Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night
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By TIM REYNOLDS
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) When you've got the second-most goals in NHL history, you're evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.
That's why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there Friday night.
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates - and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.
Sergei, named for Ovechkin's late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad's 800th goal.
It was Ovi Jr.'s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn't participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn't been born.
Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky's 894 in NHL history.
And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored - beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.
Said Ovechkin after his son scored: "I think he's really enjoying it."
WELCOME HOME, LU
Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.
In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs - he's the only former Panthers player to have that distinction - Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.
He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto's Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs' leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a "Miami Vice" theme.
Luongo, who was regaled by "Luuuuu" chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save - then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.
"You got too close," Luongo told Marner.
Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that "this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home."
Luongo's pads paid tribute to his career - the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I'd never put the pads on since I retired," Luongo said. "First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good."
He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there's more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.
"It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants," Luongo said. "Maybe one day we'll hear them again."
Sergei Ovechkin - who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events - wasn't the only child who got a great view of the night.
Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau's father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes' brother.
Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.
Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was performed by the South Florida Gay Men's Chorus, and group crushed it - never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.
Florida fans shout along with "red" and "Knight," one a nod to one of the team's primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing "home of the Blues" instead of "home of the brave" to close the song.
And "O Canada" performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the "true North" portion of those lyrics - something typically heard at Winnipeg games.
Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event - the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. ... Tampa Bay's Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was "freezing" by working at ice level. "I'm used to the gear," said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. ... A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena - and basically all other hockey arenas - was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren't the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.
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Updated February 3, 2023