North stars: NHL’s ASG heads to Toronto in 2024

NHL

FORT LAUDERDALE — The NHL will head north for its 2024 All-Star Weekend, with Toronto tapped as host city for next winter’s festivities.

League commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement during a Saturday news conference ahead of this year’s All-Star Game in South Florida. He invited Maple Leafs president and former NHL player Brendan Shanahan and current Leafs forward Mitchell Marner, representing the team at this weekend’s proceedings, out to promote Toronto’s future involvement.

“It’s going to be a little colder than here, obviously,” Marner said, “but I think just the buzz around it [will be great]. People love going to Toronto, it’s always a good place to visit, a good place to play in. You know the fans are always going to be there. The food and restaurants are pretty good too. It’s going to be a little colder but nothing a winter coat [can’t fix].”

The 2024 nod will be Toronto’s ninth time playing host to an All-Star Weekend. When the event took place there in 2000, Shanahan — then a member of the Detroit Red Wings — took part. He may not remember much of the experience now but expects the Leafs will help to make next year’s showcase top-notch.

“It was a long time ago, in 2000,” Shanahan said. “I remember just the excitement and the buzz in the city. Any time that you’re in Toronto for hockey, and especially something like the All-Star Game, you can feel the excitement of all the citizens. Our fans are excited about it, the Torontonians are excited about it. We’re hoping to build off of that and the excitement about hosting and putting on a great show for all these NHL players and their families and all NHL fans.”

The prospect of going back to an Original Six city with a rabid appetite for the sport appealed to the league in a big way, too.

“Being in Toronto, where hockey is so important,” Bettman said, “we may not have 80-degree temperatures, but we’ve got real intensity from one of the great hockey markets in the world.”

While one Canadian city received a coveted assignment, another is still looking for its next owner. Bettman said the Ottawa Senators have applications from “15 people or more” interested in buying the franchise.

“The data room is open, and my guess is at some point in the next few weeks or so there will be a preliminary cut based on preliminary bids,” Bettman said. “But the process is being run directly with the potential purchasers.”

Bettman also quelled any speculation that the Senators could be moving cities once a sale is complete. The only change of address the team could face is from its current housing outside Ottawa in suburban Kanata, Ontario, to a place past owner Eugene Melnyk — who died in 2022 — had explored for the club’s future.

“I want to be clear that whoever buys this club is doing so to keep it in Ottawa,” Bettman said. “And there may be a great opportunity to take the team downtown to LeBreton Flats, which I think makes this an even more exciting opportunity. [It would be] the only team in the nation’s capital.”

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