TORONTO — For all the teams and all the players that Peter Laviolette has coached over his 22 years in the NHL, his squad for the 2024 All-Star game was largely made up of skaters he had never coached before.
“It was [cool], just being on with different players completely was good,” the Rangers head coach said after his team lost to his current players, Vincent Trocheck and Igor Shesterkin, as well as the rest of Team Auston Matthews in the final contest by a score of 7-4 on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena.
“I thought the mix was good. It mixes it up with the players, too. I think it keeps it fresh. Guys you typically don’t see that much of, you might be on the same team, you might be on the same line.”
Aside from Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who Laviolette worked with a little bit at USA Hockey, the rest of the 59-year-old’s team featured a star-studded cast of players he’s never coached.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid headlined Laviolette’s team, while the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, the Bruins’ David Pastrnak, the Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin, the Blues’ Robert Thomas, the Panthers’ Sam Reinhart and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets’ Boone Jenner, the Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki and the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl rounded out the roster.
The celebrity captain for Laviolette and Team McDavid was Canadian actor and comedian Will Arnett.
“Really good, really easy guy to talk to,” Laviolette said of Arnett, whose on-ice career is traced back to his role of Stranz Van Waldenberg in the movie “Blades of Glory.” “He gave us a speech for the first game that was right up there with some of the best. Real positive guy. Hockey fan.
“You mentioned the players and mixing the divisions and drafting and not being with players that you might not typically be with or see a lot, it’s great for a guy like him to come in. Huge fan of the game, loves the game.”
Canadian singer Justin Bieber served as the celebrity captain for Team Matthews and actually took warm-ups ahead of the three mini All-Star games.
Afterward, the 29-year-old superstar was seen taking photos with his favorite Toronto players and buddies on the ice. Bieber looked like he was living out a childhood dream.
“He’s just such a cool, nice, normal guy,” Vincent Trocheck said of Bieber. “He was having a blast, too, which was really cool.”
Trocheck’s son, Leo, was also a star of the weekend for the Rangers.
“He met all the guys,” said Trocheck, who had two assists throughout the All-Star game tournament. “He met Wayne Gretzky, Justin Bieber, Sidney Crosby. He ran up to Sidney Crosby in the lobby of the hotel [on Friday] and asked if he could take a picture with him. These kinds of things, I think he gets it a little bit, that it’s really cool.
“But it’s something that I think whenever he’s older he’s going to look back on it and think that it was the coolest thing.”
Bruins forward David Pastrnak addressed the fact that four Maple Leafs players won the All-Star Game.
“Good for them,” he said with a smile. “They needed some wins. They got one.”