LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sidney Crosby only took a few steps into the lobby of his downtown Los Angeles hotel Friday before he was besieged by a bevy of sprinting fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain signed what he could and slipped away.
From Crosby and Mario Lemieux to the sneakiest autograph hounds, every part of the hockey world has converged on Hollywood for a weekend of sun, fun and celebration.
The festivities will go on without Columbus coach John Tortorella, who earned the chance to coach the Metropolitan Division team during the Blue Jackets’ remarkable unbeaten run. Tortorella is skipping the game because a pit bull belonging to his son, Nick, is ailing.
But the Blue Jackets will be well-represented with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Seth Jones and forward Cam Atkinson, a last-minute addition after Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin dropped out.
Before the game’s best current players face off at Staples Center in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, the 100 top players in hockey history are being honored as part of “The NHL 100” during the league’s centennial. Commissioner Gary Bettman will offer his opinion on the state of a league in transition, with everything from video review to a Las Vegas franchise changing its face as the NHL hits triple digits.
Some of those great players already have strong feelings about the state of hockey.
“The game is in better shape today than it’s ever been,” said Wayne Gretzky, who called Crosby the best player in the current game. “These players, from Auston Matthews to Connor McDavid, they’re just tremendous players. Everybody has a hand in it, and we all feel very privileged that we’re a part of the National Hockey League.”
One of the NHL’s most fundamental recent changes will be front-and-center Sunday: The 3-on-3 format that has been adopted for regular-season overtimes is back for the All-Star Game, which became a four-division tournament of high-scoring hockey last year.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a little tiring for a defenseman,” said Drew Doughty, the Kings’ All-Star defenseman and Norris Trophy winner. “That’s the way it is in the regular season, too. I can’t even imagine being a goalie in that.”