With Detroit Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Staal set as captains for the upcoming NHL All-Star game in Raleigh, North Carolina, the question that now arises is how will the teams be chosen, and perhaps more importantly, could the captains possibly still hold grudges for past transgressions?
First time All-Star Patrick Sharp hopes not.
Back in the 2008 Western Conference Finals, the future Hall of Fame blueliner Lidstrom missed a pair of games after being speared in a very sensitive area by the Blackhawks' sniper. Lidstrom was forced to undergo surgery on the "area", however the up-side was that the Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup. Sharp hopes it is all water under the bridge.
"I knew this was going to come up again," Sharp told Michael Landsberg on TSN's 'Off the Record' on Tuesday. "If you can find tape of it, I'd love to see it, because I don't remember doing it. I knew it would come back to haunt me someday."
Sharp may have an ace up his sleeve, however as he comes from the same hometown as Staal in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Sharp said he hopes that the eldest of the Staal clan will remember it come selection time.
"We're from the same hometown and we train together in the off-season," said Sharp. "Well, I train and he sort of just shows up, so I'd like to think that he'd pick me too."
Staal admitted that he had been contacted by Sharp, who appeared to be hedging his bets.
"I had a text from Patrick Sharp saying that he voted for me as captain, so I better pick him."
Staal will face some very difficult decisions, such as will younger brother and first time All-Star Marc be among his early selections?
"That's tough to say," admitted big brother Eric. "If I don't pick him, he may end up being the last pick so I don't know if he wants to have that feeling. We'll see what happens; it's going to be interesting."
As captain of not just the All-Stars but also the host Hurricanes, Staal realizes where his loyalties should lie, specifically in terms of 'Canes keeper Cam Ward, who will be making his All-Star debut in Raleigh.
"No question," said Staal. "I think there would be many fans that wouldn't be happy with me if I didn't select Ward. I may have to talk to Nick beforehand to make sure that I get first crack at the goalies."
Lidstrom himself remained coy in terms of potentially cutting a deal with his rival.
"We'll see what happens," said Lidstrom. "We'll see where the players are going to be drafted and then we have to go from there. But you never know; we might have some cards that we can deal later during the draft."
While neither captain would discuss their strategy going into the draft, Staal's teammate on the Canadian Olympic gold medal-winning team, Corey Perry felt he had a notion towards the two captain's ideology.
"I think Eric might be the run-and-gun kind of team and Nick might have more of the defensive defencemen on the team," said Perry.
Perry's teammate with the Ducks and first time All-Star, Jonas Hiller agreed.
"Probably one team is going to be more defense and the other is going to be offensive," said Hiller. "Tough to say - a young guy and an old guy; it's pretty interesting."
Not surprisingly many defencemen admitted that they hoped to be selected by the six-time Norris Trophy-winning Lidstrom.
"Obviously he's a role model for me," admitted Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Kris Letang, who will be competing in his first Mid-Winter Classic. "I watch him a lot and he's a great example for every defenceman in the league. I wish I could play with him and maybe get a little chemistry going, but obviously it's a draft so we don't know what's going to happen."
That admiration was echoed by All-Star debutant Mike Green.
"His overall presence and what he's brought to the game, I idolize and to be able to play on the same team; you may never get a chance to do it," said the Caps' defenceman. "I just hope I don't go last; that's all I care about."
Being chosen last appears to be a lingering thought in the minds of many of the All-Stars. While most said that they were just happy to be picked, each mentioned the stigma of being the final player selected.
"At the moment I don't really care," said Sharp. "It might be a little nervewracking sitting there feeling like one of the girls on the 'Bachelor' with all the cameras on you waiting to get picked."
One player in particular was confident in his likely draft position.
"I think they'll pick me late in the first round," said three-time All-Star Alex Ovechkin with a smile.
Regardless of who goes where and when, both captains admitted that the new format has helped add a bit of excitement to the game.
"I've been in the league for a long time and to try a new format is going to be fun," said Lidstrom. "It's something we haven't done in the past, so I'm looking forward to the experience and having a chance to draft a team and be a part of something different."