Great moments in NHL All-Star history

The NHL All-Star game has seen many twists and turns over its many formats through the years, and we run down some of the most memorable moments.
The Campbell Conference team, led by Edmonton superstar Wayne Gretzky, scored six times in the third period of the 1983 All-Star game. (Ray Stubblebine/Getty Images)

The NHL All-Star Game has undergone many transformations since the first official matchup 72 years ago.

It had its origins in several unofficial all-star games organized in the 1930s to raise money for the families of Ace Bailey, who suffered a career-ending injury, and later Howie Morenz and Albert (Babe) Siebert, who met untimely deaths.

Seeking a celebratory showcase following the Second World War, the NHL revived the all-star format to kick off the 1947 season, with the defending Stanley Cup champion taking on the best players from the remaining Original Six rosters.

The all-stars prevailed over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first such matchup.

When the NHL expanded to 12 teams in the late 1960s, the format soon changed to East versus West, and then Campbell against Wales. In recent years, the game would take on a more international flavour and be complemented by another day's worth of activities and skills.

Here are some of the greatest moments/games from all-star history:

The gloves are off

The league tries a new format in 1951 — the first against second-team all-stars — and the game ends in a 2-2 tie, a first. But what makes this game at Maple Leaf Gardens remarkable are a pair of fights — Detroit's Gordie Howe squares off with Maurice Richard, while his Red Wing teammate Ted Lindsay tangles with Toronto's Teeder Kennedy. Howe's highs

Gordie Howe played in 23 all-star games during his Hall-of-Fame career. Gordie Howe played in 23 all-star games during his Hall-of-Fame career. (Assoicated Press) Gordie Howe scores the winning goal and adds another as the all-stars beat Montreal 5-2 at the Forum. The Red Wing, who was tied with Maurice Richard for the career all-star goal record heading into the game, has nine to go with 16 points — also the most ever at the time.

All-stars fire blanks

News accounts of the January 1967 all-star game describe it as a less-than-thrilling game, but it is historic for two reasons. For the first time the game is played midway through the season — and more noteworthy, the first and only shutout occurs. Montreal's Charlie Hodge and Gary Bauman combine to make 35 saves as the Habs top the rest of the league's best 3-0. John Ferguson scores two goals for Montreal.

Buffalo blues

The years 1976 to 1978 feature some terrific battles between the Wales and Campbell sides, the last of which is marked by the first overtime contest and an MVP controversy.

Buffalo's Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin delight the home fans in a 3-2 Wales win over Campbell. Martin, who scored two goals to earn MVP honours the year before, is at it again, tying the game for Wales with less than two minutes left. Perreault is credited with the overtime goal (though it may have hit Phil Esposito).

The MVP award, however, goes to Campbell goalie Billy Smith, who stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first half of the game. The fans boo the choice heartily, but the magnanimous Perreault later says the New York Islanders goalie deserved the honour.

And Howe

The final score was 6-3 for Wales, but this was all about celebrating 51-year-old Gordie Howe's contribution to the game. Back in the NHL after the WHA disbands, Howe returns to Detroit as a Hartford Whaler to play in his 23rd and final all-star game. The last player introduced, Howe is honoured with an ovation several minutes in length.

Only two of the other players in the game in Detroit had been born when Howe played in his first all-star game. Not content to be just a sentimental figure, Howe contributes an assist to his team's cause to finish with 19 all-star points in his career. Car-jacking

A late replacement in the 1983 game for Vancouver teammate Richard Brodeur, goalie John Garrett sees his almost-certain MVP nod, with its accompanying car, taken away by Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky scores four goals in the third period of a 9-3 Campbell rout, breaking Ted Lindsay's decades-old three-goal mark.

Garrett supporters point out that Gretzky's last three goals come when the Campbell team already has victory well in hand.

"I think John was up to the glove compartment, a horn and two tires when Mr. Gretzky took over," said Lanny McDonald of the Calgary Flames.

The Magnificent One

Mario Lemieux wins his second MVP by the age of only 22 with a tour de force performance in St. Louis in 1988. Lemieux gets points on all his team's goals and scores the overtime winner in a 6-5 Wales victory.

Lemieux's six points (three goals, three assists) and the five assists from Montreal's Mats Naslund are records that still stand.

Nolan's right

In an era where regular season games are increasingly being bottled up, the all-star games of the 1990s often feature double-digit scores. In 1997, the teams combine for a record 10 goals in the second period.

The East wins 11-7, but San Jose's Owen Nolan steals the show in front of the home's fans by making like Babe Ruth and points to the location of his shot, the top right corner, against the league's best goalie, Buffalo's Dominik Hasek.

Hasek was less than pleased with the result, which was also Nolan's third goal of the game.

Top of the world

With the international hockey field more competitive, and the all-star format a bit tired, the league pits North American players against the best of the rest of the world in 1998.

Igor Larionov and Teemu Selanne were among the members of the first World team at the 1998 All-Star game in Vancouver. Selanne took MVP honours. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

The gambit works in restoring some intrigue to the game, and because of the new format, a European player wins MVP honours for the first time. Teemu Selanne of Anaheim scores three goals, though his World side would fall 8-7 to North America.

Shoot it out

A precursor to the excitement that was to come for NHL fans: the first all-star shootout.

Atlanta's Dany Heatley scores four goals in regulation in the 2003 game in Florida, tying an all-star record, but is the only Eastern Conference player to score in the shootout, with the Western team prevailing.

"It's something they maybe should think about," Heatley said of the new wrinkle, and two years later the league and players take heed.

Swan song

Montreal's Bell Centre plays host to the game for the first time ever in 2009, and a popular Canadiens forward takes centre stage. Alex Kovalev serves as captain and proceeds to score twice and assist on another goal in the first three periods. He then beats Roberto Luongo in the shootout to help secure an East win over the West.

"To be voted an all-star by the fans,… to be in the starting lineup, then named captain, then win the MVP, you can't ask for more than this. This is going to be something to remember for the rest of my life," Kovalev told Hockey Night in Canada.

Kovalev would scored just a dozen more times in a Habs jersey. Much to the chagrin of some team loyalists, who held a rally on his behalf, the Canadiens elected not to re-sign the Russian after the season.

Ha ha

Looking to freshen things up, NHL official Brendan Shanahan is credited with a format that sees two captains pick their teammates just like kids in the neighbourhood playing shinny.

Over 40 players are called before Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is the lone player left, with the gaze of fans, players and television cameras upon him.

Kessel tries to shrug it off while Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin snaps a pic of the last man sitting.

From that moment through to Jan. 4, 2012, Kessel has scored 35 goals in 67 regular season games, with Ovechkin scoring 30 times in 66 regular season contests.