NHL All-Star Weekend offers a relaxed atmosphere for players, as they hang with friends and family while taking a break from the 82-game regular-season grind. Which is a perfect opportunity to get some candid answers to an array of questions.
Here are around a dozen All-Stars giving us their takes on an NHL team in Salt Lake City, how they’d change overtime rules, their most coveted pieces of sports memorabilia and how superstitious they are (or are not) and much more.
How would you change NHL overtime rules?
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars: I would do a 10-minute overtime. Still 3-on-3. Try that out for a bit. And then if that doesn’t work, because everyone likes to keep possession, maybe you do a no over-and-back rule.
Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: I like it how it is. But if there’s a penalty, I’d like to see us go 3-on-2 [on the power play] instead of 4-on-3. It think it should be easier to score I guess. You can tee it up from up close.
Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks: I think the red line should be a blue line. I think they should take both blue lines out and have the red line act as a blue line. It would open the zone more. When you see guys taking it back, it’s all about possession. So take the blue lines out and have the red line be the blue line for both sides.
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils: There have been so many thoughts about it lately, from the shot clock to the NBA offside rule. But our team has been doing pretty well in the overtimes this year so I think we should stick with whatever works. [Laughs.]
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Maybe once you get over the blue line, changing the blue line to the red line. So, the red line is now the offensive zone. Because it’s very possession-based right now, right? You see teams just circle back, circle back; I don’t know. I think the o-zone sometimes when you’re man-on-man can get a little bit stagnant. I think if you open it up, it’ll allow guys to create a lot more speed and might change things up a little bit.
Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers: Not just an OT [thing], but sometimes [a rule] doesn’t fit the crime. Like, sometimes you could get tapped in the face and you could be bleeding and [the other guy] gets a four-minute penalty. But sometimes, you could get smoked in the face and you’re not bleeding and they get only two minutes. I don’t have an answer of how to change it. But certainly it’s something I’ve thought about that doesn’t always seem to fit the situation.
What do you think of Salt Lake City as an NHL city?
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins: I’d love it. I got to visit Salt Lake City a couple of summers ago. They’ve got some pretty great mountains there, so I know I’ll enjoy that trip. Any city that’s willing to put an NHL rink there, I’m in love with.
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets: From what I’ve heard, that’s a great city. I’ve never been out there but whenever you get talks like that [around expansion], it’s exciting and we’ll see what happens with it.
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets: It’d be really cool. I think it’d be an awesome market. The Jazz do really well there and they’ve got the Winter Olympics coming there [in 2034]. You don’t have too many [pro] teams out west and a lot of those teams are growing though. I think it’d be a great market, great winter activity to do for fans as well. I think as players it’d be a great opportunity. If you look at the success of Seattle and Vegas, the template is there and they’ve had success right away.
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres: That would be great news. It’s really good to expand the league, get more fans involved, get more kids playing and growing the sport in Utah and places like that. It’s a good thing that we expand hockey as much as possible.
Hertl: We played there this year for one of our preseason games. I think it was a cool spot and the fans when we played were great. So I think it would be a good opportunity for expansion or whatever team, but I think it’s a good city.
Oettinger: I’d be great. I don’t know much about it. But I did watch “The Last Dance” Michael Jordan documentary when he played against the Jazz and it seemed like a great sports town.
Bratt: I’ve heard it’s a really cool place. Obviously adding another team would be great for the league and for the fans.
Draisaitl: I think it would be great. Anytime a new team comes into the league it’s exciting. Everyone would love it. Great spot.
Barzal: I think it’d be cool. Never been out there, but I think it’d be great. It’d be cool to have a new city like that. I’d be excited about it.
Vatrano: Never been there, but my cousins played there in the ECHL, and they loved it. So it sounds exciting.
Reinhart: I’ve never been but I’ve only heard some of the best things. If the NHL could expand there, I think it would be pretty exciting.
Tkachuk: I don’t know too much about it, but my dad still talks about the 2002 Olympics and that silver medal. Funny story: I got to take that medal to show-and-tell in second grade, so that was pretty cool.
Any thoughts on Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari?
Hertl: I love F1. I just found out about this while I was leaving and I was really surprised. I’m a Red Bull guy because I have some things going on with Red Bull. But it’s interesting. I can imagine seeing Hamilton in the red because he’s a merciless guy.
