Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mitch Marner, William Nylander enjoying every second of special NHL All-Star Game experience
By Steven Ellis18 days ago
TORONTO, Ont. – It was all smiles in the makeshift media centre at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto Thursday evening.
Mitch Marner and William Nylander were among the four local representatives for the 2024 NHL All-Star Game, joining Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly on home ice. It’s always special to represent your team at a major event like this, but it feels even more important when you get to do it on home ice.
With Matthews and Rielly helping to co-captain a team with mega Maple Leafs supporter Justin Bieber, it only made sense to see Marner and Nylander taken back-to-back to make the Blue all-star team the instant fan favorite.
This was Marner’s third time taking part, while it was Nylander’s first. Both were voted into the game after Matthews earned the team’s automatic entry – and there’s no way they wouldn’t have been. After all the ups and downs the past few weeks – and, fortunately, with more highs in recent outings – it felt special to be named to a major event on home ice.
“The only all-star games I’ve been to weren’t here,” Marner said. “Flying home from sitting on my couch, I said to my wife, ‘This doesn’t feel like an All-Star Game is happening’. Then you drive 25 minutes down the Gardiner and see everything going on… it’s very cool.”
This is Nylander’s first time participating – and it only feels right given his career-best season and his new contract. It’s been a rocky few weeks for No. 88 since inking the deal, but the chance to steal the spotlight on home ice is alluring to the Swedish wing.
“For me, it’s my first one, so it feels very special having the first one be at home,” Nylander added. “I’ve got lots of family here and it’s going to be a fun time.”
The all-star draft was… awkward, to say the least. But like clockwork, the crowd exploded with excitement the minute the Toronto boys took the other Toronto boys.
It’s all in good fun, but as Marner said, the all-star festivities are extra special because of the deeper representation – especially with Rielly and Nylander playing for the first time.
“All the years we’ve been here together, I think you can take a handful of us – we’ve all had amazing years, and credit to everyone for helping each other out. That’s what’s great about our team – nobody really takes solo credit for what their success is,” Marner said.
“I think it’s really cool to have both of them here because they’ve deserved it for a couple of years, and it hasn’t happened. And for both of them to be here and finally experience it, it’s really cool.”
Would it have been cool to see the players split up? Absolutely. But at least you don’t have to pick your favorite child, right? The band’s together, they’re not worrying about the playoffs, and they have a chance to win something – for once.
Oh, and Rielly’s the only defenseman on this team. Prepare for the chaos.
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