CHICAGO, JAN. 19 -- Mike Milbury, who coaches the Boston Bruins for a living and today directed the Wales Conference for fun, talked about trying something different in this 42nd NHL All-Star Game: defense.
It didn't work.
The scoreboard nearly overheated, with Toronto's Vincent Damphousse providing the juice, as the Campbell Conference beat the Wales Conference, 11-5, today in front of 18,472 at Chicago Stadium.
"Video meeting at 4:30 and practice with no pucks after that," Milbury said jokingly of the punishment he planned for his team of stars. "All I asked for was a little back-checking, but they forgot which end they were going to."
This is a game designed to show off the skills of the league's most talented players. There is a whole 80-game season to clutch and grab. Today, there were only two penalties -- on an embarrassed Phil Housley of Winnipeg -- and only a few checks, none of which was a thumper.
The 16 goals are the second-highest total in all-star game history, behind the 19 scored last season in Pittsburgh.
This also was a day to see young stars sparkle.
Toronto may be horrible as a team (tied for last overall), but Damphousse showed he is not without talent. He scored four goals -- only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux have as many in one all-star game -- to take home the most valuable player award and the convertible that goes with it.
St. Louis's Adam Oates was here only because Brett Hull -- the league's leading goal scorer and the top vote getter in fan balloting -- aggravated an ankle injury Thursday. But Oates shook off some early nerves to score a goal and collect four assists.
"It was great just to play in a game with Wayne Gretzky, sitting just a few seats away from him," said Oates, who has helped Hull score 46 goals in 47 games.
For his part, Gretzky had one goal for the winners. The league leader in points, Gretzky's goal moved him ahead of Gordie Howe on the all-star goal-scoring list with 11, and he has now scored in eight of his last nine all-star games.
Gretzky suggested earlier in the week that, with war raging in the Middle East -- one of his cousins is a Marine pilot -- the game should have been canceled or postponed.
"I wasn't upset about it," Gretzky said of the league deciding to play. "I just made a statement. But it was fun to play and people in Chicago enjoyed themselves."
They always do. There is talk of tearing down this building and erecting something modern. If it happens, it will be difficult to match the energy that fans generate here.
"We got a nice hand," said Chicago's Steve Larmer of himself and teammates Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick. "It's like having 18,000 of your closest friends."
The United States has fought a world war and several wars that were euphemistically called conflicts since this arena went up in 1929. With the current hostilities in mind, some American flags were waved today, and the applause that always accompanies and often drowns out the national anthem was especially loud. Referring to Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, one banner read: "And Saddam thought the B-52s were loud."
Two other unpopular people were Muckler and Edmonton goalie Bill Ranford. Muckler added Ranford to the team instead of Chicago's Ed Belfour, who leads the league in wins and goals-against average. They booed Ranford when he was introduced and jeered him when the Wales Conference scored.
"I thought Eddie Ranford did a pretty good job," Muckler joked.
"They booed me for three or four games for 60 minutes a game during the playoffs, so 30 minutes wasn't bad," Ranford said.
The Islanders' Pat LaFontaine had two goals for the Wales team, the second coming on a rebound of a shot by Washington's Kevin Hatcher. LaFontaine said he was dedicating the game to a young Islanders fan who was in the hospital, and added, "We were just out there playing hockey, but there are more serious things going on in the world."
The first period was relatively sane, ending in a 2-1 lead for the Campbell Conference, with Minnesota's Dave Gagner and Damphousse scoring around LaFontaine's first goal.
LaFontaine got his second goal for 2-2 to start the second period, but then it was the Campbell squad that unloaded. Calgary's Gary Suter, Gretzky, Oates and Calgary's Theo Fleury scored consecutively to give the Campbell team a 6-2 lead that set the tone for the period and the outcome.
"I felt like a batting-practice pitcher -- throw it up there and let them crank it out," said Boston goalie Andy Moog, who replaced Wales starter Patrick Roy of Montreal halfway through.
"I tried to do it with role players, but, unfortunately, the role was to be on the injured list," said Milbury in referring to the injured Chris Nilan of Boston and Brian Skrudland of Montreal. "This year, their guns were louder than ours."