Three stars (ice hockey)

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Jimmy Howard recognized as the second star after recording a shutout in an October 8, 2010 game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The three stars in ice hockey are the three best players in a game as chosen by a third party, with the first star considered the best of the three players, akin to the man of the match in other sports. Usually, the top point scorers or outstanding goaltenders are designated the three stars, but other players may be considered by affecting the game by other means (e.g. consistent physical play, many steals, blocked shots, etc.).


Three stars were first awarded in the 1936–37 NHL season as a means for Imperial Oil (Hockey Night in Canada's then new principal sponsor) to advertise its “Three Star” brand of gasoline.[1] In addition, it was seen as a way to promote the game's best stars of the time.[1] After the sponsorship ended in 1976, the tradition remained on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's flagship hockey show.[1]

The usage of three stars has since expanded greatly. All professional hockey teams (or radio/television broadcasts of those teams) in North America award three stars at the end of each game, and many amateur and collegiate leagues (or broadcasts of their games) do as well. The National Hockey League awards three stars during every game, in both the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs, and not just limited to those shown on HNIC. Media representatives of the home team make the selections. It also awards a nightly set of three stars,[2] which are the three best players out of all who played a game in the league on a given night. Also, in the 2007–08 NHL season, the previous awards of “Offensive Player of the Week” and “Defensive Player of the Week” were replaced by the “Three Stars of the Week”, while the similar awards of “Offensive Player of the Month” and “Defensive Player of the Month” were replaced by the “Three Stars of the Month”.

The NHL also has a system which awards points to its nightly three stars: 30 points to the first star, 20 points to the second, and 10 to the third.[2] It keeps a running tally of the number of points each player has been awarded [1]. NHL teams may use these standings; for example, the Vancouver Canucks award a sum to a charity chosen by its player who earned the highest number of points that month. The Molson Cup is also awarded to the top point-earner of the year of each Canadian team.

Despite its popularity in North America, three stars are generally not awarded during international play, such as at the Winter Olympic Games. The IIHF World Championships and World Junior Championships instead issue awards such as "Best Player" for each team per game, or the overall best player per position over the course of the tournament.[3]

Unusual selections[edit]

The three star selections for a game, being a “fun” statistic, do not ordinarily have an impact on any other aspect of the game. As such, there have been instances in which the three stars have been awarded in an unexpected way, often to recognize a single player's accomplishments.

  • On March 23, 1944, Maurice “the Rocket” Richard scored all five goals for the Montréal Canadiens in a 5–1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup victory and was awarded all three stars for his efforts.[1]
  • On April 12, 1996, the original Winnipeg Jets played their final regular season game against the Los Angeles Kings. The Jets won the game 5-3, advancing them to the playoffs. The first star was awarded to the Winnipeg hockey fans.
  • On April 15, 1999, New York Ranger Wayne Gretzky was awarded all three stars in his last game in Canada, and again the following night in New York for his final game, making him the only NHL player named as sole star on multiple occasions.
  • On April 9, 2002, Saku Koivu made his comeback in the 80th regular-season game of the Montreal Canadiens after being absent due to a long battle against cancer in a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators. The Canadiens won that game, and Koivu got all three stars of the game.
  • On October 11, 2007, Mats Sundin broke two Toronto Maple Leafs club records by scoring his 390th goal and his 917th point as a Leaf to best Darryl Sittler, who had held the previous club records of 389 goals and 916 points. Subsequently, the three stars of the game were announced as “Sundin, Sundin, and Sundin”.[4]
  • On April 5, 2008 in the final game of the season between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, the Flames won handily over the Canucks 7-1. Although Canuck Trevor Linden did not earn a point, nor did he play well enough to receive a star in a regular game, he was awarded the game's first star as it was rumoured (and later confirmed) it would be the final game of his long career.[5]
  • On January 18, 2009, in a game between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche, Avalanche forwards Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk both scored their 300th career goals. After Peter Budaj was announced as the third star, it was declared that there would be no second star, to make way for the two first stars of the game, Smyth and Hejduk.
  • On February 2, 2012, in a game between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, Oilers forward Sam Gagner scored four goals and four assists for eight points in the 8-4 victory. This tied an Oilers team record for points in a game, held by Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. He was awarded the first, second and third star of the game.
  • On November 1, 2013, in a game between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, Flyers goalie Ray Emery entered in the second period and gave up four goals in under 23 minutes of play, while Capitals goalie Braden Holtby posted a shutout. Emery was eventually ejected after instigating a fight with Holtby in the 7-0 Capitals victory. Emery was awarded the third star and Holtby did not receive a star.
  • On March 11, 2014, in a game between the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets, the combined medical staffs of the two teams were given the first star for their help when Stars center Rich Peverley had a cardiac incident while sitting on the Dallas bench.[6]
  • On March 27, 2014, the Boston Fire Department was selected as first star of the night's Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks game, in honor of the department's efforts and two firefighters who were killed in a large fire in Boston the prior day. Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask were named second and third stars, respectively, in a 3-0 Bruins victory.[7]
  • On April 13, 2014 in a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche, Teemu Selänne was playing in his last regular season game; to commemorate this, he was awarded the first, second and third stars of the game.[8]
  • On April 23, 2015 in game four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets, the Jets fans were awarded the third star by the Canadian Sportsnet television broadcast for their incredible support throughout the season and playoffs. The official third star of the game was Mark Stuart

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Notes and references[edit]