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'That blond is unbelievable'

NHL all-stars loosen up at draft

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GATINEAU, Que. -- From the Book of Matthew: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." If that's the case, look for Logan Couture to have a whale of a game Sunday afternoon at the NHL's 2012 All-Star Game.

Couture was taken last in the All-Star Game Fantasy Draft and while there might be a mild tinge of embarrassment attached to this, the fact Couture has 21 goals and 15 assists through 47 games with the hot-running San Jose Sharks removes any doubt he's one of hockey's best players.

"Who went last? Missed the end of that draft," tweeted Couture, moments after his selection.

In fact, Couture's Twitter timeline was telling as the draft moved on.

"Is it just me or is it getting hotter back here after every pick?" he asked. Couture then offered his opinion of the Honda Crosstour he won for being last.

"First order of business, pimping that Honda out."

The all-star draft has become the watercooler event of the league's mostly irrelevant mid-season gathering with its mix of schoolyard cruelty and prop bet possibilities.

Who will go last? Who will go first? It's a made-for-TV gambling event replete with sweat and trash talk.

"You can't take it personally. I'm a young guy and it's my first time here," said Couture. "Jumbo (Sharks captain Joe Thornton) has been texting me already and our trainer wants my car. It's all fun."

The NHL and TSN delivered the program to the viewers at home, with host James Duthie smoothly running the show and the players -- wired for sound -- only too happy to gab with one another in front of the hockey world.

"That blond is unbelievable," whispered Blackhawks sniper Patrick Kane to Florida Panthers defenceman Brian Campbell as they looked out at the audience from their position on the stage. Whispering, of course, didn't matter as his comment was broadcast around the world.

In an odd twist of schadenfreude, the most hotly anticipated moment of a weekend that collects the world's greatest hockey players centres around which all-star will be picked last in the pre-game draft.

Both captains made their selections and while there was interest in the way they formed their teams, really it was hockey's version of The Bachelor -- "Will you accept this hockey stick?" that held the most intrigue.

"I don't know, I've never been picked last," joked Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who along with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was chosen to head up a team for the game. "I think everybody has been in that situation, even if it is in gym class and some kid's not good at sports. It's kind of embarrassing. But the other 700 players in NHL, they'd love to be the last player taken."

Alfredsson and his alternate captain Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers had crib sheets and a well-planned strategy. For Chara and his lieutenant Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs it was more about instinct. "

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson made it clear he wouldn't take it well if his teammate Alfredsson didn't select him.

"I would be pissed," chided Karlsson, who lived with Alfredsson in Ottawa as a rookie.

Turns out Alfie came to the draft with marching orders.

"My kids told me to draft him. He is a pretty good babysitter," zinged Alfredsson.

The other sidebar of the night was Bruins goalie Tim Thomas being placed in front of hockey's media horde for the first time since snubbing U.S. President Barack Obama and skipping out on the Bruins visit to the White House earlier this week.

Chara selected his Bruins teammate with his second pick in the draft despite a verbal slip-up earlier with the media.

"I'm not selecting all right-wingers," said Chara, which prompted the question from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail: "Does that mean you won't be selecting Tim Thomas?"

"No comment," flatlined Thomas, when the grilling began post-draft.

Good times in the nation's capital. Now if only the rest of the weekend could be this much fun.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

more all-star coverage c2



Captain: Zdeno Chara, D, Boston.

Alternate Captain: Joffrey Lupul, F, Toronto.

Draft: 1. Pavel Datsyuk, F, Detroit; 2. Tim Thomas, G, Boston; 3. Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh; 4. Marian Hossa, F, Chicago; 5. Kimmo Timonen, D, Philadelphia; 6. Corey Perry, F, Anaheim; 7. Carey Price, G, Montreal; 8. Phil Kessel, F, Toronto; 9. Ryan Suter, D, Nashville; 10. Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit. 11. Brian Campbell, D, Florida; 12. Patrick Kane, F, Chicago; 13. Dion Phaneuf, D, Toronto; 14. Jarome Iginla, F, Calgary; 15. Dennis Wideman, D, Washington; 16. Marian Gaborik, F, New York Rangers; 17. Jordan Eberle, F, Edmonton; 18. Tyler Seguin, F, Boston; 19. Jamie Benn, F, Dallas.




Captain: Daniel Alfredsson, F, Ottawa.

Alternate Captain: Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers.

Draft: 1. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa; 2. Jason Spezza, F, Ottawa; 3. Claude Giroux, F, Philadelphia; 4. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles; 5. Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh; 6. Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay; 7. Brian Elliott, G, St. Louis; 8. Shea Weber, D, Nashville; 9. Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver; 10. Dan Girardi, D, New York Rangers. 11. Keith Yandle, D, Phoenix; 12. Milan Michalek, F, Ottawa; 13. Henrik Sedin, F, Vancouver; 14. James Neal, F, Pittsburgh; 15. Alex Edler, D, Vancouver; 16. John Tavares, F, New York Islanders; 17. Scott Hartnell, F, Philadelphia; 18. Jason Pominville, F, Buffalo; 19. x-Logan Couture, F, San Jose.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2012 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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