nash Columbus-Western

Note:  These are the winners of the individual race, held after the 3 on 3 team races.

Winner:  Western Conference, 7-3.

Score through 1 event:  West 7, East 3

Now, let’s move on to the Fastest Skater challenge.  This is the only event in the history of the Skills competition to not have the same player win back-to-back times.  There have been multiple winners, but never the same one 2 years in a row.  Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik was the defending champion, however, he was not invited to the game this season, so there was a “new” champion, Scott Niedermayer of New Jersey.  Here are the results from years past:

Year Winner Time Team/Conference
1992 Sergei Fedorov 14.363 Detroit-Western
1993 Mike Gartner 13.510 New York R.-Eastern
1994 Sergei Fedorov 13.525 Detroit-Western
1996 Mike Gartner 13.386 Toronto-Eastern
1997 Peter Bondra 13.610 Washington-Eastern
1998 Scott Niedermayer 13.560 New Jersey-Eastern
1999 Peter Bondra 14.640 Washington-Eastern
2000 Paul Kariya 13.649 Anaheim-Western
2001 Bill Guerin 13.690 Boston-Eastern
2002 Sami Kapanen 14.039 Carolina-Eastern
2003 Marian Gaborik 13.713 Minnesota-Western
2004 Scott Niedermayer 13.783 New Jersey-Eastern

Note:  The time in bold represents the all-time record in this particular competition.

Winner:  Eastern Conference, 8-4          

Score through 2 events: East 11, West 11

On to event #3, the Hardest Shot contest.  Again, last year’s winner Al MacInnis, was not invited to participate, so there was going to be a new winner.  However, there were a pair of new winners.  Who?  The chart below has it all…

Year Winner(s) Speed (MPH) Team/Conference
1990 Al Iafrate 96.0 Toronto-Western
1991 Al MacInnis 94.0 Calgary-Western
1992 Al MacInnis 93.0 Calgary-Western
1993 Al Iafrate 105.2 Washington-Eastern
1994 Al Iafrate 102.7 Washington-Eastern
1996 Dave Manson 98.0 Winnipeg-Western
1997 Al MacInnis 98.9 St. Louis-Western
1998 Al MacInnis 100.4 St. Louis-Western
1999 Al MacInnis 98.5 St. Louis-Western
2000 Al MacInnis 99.9 St. Louis-Western
2001 Fredrik Modin 102.1 Tampa Bay-Eastern
2002 Sergei Fedorov 101.5 Detroit-Western
2003 Al MacInnis 98.9 St. Louis-Western
2004 S. Souray, A. Aucoin 102.2 MON, NYI-Eastern

Notes: The speed in bold represents the all-time record in this particular competition.  In 1990, Toronto was a Western Conference team.

Winner:  Western Conference, 10-4

Score through 3 events:  West 21, East 15

Time for event number 4, the Accuracy Shooting contest.  Last year’s champion Jeremy Roenick of Philadelphia, hit 4 of 6 targets, and was eligible to win again, as he was named to the Eastern team.  But did he repeat?  In a nutshell, yes, but did he improve?  Look below for your answer…

Team Winner(s) Results Team-Conference
1990 Ray Bourque 4/7 Boston-Eastern
1991 Mark Messier 4/4 Edmonton-Western
1992 Ray Bourque 4/4 Boston-Eastern
1993 Ray Bourque 4/4 Boston-Eastern
1994 Brendan Shanahan 4/5 Detroit-Western
1996 Mark Messier 4/4 New York R.-Eastern
1997 Ray Bourque 4/7 Boston-Eastern
1998 R. Bourque, P. Forsberg, B. Shanahan 4/6 BOS-East, COL, DET-West*
1999 R. Bourque, J. Roenick, K. Tkachuk 4/6 BOS-East, PHX-West (x2)*
2000 R. Bourque, V. Kozlov 4/5 BOS, FLA-East
2001 Ray Bourque 4/6 Colorado-Western
2002 M. Naslund, J. Iginla 4/6 VAN, CAL-West
2003 Jeremy Roenick 4/6 Philadelphia-Eastern
2004 Jeremy Roenick 4/4 Philadelphia-Eastern

Note: The score in bold represents the all-time record in this particular competition.  Where there are multiple winners, the “goal” is awarded to the conference with the most winners.

Winner:  Eastern Conference, 8-6

Score through 4 events:  West 27, East 23

Now, on to the final event of “this” competition, the Breakaway Relay, or as I like to call it, a goalie’s nightmare.  The winners in this events are the goaltenders, based on the number of goals that they allow.  Last year’s winner, Patrick Roy, has since retired, meaning that there would be a new winner, like many of the other events.  There were a pair of winners this season, both from the East.  Who were they?  Look below…

Year Winner(s) GA Team-Conference
1991 Mike Vernon 1 Calgary-Western
1992 M. Richter, D. Beaupre 1 NYR, WAS-East
1993 J. Casey, M. Vernon, E. Belfour 1 MIN, CAL, CHI-West
1994 Curtis Joseph 0 St. Louis-Western
1996 Dominik Hasek 0 Buffalo-Eastern
1997 D. Hasek, G. Hebert 1 BUF-East, ANA-West*
1998 Dominik Hasek 0 Buffalo-Eastern
1999 Dominik Hasek 1 Buffalo-Eastern
2000 Tommy Salo 1 Edmonton-Western
2001 E. Nabokov, S. Burke 1 SJ, PHX-West
2002 D. Hasek, P. Roy 1 BUF-East, COL-West*
2003 Patrick Roy 1 Colorado-Western
2004 R. Luongo, M. Brodeur 1 FLA, NJ-East

Note: The number of goals allowed in bold represents the all-time record in this particular competition. Where there are multiple winners, the “goal” is awarded to the conference with the most winners.  *When there is a tie, 1 goal is awarded to each team.

Winner:  Western Conference, 8-7

Final Score:  West 35, East 30

(Only 5 events were counted, as the 6th event – this year the “In the Zone” event, changes too fequently to be counted in this particular competition.)

So, the West has won, no surprise there, considering the East seldomly wins in the Skills competition. However, it all could change as early as next season, if the East wins 5 of 6 events as they did on Saturday.  That being said, the real winners here are the fans, as they get to see the stars of the league all at the same time.  And isn’t that what the All-Star weekend is for anyways, the fans?

Questions/comments?  E-mail me at [email protected].

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com

For those of you wondering what the answer to the trivia question was last week, it was B – Andrei Markov.