Justin Bieber proudly claimed 2024 NHL All-Star Game bragging rights when the team he co-captained with Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews won the best-of-the-best exhibition game last Saturday at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, beating out the three teams of his fellow Canadian celebrity captains — and legit NHL captains.
Michael Bublé helped advise Team Hughes, headed by Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes; Will Arnett co-helmed Team McDavid, led by NHL record-breaker and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid; and Tate McRae aided Team MacKinnon, captained by Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon.
More from Variety
Being Canadian, naturally, all of the celebs are hockey fanatics: Bieber and Arnett of the Leafs; McRae of the Flames; and Bublé of the Canucks and the junior team he co-owns, the Vancouver Giants.
But hockey wasn’t the only thing on the celebrity coaches’ agenda. Over the weekend, Bieber — who has been away from the stage for more than a year — performed a surprise six-song set, including a version of SZA’s “Snooze,” at the Drake-owned 2500-capacity club History, for a party he hosted for his fashion brand Drew House, which designed the official NHL All-Star jerseys.
And McRae played a fully televised eight-minute set that included her top 40 hit “Exes” and top 5 hit “Greedy.”
Buble, who has co-owned the Giants for many years, says outside of music, told Variety, “A lot of my life is spent behind the scenes of this sport. Everyone knows I’m a Canucks fan, but really I’m a hockey fan and my goal and my love of this sport is to help to continue to grow it. Because you know what? We need to keep making great Canadian stars.”
Leading to the final match-up, Team McDavid beat Team MacKinnon 4-3, and Team Matthews one-upped Team Hughes 6-5 in a shootout. Team Matthews ended up defeating Team McDavid 7-4 for the million-dollar prize. The victory was the perfect outcome for the Leafs-dominated Team Matthews on home turf, in the city in which the all-star game was first held in 1947 and had not returned in 22 years.
During Thursday night’s Draft Pick, Bieber huddled with Matthews and assistant captain Morgan Rielly to help snag the other two Leafs from the 44-all-star-player roster (William Nylander and Mitch Marner). And on Saturday, he presumably scratched an item off of his bucket list by donning the team’s blue jersey and lacing up to take to the ice for the warm-up alongside the all-stars.
When the game began, he stood out behind the Team Mathews’ bench in an oversized polka dotted jacket, as furry and plush as the team mascots that roamed the 18,819-capacity arena.
Bieber never came in the media room, but NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer tells Variety, “We love his passion. The fans of hockey that are celebrities, those are the ones that work for us. Justin Bieber fans, they’re going to come. They haven’t seen Justin Bieber in years. This is one of his first public events. People are going to tune in because they want Justin Bieber.”
Mayer, who produces all the events throughout the NHL All-Star Weekend from the ice to the parties, put together the lineup of performers, almost all of them Canadian: Tate McRae had the game-day second intermission slot; DJ duo Loud Luxury pumped things up to introduce the players on the ice for the game; and the Glorious Sons rocked out as the players came out for Skills. “Run Away to Mars” singer Talk and country newcomer Owen Riegling also got to perform on the ice. The anthem singers were Chxrry22 and sibling country duo the Reklaws. The only Americans were “The Star-Spangled Banner” singers Dinah Jane and Kiana Ledé.
Talk, whose real name is Nick Durocher, told Variety he grew up playing hockey and was thrilled to be invited. “I played for 17 years. I loved it. It was some of my favorite memories. My dad always thought that maybe I could make the NHL — and now I did.”
McRae might at first seem an unlikely coach, but that’s hardly the case. “Tate is great story for us,” says Mayer. “Almost three years ago, we got a call about Tate. ‘She’s from Calgary. She has huge interest in hockey, comes from a hockey-playing family and we were made aware of her. She’s an up-and-comer. Would you ever use her?’ Then, for the Las Vegas game, which was a few years ago, we actually reached out and asked her to perform the Canadian anthem, but the schedules didn’t line up and we couldn’t make it work.
“Her team has changed over the years, but we’ve constantly kept an eye on her. She has a genuine passion for hockey. Even this year, she went to see a Calgary Flames game. She travelled to New Hampshire to visit her brother [Tucker] who plays hockey for Dartmouth [College]. She loves the game. It just worked out perfectly that her rise to fame has coincided with this particular opportunity.”
Toronto’s Chxrry22, the first female signed to XO, who will be heading out in April on tour with Atlanta’s Mariah The Scientist, tells Variety she was super excited to be asked to perform “O Canada” at the NHL All-Star Game, even if she’s primarily a basketball fan.
“I grew up watching hockey and I grew up skating,” she tells Variety. “Being on the ice was very important to my dad so every weekend we’d go to the skating rink and he’d be like, ‘Go out there and skate.’ I never had lessons. I just had to go out there and fall and learn.”
Kingston, Ontario rock band The Glorious Sons got the cool privilege to play Friday’s Skills event, as the all-stars were introduced one by one and took a seat at the foot of the half-moon-shaped stage.
“I was reacting to the players as they came out,” says frontman Brett Emmons “I like that [Cale] Makar because I was a defenceman, so I was kind of poking the bass player,” adding, “My dad thought I was going to the NHL [but] I was a shit hockey player.”
Best of Variety