The 2023 NHL All-Star game in Sunrise Florida is set to kick off this Saturday. After an up and down season thus far, the Calgary Flames’ lone representative heading to the beach is Nazem Kadri. Kadri will suit up alongside his Pacific division counterparts: Connor McDavid, Kevin Fiala, Leon Draisaitl, Elias Pettersson, Stewart Skinner, Erik Karlsson, Troy Terry, Bo Horvat, Chandler Stevenson and Calgary-born Logan Thompson.
Also, joining Kadri as a Flames representative will be decorated Olympic champion Rebecca Johnston. The three-time Olympic gold medallist is currently the Calgary Flames’ player development grassroots hockey coordinator.
In spirit of the break, we’re going to take a brief look at the Calgary Flames’ history at the All-Star game (ASG).
Most All-Star Game appearances
It’s immediately evident who the face of the organization was during the changing eras of hockey in Calgary.
Four Flames tie for the most ASG appearances in red silks:
- Johnny Gaudreau #13 LW (6) – 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022
- Jarome Iginla #12 RW (6) – 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012
- Theo Fleury #14 RW (6) – 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
- Al MacInnis D #2 (6) – 1985, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994
Not a bad four-way tie. All were drafted by the Flames except for Iginla, who was dealt to Calgary for Flames star Joe Nieuwendyk. The three wingers and cornerstone defenceman combined for 3,356 points in 3,415 career games. If not for Johnny’s departure last summer it would be no question that by the end of his career he would sit atop this list. But like another undersized, fast winger with six ASG appearances, sometimes things don’t work out and you head south in free agency.
Just outside of the 6x All-Stars sits another pair of Flames legends most known for their runs to the Cup finals with six-timer Al MacInnis:
- Mike Vernon #3 G (5) – 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993
- Joe Nieuwendyk #25 C (4) – 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994
It’s no question the team had more representation in the late 80s and early 90s for good reason. Three of six players on this list are members of the 1989 Stanley Cup team. On this list of six, two have their numbers retired (#30, #12) and two are honoured in the Forever a Flame program (#2, #25).
Most Flames represented in a season
One season prior to the organization’s only Stanley Cup the team sent a franchise record five players to the ASG in 1988.
Defencemen Gary Suter and Al MacInnis made their second appearances with MacInnis starting the game along side his rival, Edmonton Oiler Kevin Lowe. It was evidently an Alberta-heavy Campbell Conference at the ’88 ASG as Oilers Grant Fuehr started in goal behind MacInnis and Lowe while Wayne Gretzky centered a line with his teammate Jari Kurri and Los Angels Kings forward Luc Robitaille. Five of six starting positions held by Oilers and Flames while 11 out of 20 total All-Stars in the conference were represented by the provincial teams. Gives a good hint on paper of how good the battle of Alberta was in the late 80s.
Another defenceman Brad McCrimmon made his inaugural All-Star selection alongside centreman Joe Nieuwendyk and G Mike Vernon—the beginning of a long tenure of exceptional play from the core of that team.
Nieuwendyk was the only Flames player to make his mark on the stats sheet with an assist on the first goal of the game scored by Winnipeg Jets C Dale Hawerchuk. Mike Vernon played the second half of the game and unfortunately recorded a loss in overtime ending the game 6–5 for the Wales Conference. The overtime goal was scored by Pittsburgh Penguins Star Mario Lemieux just over a minute into the extra frame. The goal capped off a decent night for the all-time great with a 3–3—6 stat line, setting an ASG record. Oh yeah, the record he broke? His own.
Luc Robitaille was the third star of the game with two goals and an assist and went home with a personal computer system.
Mats Naslund was the second star with five assists and went home with a custom bronze sculpture.
With six points and to no one’s surprise, Lemieux took home the first star of the game and a 4×4 truck to sit in his driveway beside the SUV he won the year before.
The Three Stars presentation was one of the best parts of the game and a great opportunity to experience some 80s broadcasting. Check it out below.
Best individual performance
Johnny Gaudreau holds the record for most single game points from a Flames player at the ASG with 2–2—4 stat line at the 2017 game in Los Angeles. The performance came in the second edition of the leagues 3v3 divisional format debuting in 2016. Gaudreau saw time playing on a line with Bo Horvat in a 10–3 blowout of the Central Division in the first round of the four-team tournament.
There’s no question the introduction of 3v3 increased scoring in the ASG, a much needed jolt to the midseason event. John scored two goals glove side in the third period with his best coming on the final play of the game.
Additionally Gaudreau’s career 14 points in the ASG land him in an eight-way time for seventh on the all-time scoring list at the event, also making him the leading Flame in that category. Theo Fluery is the next closest Flame in the ranking with 12 points, with nine of those coming as a Calgary Flame.
Skills Competition winners
Although the skills competition is something heavily debated each year at ASG weekend, it’s something I personally like more than the game. You get to see players showcase the specific skills that got them there in the first place and showcase more of their personality, something the NHL desperately needs.
The only Flames to bring home a skills competition trophies were Johnny Gaudreau in the 2018 Puck Control Relay and Jarome Iginla in his inaugural ASG in 2002 for Shooting Accuracy. Well, Iggy tied with Markus Naslund but that’s still a W in the convoluted sea that is the All-Star Game record books. Check out both performances below. At the time, Iggy was leading the league in scoring with 35 goals. He finished that season with 52 goals, 96 points, the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, and his first of two Rocket Richard Trophies. Oh what a time to be a Flames fan.
The wrap on on the All-Stars
The All-Star Game is often criticized for its lack of effort and low entertainment value but it is a nice way to showcase the best players in the league. For many players, it’s an opportunity they cherish and look forward to accomplishing in their careers, while others would rather take a much needed break in a long 82-game schedule.
The NFL is implementing a flag football game this year at the Pro Bowl, which will also take place this weekend. For starters, maybe booking overlapping All-Star Games isn’t great for either league but we will see if the NHL at least follows suit in the coming years with more emphasis on the skills challenges and entertainment.
In reality, no one will be satisfied with the ASG in any sport at this point. Players voices are much louder than they used to be and if they don’t want to put out effort in a fake game, they won’t. It’s too much of a risk for player safety in the long run and there just isn’t enough engagement from fans.
Regardless of the sustainability of the ASG in the NHL it will be great to see Kadri represent the city and team down in Florida this weekend. Kadri’s selection is well deserved and worth noting as his transition from Colorado to Calgary couldn’t have gone much better. Great player and an even better guy, if he hadn’t been selected by the league I have no doubts the fan ballot would’ve slotted him in as a reserve. Maybe he’ll break some of the records we discussed or start a new streak of appearances at All-Star weekend.