But, the All Star Game can be a brand-new experience for first-timers, and this year’s first-time All Stars got the chance to soak it all in and be a part of the fun.
There’s no more notable first-timer than New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with leukemia over the summer and has since returned to the ice this season. The former Lightning player received an overwhelming welcome from his old fans. He was given a long standing ovation from the crowd when he stepped on the ice at the Skills Competition on Saturday night.
The emotions were already running high for Boyle, as his son had surgery on Wednesday and remains in the hospital with his wife. The surgery was nothing life-threatening, as he told Erik Erlendsson on Saturday.
“It’s been fun, it’s been really really fun,” Boyle said on Sunday. “I play against these guys, I know how good they are. The ovation, the support, it’s been incredible. I didn’t really expect it to be like this. I came here and tried to enjoy it and it’s been ten times better than I thought it could ever be.”
Even though he was without his immediate family, he still had plenty of family in town to make some incredible memories.
“Like I said, I’ve tried to soak it all in,” he said. “I’ve got some memorabilia that I’ll keep. I don’t keep a whole lot of memorabilia, but I’ll keep the trinkets that they gave me, the jersey and all that from this. Being here with my dad and my brother and my in-laws came down from Orlando. My wife sent me a couple of videos of my son watching. That was pretty cool, so I’ll hang on to those. Just all in all it’s been phenomenal.”
There were first-time All Stars on each of the four divisional teams at the All Star Game. Most of them probably had expectations of the workload, schedule and activities that would make up the weekend.
For St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, he didn’t expect how much “break” there would be in his All Star break.
“We’ve had a lot of down time, which is nice because a lot of us have family and friends and kids and whatever, so it’s a good opportunity for us to just kind of take a break,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of our teammates are all taking a break right now, so if we have the chance to sit down, kick back too, it’s nice.”
“I don’t think anything surprised me,” Eichel said. “I think it was awesome. It was a lot of fun, just being here with all these guys, some I know, some I don’t, and for the ones that I don’t just being able to build relationships with a little bit and get to know. I thought that was one of the best parts. Obviously, we get caught up in our game but this is a weekend to relax a bit and take a step back and realize where you are and you’re kind of able admire all these great players in our game.”
It’s one thing to play in your first All Star Game. It’s another to do it in front of your home fans. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point was added to the All Star roster on Wednesday after an injury to defenseman Victor Hedman. At just 21 years old and with just 117 NHL games under his belt, Point was getting the chance to skate with the NHL’s best.
That can be nerve-wracking for a young player, but the support from the Lightning faithful eased his mind.
“The cheers that the guys on our team got from our crowd was awesome,” he said. “It really relaxed me and helped me play.”
“I just think how well everything is run,” Wheeler said. “Obviously, the NHL does a great job with everything. But, everything is run so well. You show up, you get treated unbelievably by the Lightning organization and the fans here were incredible. We were treated first-class the whole way, so it was awesome.”