Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to February 9, 1988, the most recent time the St. Louis Blues played host to the NHL All-Star Game.
With the St. Louis Blues playing host to the NHL All-Star Game for the third time in franchise history this weekend, we wanted to take a quick look back to the most recent time they hosted it during the 1987-88 season.
It ended up being a 6-5 overtime win for the Wales Conference, a game that was highlighted by six points — including a hat trick and the game-winning goal — for Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux.
Let’s dig into it.
The format and the uniforms
The 1987-88 season marked the return of the traditional NHL All-Star game after the league took a break during the 1986-87 season for Rendez-Vous ’87, a two-game series in Quebec that saw the NHL All-Stars play against the Soviet Union team (they split the series with the Soviets winning 8-7 on aggregate).
For 1988, it was back to the Wales Conference vs. the Campbell Conference, as it had been for the previous 11 All-Star Games.
This was also two years before the NHL’s very first All-Star skills competition, which would not be introduced until the 1990 game in Pittsburgh.
So let’s talk about the uniforms because — well — these left something to be desired. The NHL made a minor change to them by replacing the “Wales” and “Campbell” diagonal script across the front with the NHL logo. To call them bland would be an understatement. Here we see Dave Poulin, Ron Hextall, and Kjell Samuelsson modeling them before the game, sharing the exact amount of excitement these uniforms deserve.
Look at Hextall’s pads!
The beginning of the end of the Oilers’ dynasty
The Edmonton Oilers were on their way to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years and understandably had the largest presence at the game.
Glen Sather served as coach, while the Oilers had a league-high six players in the game: Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, and Grant Fuhr.
Gretzky, Kurri, Lowe, and Fuhr were starters.
But while the Oilers were still at the top of the NHL, their dynasty was starting to develop some cracks.
Defenseman Paul Coffey had been traded to Pittsburgh just a few months earlier (he started for the Wales Conference), while Gretzky would be traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the end of this season. The Oilers would still win another Stanley Cup in 1990 and play in a couple of of Campbell Conference Finals, but this season was one of the last times they were truly at the height of their power as an NHL dynasty.
Twenty-three future Hall of Famers on the ice
Every All-Star is a collection of amazing talent, and this one had a ton of the game’s all-time giants, including 23 future Hall of Famers.
Al MacInnis, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Dale Hawerchuk, Mark Messier, Denis Savard, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Paul Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Denis Potvin, Michael Goulet, Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Cam Neely, Mike Gartner, Pat LaFontaine, Larry Robinson, Peter Stastny, and Patrick Roy.
Mario Lemieux truly begins to breakout, dominates game
This was Lemieux’s fourth season in the NHL and it was already clear that there was something special about him.
He had already won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, won the Lester B. Pearson award in 1986, had played in two other All-Star Games, and had two top-four finishes in Hart Trophy voting. He was great. But at this point his team still stunk (trading for Coffey helped turn that around) and he was still mostly playing in Gretzky’s shadow.
But the 1987-88 season was when that all started to change.
Lemieux would go on to lead the league in goals and total points for the first time in his career, while also winning his first MVP award even though the Penguins missed the playoffs (no player on a non-playoff team has won it since).
He also completely took of the All-Star game with what was then a record-setting six points (factoring into every goal his team scored!), including a hat trick and the game-winning goal in overtime.
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