League Luminaries Descend On St. Louis For 2018 All-Star Gameby Sean Gallagher | March 17, 2018, 2:25 AM ET
"It's an honor to host, obviously," said St. Louis Spartans GM Sean Gallagher, "We're very proud of our city and while all these guys have been here before, getting to roll out the red carpet and show off this town is something I'm very proud to do."
When the Spartans made major upgrades to their arena last year, spending to the max allowed to increase seating and amenities, they knew it put them on the short list of potential All-Star hosts. However, the decision from SICHL HQ came only recently - shocking and elating the team, the city's mayor and all of the city's hockey-loving population.
"We have a fervent base of fans here," said Gallagher, "We had a long list of local businesses and other organizations lining up to host events and offer services. It'll be a special couple of days for our visitors and our citizens."
With the SICHL playing games up until Friday night, players and management will stream into town over the course of Thursday and Friday evening and into the night, with official events starting mid-morning Saturday. For fans who are lucky enough to get in, the unofficial welcome party is being held Friday night at the downtown rooftop 360 bar, where out-of-towners can gather and take in breathtaking views of St. Louis while sharing a few adult beverages.
After the evening's activities come to a close, a short walk through Ballpark Village (and maybe a diversion to some of its after-hours establishments) the players and management will arrive at the official hotel of the All-Star game, the Westin St. Louis, right across from the famous baseball Cardinals' Busch Stadium.
The SICHL and its teams are known for giving back to their communities and the All-Star Game is no exception. Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, the SICHL All-Stars will take to the ice for a series of "mini-games" against the St. Louis Special Team - an organization for hockey players with special needs, the St. Louis Downtown Team - an outreach program geared towards youth who could not normally afford to play the game, and the St. Louis Challenge Cup champions - the winners of each division in this year's youth hockey state championships, mites through bantams.
"This is going to be a very special event. We know we are going to fulfill a lot of dreams on Saturday morning," said SICHL Commissioner Mark MacRae, who was then boo'd randomly.
The players and team GMs will then be transported to another St. Louis landmark (no, not that one), Forest Park. Forest Park is a 1,300 acre park that contains a zoo, theater, history museum, art museum as well as miles of walking paths, acres of open fields and several lakes, all free to the public to use. The NHL luminaries wil be served lunch in the shadow of the statue of King Louis IX, the namesake of St. Louis, with a beautiful view of Art Hill before them.
Lunch will be provided by St. Louis local staples Imo's Pizza ("The Square Beyond Compare"), Salt + Smoke ("BBQ Bourbon Beer"), Steve's Hot Dogs (owned and operated by local rock legend Steve Ewing of The Urge) and local favorites, toasted ravioli and fishbowl beers from Rigazzi's ("On The Hill"). Dessert, the world famous milkshake from Crown Candy, will cap the event.
After some much-needed nap and digestion time, the players will walk from their hotel down Clark Avenue until it becomes Brett Hull Way to The Arena, walking on red carpet provided by the back-from-retirement-for-one-day Becky "Queen Of Carpet".
Along the four-block trek, the players will be able to interact with fans of all ages as they sign autographs and take selfies, all of which will be dutifully documented on SICHL Network and livestreamed on the SICHL app.
Saturday evening will feature the SICHL Skills Competition, including such fan favorites as the Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, Accuracy Shooting and the all-new SICHL Steeplechase Competition, which is an obstacle course to prove which All-Star is the most agile. Unique to this year's competition, five All-Stars will participate in a St. Louis-specific challenge, as they are allowed once in a lifetime access to Shoot For The River. All five players will be harnessed in and allowed to walk on top of the Gateway Arch.
If any of them can put a puck into the Mississippi River, they will be awarded yet another St. Louis icon: a fully functional replica of the world's first monster truck, St. Louis-born Bigfoot.
After the Skills Competition, the players and assorted other SICHL general managers and psedo-famous folk will be free to explore St. Louis on their own, guaranteeing a massive influx of fans hoping to interact with their SICHL heroes. So as to respect their freedom and right to enjoy themselves, no formal functions are planned, although rumors persist that hosting GM Sean Gallagher has reserved space at his favorite local brewery, 4 Hands, so that all of the general managers can hang out and discuss events of the day, reminisce about old times and, most importantly, talk trade.
Excitingly enough, in conjunction with the All-Star Weekend, the SICHL trade deadline ends not at any specific time on the clock, but when the All-Star Game ends, meaning that the deadline is somewhat fluid. Especially if it were to go to shootout. Drama is sure to ensue as the game winds down and SICHL Commissioner Mark MacRae (boo) sits at his official desk in his suite waiting to approve last-second trades. One can only hope to hear the stories of agreeable GMs sprinting down a concourse towards MacRae's (boo) suite as a player tries to end the contest on a overtime breakaway.
It could get real wild, real quick.
"I love it," said Gallagher, "The deadline is almost always wild, but put all these guys together, like we did at The Summit and you have no idea what will happen. This town is so much fun and I'm so proud to get to show it off to these guys that I know they'll all overdo it, just like I will. That opens the doors for things to get silly.
"This weekend is my love letter to my city, but it's also my love letter to this league.
"It's St. Louis, man. Let's get nuts."
As for the game itself, expect fireworks. With referees nearly nonexistant, expect rosters that feature Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin/Taylor Hall, Jamie Benn and Nikita Kucherov and "defensemen" like Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Kristopher Letang, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban and Duncan Keith to put up goals. In fact, some GMs are happy their All-Star quality goalies weren't invited.
"We're going to the playoffs," said one anonymous GM, "The last thing I need is my goalie all rattled because he gave up eight goals to these nightmares. I'm glad he wasn't selected."
Regardless of the final score and regardless of whether anyone actually wins a monster truck, this All-Star Game is a guaranteed good time.
"Between the non-stop coverage by state-run SICHL Network and the amazing opportunities to showcase the very best of our league in the very best places in our city, I know this weekend is going to set a high bar for everyone who follows us," said Gallagher, "This is going to be an amazing time."