SAN JOSE, Calif. — Connor McDavid won the fastest skater competition once again but Kendall Coyne Schofield won over the crowd.
The U.S. women’s hockey star became the first woman ever to compete in the NHL All-Star skills competition on Friday night, racing around the rink in a time competitive with the top skaters in the men’s game in a barrier-breaking moment for women’s hockey.
“The crowd was electrifying,” Coyne Schofield said.
“To hear the USA chants, everyone erupted when I started. Definitely gave me some momentum and the adrenaline was pumping.”
Coyne Schofield was the first skater to take the ice and finished her lap in 14.346 seconds, impressing the NHL’s biggest stars with her speed.
“When she took off, I was like, ‘Wow!’” McDavid said after winning his third fastest skater competition. “I thought she might have won the way she was moving. She was a really good skater and that was an amazing thing for the game to see her participate like that in an event like this.”
The 26-year-old Coyne Schofield plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League and won an Olympic gold medal for the United States last February.
She found out earlier Friday that she’d get the chance when Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon pulled out with an injury and then took full advantage of the opportunity. She had been previously invited to All-Star weekend with other women’s players from the U.S. and Canadian teams but now she had the chance to perform on the big stage.
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“My first impression was, I can do this,” she said. “My speed is definitely my strength. Obviously, I was a little nervous. I knew it was a moment that could break a lot of barriers and a moment that would change the perception of our game and show support to our game.”
She finished seventh out of eight skaters, beating Arizona forward Clayton Keller’s time of 14.526 seconds.
“She beat me so she’s doing something right,” Keller said.
“She’s really fast. I was surprised. It was great to see that. It was a great experience for the NHL to have her do that event. It was really cool.”
McDavid skated last and finished his lap in 13.378 seconds, edging Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (13.582) and the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal (13.780).
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The other winners in the NHL All-Star skills competition Friday night were Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau in the puck control contest, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist in the save streak competition, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl in the premier passer contest, Washington’s John Carlson in the hardest shot, and Boston’s David Pastrnak for accurate shooting.
Gaudreau narrowly beat out Chicago’s Patrick Kane in the puck control contest as the two were among the only contestants who made it through the course without a mishap. Gaudreau finished the course in 27.045 seconds, beating out Kane’s time of 28.611 to repeat his title from a year ago.
Lundqvist stopped 12 breakaways in a row to win the save streak competition. Lundqvist threw his arms up in celebration after stopping John Tavares for his ninth save in a row, topping Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for the top spot.
Draisaitl completed the passing contest in 1:09.088, beating out Carolina’s Sebastian Aho.
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Carlson beat out local fan favourite Brent Burns for the hardest shot, recording the fastest two times at 102.8 mph (165.4 km/h) and 100.8 mph (162.2 km/h). Burns missed the net on his first attempt and had the next fastest time on his second try at 100.6 mph (161.9 km/h). Carlson’s teammate, Alex Ovechkin, won the competition last year.
Pastrnak finished the drill in 11.309 seconds to edge out Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, who had a time of 12.693 seconds. Toronto’s Auston Matthews drew big applause by donning the jersey of teammate Patrick Marleau, a longtime San Jose Shark, but finished last in the competition when he stopped briefly after hitting just four of the five targets.
“He’s such a legend here for everything he’s done for the city,” Matthews said. “All the chants made me so nervous, I forgot there were five targets.”