The National Hockey League's all-star game has come full circle. In 1947, Toronto hosted the first all-star event at Maple Leaf Gardens. On Sunday, hockey's fastest skates will gather at Toronto's Air Canada Centre for the 50th NHL All-Star Game, the annual matchup that pits North American players against the rest of the world. Analyst John Davidson says there's no better place to showcase hockey than Toronto. "[It's] one of the real hotbeds for hockey. The people breathe the sport."
Q: If the first all-star game was played in 1947, shouldn't it be called the 53rd All-Star Game?
A: No, because a few times the game was replaced with another event. In 1979, it was the Challenge Cup (NHL All-Stars vs. the Soviet Union); in 1987, it was Rendez-Vous, a two-game series matching the Soviet Union and the all-stars; and in 1995, the all-star game was cancelled because of a labor dispute.
Q: How has the all-star game changed since 1947?
A: The 1947 game was played before the start of the season. It matched the defending Stanley Cup Champions from the previous year against a squad of league all-stars from other teams. In 1966, the game was moved to midseason. The format changed to conference vs. conference in 1969. And a few years ago, it changed to the current the world vs. North America format.
Q: What are some story lines that have emerged for this year's game?
*Pittsburgh Penguins' right wing Jaromir Jagr is the first player to receive more than 1 million votes from fans. But Jagr, the NHL scoring leader, said he might sit out because of a banged-up thumb and rib injury.
*Boston Bruins' defenseman Ray Bourque will be making his 18th consecutive all-star appearance as a reserve, tying Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky for the longest streak.
*Brothers Pavel Bure of Florida and Valeri Bure of Calgary will become the first brothers to appear as teammates in the all-star game since 1983.
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