Montreal Memories Abound For All-Stars

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01/27/2009 12:39 AM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)

MONTREAL -- Patrick Kane's snapshot moment of his first All-Star Weekend didn't occur inside the Bell Centre or even at the player's hotel. Kane's moment came while he was riding in the back of a taxi cab.

Staring out the window, Kane caught a quick glimpse of the giant poster of him hanging on the outside of Le Centre Sheraton Montreal on Boulevard Rene-Levesque West, a short walk from the Bell Centre.

"I don't know what the dimensions are, but it's really big," Kane said. "I drove by it one day in a cab and it really made me think of how hard I have worked to get to this point. I mean, being in Montreal for your first All-Star Game, you couldn't really ask for a better situation."

Kane's was the popular opinion of every All-Star and YoungStar here this weekend.

From the day they arrived until after Sunday night's game when they were all cleaning out their locker stalls, packing up their equipment bags and turning their thoughts to the stretch drive of the regular season, all the players had a blast soaking in the entire Montreal All-Star experience.

They were given the royal treatment, with fans stopping them at every turn for autographs and pictures. They made public appearances at a children's hospital, a local rink and the Lay's NHL All-Star Jamboree.

They walked a red carpet Saturday night into the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills. They did hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews with the large gathering of media.

They were shuttled around with escorts wherever they went and they put on a grand show for every hockey fan hoping for his or her own snap-shot memory.

Not one of them complained or even turned a frown. It was too good to be true.

"It was more than I expected," Chicago captain and All-Star rookie Jonathan Toews told NHL.com. "I had no idea it would be this big of a show. I don't know how to explain it, but it was larger than life in a way. It was so cool to walk around and see how crazy people are about hockey. It couldn't have gone any better."

For Sheldon Souray, who played 368 games in a Habs uniform, the highlight of the weekend was returning to the city where his star was born.

"It was a real blast for me, a real tremendous experience for me to come here and be a part of an All-Star Game in Montreal," Souray, who had played in two previous All-Star Games, told NHL.com. "It's my old team, my old city. These are memories I'll have with me for the rest of my life, so I'm grateful to be here and have this experience.

"To see old trainers and old coaches and old teammates in a city I'm familiar with. I saw the parking guy again. It really was just a fun time for me. The whole experience was just awesome."

Stephane Robidas was a late addition to his first All-Star Game. He replaced nine-time All-Star Nicklas Lidstrom, and the Dallas Stars defenseman from nearby Sherbrooke couldn't have been any happier that he was picked to sub in for a legend.

"Any All-Star Game would have been special, but this one in Montreal makes it more special," Robidas told NHL.com. "It has just been an amazing weekend."

Robidas said he couldn't pick one snapshot moment that he's bringing back with him to the Lone Star State.

"There are too many," he added. "Everything has been so good."

His highlight, though, was the game Sunday night, when the East outlasted the West, 12-11, thanks to shootout goals from Alex Kovalev and Alex Ovechkin. A game of unique skill turned into a game of will in the third period and overtime.

"There is no two points, but guys have a lot of pride," Robidas said. "It's not a do-or-die situation, but it doesn't matter. You have pride. You are not playing to lose. That's why the game was tight."

Marc Savard, normally an unpopular player in this building since he comes in with the rival Boston Bruins, said he'll remember the fans the most.

Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, a first-timer at an All-Star Game, said he would do it all over again in a heartbeat. The cold weather - the Celsius thermometers were well into the minus numbers this weekend - didn't bother him one bit.

"It's hard to pick one snapshot," Backstrom said. "The game is the highlight, though. It's not a goalies' game, but you are out there playing with these guys and against those guys, for sure it's the highlight. It was a great weekend even if it was really cold outside."

Other than the pageantry of the entire weekend, Kane said just being in an All-Star locker room was a highlight for him.

"To see all these guys in the room, Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla, it really sticks out in your mind just to watch how they act and how they pay attention and how they carry themselves," Chicago's No. 88 said. "They are what is carrying our League right now, so I really watched guys like that this weekend."

Toews chose his goal Sunday night as the highlight of his weekend. He scored 2:32 into the third period to give the West 10-9 lead.

"It's a monkey off my back," Toews said. "It wasn't going so well. I think I was minus-3 or minus-4 up until that point. I wasn't too confident at that point, so it was nice to get on the board."

All-Star Weekend put these 42 All-Stars and 19 YoungStars on top of the world. The grind that starts with practices today will bring them back down to reality, but they're all ready for it.

It's what they play for, what they live for.

"I'm looking forward to getting back with the guys and telling them what went on this weekend," Toews said. "I think this is a confidence boost for me so, hopefully, I can go back and help our team win games and continue to charge to the playoffs."


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