Nothing says entertainment like Ron Francis glaring at the camera with Daniel Day-Lewis intensity, while apparently dreaming about the Hartford Whalers and a Texaco station. Right before he put on his cowboy hat.
Seriously, that was the huge innovation for the player introductions in the 1985 NHL All-Star Game: cowboy hats, because the contest was being played in the Calgary Flames' new Olympic Saddledome. Since the game was in Calgary, the fans viciously jeered hockey biggest star, Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers, one of eight (!) Oilers on the Campbell Conference roster.
Fantasy Hockey Scouts didn't dig up YouTubage of the Campbell intros, but they did point us over to the Prince of Wales Conference All-Star prologue. All the big stars of the day where on the roster: Mr. Francis of the Whale, Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins, Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders, some kid named Chris Chelios of the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Gartner, Scott Stevens and Rod Langway of the Washington Capitals, the late Pelle Lindburgh of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders and Capitals each had four representatives on the roster; and Brent Sutter still had hair. Check out the video:
No pounding techno music, no pyro as the players skate in, no over-the-top DJ announcer attempting to outdo the Chicago Bulls' intros from the 1990s. We can't tell if this is quaint or a complete drag.
For the basis of comparison, we've assembled a few other All-Star Game introductions from yesteryear. Our first trip: Detroit, MI, in 1980, when Larry Robinson looked very much like Cal Naughton Jr. from "Talladega Nights." Shake 'n bake!
From Detroit in 1980, here are the player introductions. They're clearly edited, but you get the idea. The last few minutes of the clip features an enormous ovation for Gordie Howe, who made his final all-star game appearance:
That was quite a celebration for Mr. Hockey, making for a memorable all-star moment. It almost excuses the fact that the NHL strategically placed logos on the jerseys to make everyone look like they're wearing pasties.
Side-note: How much did Detroit Red Wings fans hate Phil Esposito? And how much did Phil Esposito love playing in front of them?
Our next video jumps ahead to the 1994 NHL All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden and ... well, welcome to the early 1990s. Laser beams, smoke machines, nondescript synth pop music and garish sound effects that sound like they were lifted from a piss-poor space adventure game for the Sega Genesis.
Here's the Western Conference, in their spiffy eggplant uniforms. Alas, no Eastern Conference teal:
Finally, here are the All-Star Game introductions from last season in Atlanta. Which were awesome for two reasons: "The" and "Hives."
Hey, a Rick DiPietro sighting!
It's amazing how these things have changed over the years, and not just because the jerseys have gotten progressively worse. Will we ever see another NHL All-Star Game without Vince McMahon flame towers as the players' skate out? Who knows?
The point is that giant flame towers on the ice are better than lasers and Casio keyboard demo button sound effects ... though perhaps not as charming as a rocking house in Detroit booing the hell out of Chicago Blackhawks players.