SAN JOSE, Calif. — Part of the thrill, and possibly the greatest part of the thrill for Mathew Barzal in being an All-Star for the first time, was the chance to play alongside Sidney Crosby, the National Hockey League’s gold standard and standard bearer.
Crosby showed up here despite not feeling well. He did not participate in the Skills Competition Friday night but was expected to suit up for the All-Star Game Saturday — at a locker stall right next to Barzal’s.
“It’s pretty cool. I got a chance to meet him this summer a little bit in Colorado. It will be just super to be on the ice with him,” the Islanders center said earlier in All-Star weekend. “He’s one of the players I kind of modeled my game after, wanted to be like when I was younger. I’m sure I’m not the only guy who was like that.”
Fellow All-Star Kris Letang of the Penguins considers himself lucky to have played his entire career with Crosby, adding, “Off the ice, I would say he is the guy who cares the most about his teammates. He always makes sure everybody is included in everything. Every guy that’s new to our team, he takes them under his wing. He makes sure everybody’s happy, too.”
Inspired by Uncle Buddy (Harrelson)
Kyle Palmieri of the Devils, a first-time All-Star, always takes inspiration from his godfather, Bud Harrelson, who went to two Major League Baseball All-Star Games when he was the Mets shortstop.
“Uncle Buddy is not doing so well, but he’s still Uncle Buddy,” Palmieri said of the former player and manager who has Alzheimer’s disease and cannot have the direct contact with his godson he once did. “I stay in touch with his son TJ. And a couple of Harrelsons came to the game when we played at the Coliseum last week.”
Palmieri attended the tribute the Long Island Ducks held for Harrelson, their part owner. “That was awesome,” the forward said. “I got together with him on Christmas Eve. He was in good spirits.”
Dinner is on Henrik
Keith Yandle of the Panthers really was trying as hard as he could to put the puck past Henrik Lundqvist in the Save Streak competition, despite the Rangers goalie having promised to buy dinner for his former teammate if he missed.
Lundqvist won the goalie contest Friday night, which pleased Yandle. “He’s a guy I still keep in touch with. Great guy. I loved playing with him. He’s an unreal competitor the way that he comes to work every day and what he brings to a team,” the defenseman said.
Yandle was seen as the final piece to a possible championship team when the Rangers traded for him in 2015, but they fell in the conference final. “They were unreal teams, the year-and-a-half I was there. It was real fun to come to the rink every day,” he said. “To see the culture that they bring and what they bring to the table every day, it was fun to be a part of.”
Lundqvist said afterward that he will in fact pay for dinner.