It is 25 years since the Super Skills was introduced to the NHL All-Star Game, and just as the innovation was an immediate hit with the fans over there, it should surprise no-one that the event has survived the Atlantic crossing to become a firmly entrenched tradition of the Russian All-Star weekend.
There is usually at least one moment in the competition which lingers in the memory for at least as long as any of the action from the game itself. Who could forget Mikhail Anisin serenading Riga with his operatic solo? Or Vladimir Tarasenko’s cheeky, string-assisted shootout goal, which is still the most popular clip on the KHL YouTube channel? Or Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Morozov’s figure-skating routine in Chelyabinsk? Or Yegor Milovzorov’s outlandish costume, donned for the shootout in Bratislava and later auctioned to provide a tidy sum to charity? And so, every year, the assembled journalists and fans wonder what will happen next in the Super Skills Competition.
Last season in Bratislava, local hero Milan Bartovic set a new record by completing the circuit in 13.48 seconds, but in Sochi this record was smashed by Torpedo forward Wojtek Wolski, who was timed at 13.178 seconds. Wolski’s exploits won him a year's supply of the energy drink, Adrenaline Rush, and gave Team West a 1:0 lead in the tournament.
Puck Control Relay
This event, which tests the players’ speed, agility, and control of the puck was won by Team East. Ak Bars forward Justin Azevedo did most of the damage, and was rewarded with a year’s supply of potato chips from KHL sponsor, Lay’s, for himself and his team-mates.
It was in this contest that the second record went tumbling. Not only did Atlant defenseman Matt Gilroy hit all four targets, but he achieved it in just 4.78 seconds – which was one attempt fewer and 0.13 seconds faster than Magnitka legend Sergei Mozyakin managed in Riga. 2:1 to Team West.
Sibir D-man Patrik Hersley won this event with a shot measured at 164 km/h (Approx. 102mph), leveling the score at 2:2 and earning him a special prize from telecoms giant, MegaFon - one of the KHL’s general sponsors.
Players, spectators, and within minutes, multitudes of YouTube viewers were left awestruck by Ugra forward Nikita Gusev in this event. Having taken a selfie on the ice with goalie Stanislav Galimov, he proceeded to put away two delightful penalty shots, one of which involved a 360-degree spin and feint which almost sent the stadium the wrong way. The sublime effort even drew praise from Ilya Kovalchuk, who said, “I really liked the way Gusev scored that penalty shot. I’m happy for him; he has a lot of talent.”
The most creative attempt in the shootout, however, was certainly that of Dynamo Moscow defenseman Andrei Mironov, who somehow managed to charge at the goal while sitting in a large shopping cart. His creativity won him a year’s supply of Pepsi, sponsor of the Shootout event.
Fastest Skater Team Relay
The rules for this event are so well-known and traditional that the format is usually left untouched. Two complete teams, each with one goalie, two defensemen and three forwards, set off on a relay with the stick passing as a baton. Victory this year went to the boys from the West, and the margin was comfortable enough for Sergei Plotnikov to romp home on the final lap while doing an impression of a canoeist, with the stick as a paddle.
Fierce Attack vs. Solid Safety
A brand new feature, and one which must have been inspired by a goaltender’s worst nightmare. An entire offensive line is given the task of scoring against the solitary figure between the pipes, who must face four of these 3-on-1 onslaughts with no defensive cover. Alexander Yeryomenko had many difficulties with Team East’s attempts, but West’s irresistible force encountered an immoveable object in the shape of Avtomobilist netminder Jakub Kovar, and the mighty Czech’s heroics won him 10m rubles (over $150,000) of accident insurance, courtesy of Sogaz Group.
Thus, the Western Conference’s finest won by a whisker, 4:3, and celebrated their third consecutive triumph in the KHL All-Star Game Super Skills Competition.
Sponsors and Partners of KHL All-Star Game 2015
SOGAZ - General Partner
MegaFon - General Sponsor
Chevrolet - Official Sponsor
Pepsi - Official Partner