Bratt: That was a little bit of a shock. Mercedes is probably thinking about having to move on and start something fresh. And George Russell is there and doing really good. So it’s an interesting move, but it’s going to be good seeing him with Ferarri.
Reinhart: I became a fan from “Drive To Survive” from a couple of years ago. It’s made it pretty easy to follow and get coverage in America. But Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari? It’s lookin’ weird already. [Laughs.]
If you could have any piece or hockey or sports memorabilia, what would it be? Or do you own something unique?
Bratt: When I was like 6 or 7 years old, I got a signed stick from Peter Forsberg. It said “good luck with hockey” or “work hard” or something like that. I had it in my room growing up. It’s still in my parents’ house. I would look at it when I woke up in the morning because it was a cool piece of advice. I appreciated that signed stick. I saw him a couple of years ago but didn’t really have a chance to tell him what it meant to me, so hopefully I can tell him one day.
Oettinger: For my whole career, I’ve been dying to get a Henrik Lundqvist signed stick and I just got one two weeks ago. It’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten in my life. My guy at Bauer hooked me up. He had a case that he gave me. I thought it was going to be an All-Star stick. He’s like “open it up” and I open it up and it was one of his used sticks, signed. One of the coolest things I’ll ever own.
Keller: Michael Jordan’s shoes from his last game in the NBA.
Vatrano: A Sidney Crosby stick. I hope I can get one this weekend. I don’t like asking guys, putting them on the spot. It’s not in me to ask people for things. Maybe our media [relations] person can ask for me.
Hertl: I got a Cristiano Ronaldo jersey signed. That’s probably the best thing I’ll ever get. He’s one of my favorite athletes. My brother got it for me. It’s a really cool thing.
Reinhart: I’ve got a couple of signed Barcelona things. I’ve got an Andrés Iniesta signed photo that was personalized. I have a few signed Messi things. All pretty cool being a big soccer fan.
Connor: I’m a big Detroit Lions fan, so maybe like a Calvin Johnson jersey from back in the day; he was my guy. Or Barry Sanders. That would be pretty cool. I’d take something from Tiger Woods too, I’m a huge golf fan. You can’t go wrong.
Swayman: A Stanley Cup would be nice.
On a scale of 1-to-10, how superstitious are you as an athlete?
Oettinger: I’m going to go like 4 or 5. You can ask my teammates or my fiancé or my friends. Nothing too crazy. I just try to go out there and have fun.
Keller: I shouldn’t call it superstition. “Routine,” I would call it. And I’d say I’m about a 7. I like to wear the same socks if we win or if I played well. [Q: “So if you were on an Oilers streak, that’d be kinda gross?”] Yeah I’d probably have to wash them at some point.
Draisaitl: I’m an 8 to 9. Pretty superstitious. A lot of things I do that are exactly the same. Like, I always leave my house at the same time for games. Stuff like that.
Vatrano: I don’t like to use the word superstitious. More like “routine.” So I’d say a 5. Like, I have to put everything on my left side on first. My stick can’t touch the ground after I tape it. But, you know, other than that … but I’m not crazy. If my stick touches the ground, I’m not going to go re-tape it. I’m a 5. I’m right in the middle. Anything over 5 is crazy.
Bratt: I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious. I just have some routines. If I don’t do them it’s not like I’m breaking down because of it. I can change a routine, but a superstition is something that you can’t live without. So when the routines kick in, I’d say around an 8 or a 9. But superstitious I’m only around a 4.
Hertl: I’m a 5. Right in the middle. I don’t know if it’s superstition. It might be more like routines. But I do them all the time so maybe it is superstition. I don’t know. It’s probably both a routine and a superstition.
Barzal: Honestly, I’ll occasionally get superstitious. Like, it’s not an everyday thing; it’s more like if something random occurs one day, and I have a good game that night, maybe I’ll try to recreate that random moment that I had. I don’t know what it would be. But maybe somebody called me that hasn’t called me in a while. Maybe I will call him again the next game day.
Jenner: I’d be, like, an 8 or a 9. Probably it used to be at 9½. Got it down to an 8 now. It was just getting to be too much. We were getting too close to a 10.
Tkachuk: I’m a 1. I trust in my abilities.
Swayman: I’m like a negative-2. Although maybe that’s why I’m superstitious — because I’m not superstitious.