In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Three days after the start of Operation Desert Storm, emotions were high at Chicago Stadium for the 42nd NHL All-Star Game. A tradition at Blackhawks games was for fans to cheer throughout the National Anthem. A tradition that carried over into the All-Star Game with Wayne Messmer performing the Star-Spangled Banner. The Campbell Conference dominated the game, winning 11-5 as Vincent Damphousse of the Toronto Maple Leafs with four goals was named the game's MVP.
It was a time of unease in the United States. Throughout the country, thoughts were on Iraq, where American troops were fighting to drive Saddam Hussien's army out of Kuwait. The troops began gathering in the Persian Gulf in August, but after months of warnings, the Gulf War began on January 16th. Called operation Desert Storm, it was the largest military maneuver by the United States since the end of the Vietnam War in 1973. The 1991 NHL All-Star Game was broadcast to troops stationed in the gulf as the game had a patriotic atmosphere. For years fans at Chicago Stadium would cheer through Wayne Messmer's signing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Fans around the world were treated to this tradition for the first time.
Mike Milbury of the Boston Bruins coached the team from the Wales Conference, while John Muckler of the Edmonton Oilers was behind the Campbell Conference All-Stars bench. Each coach created controversy in their selection of the roster. Milbury chose enforce Chris Nilan of the Bruins over New Jersey Devils sniper Kirk Muller and chose Brian Skrudland, another bigger hitter from the Montreal Canadiens, over retiring Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, who was ending his career with the Quebec Nordiques. Muckler angered fans in Chicago, snubbing goalie Ed Belfour for his own goalie Bill Ranford. In future years a committee would oversee the selection of All-Star rosters, which added a third goalie for each team in 1992.
Dave Gagner of the Minnesota North Stars opened the scoring at 6:17 of the first period. After the game was tied by Pat LaFontaine of the New York Islanders tied the game, Vincent Damphousse scored his first goal, midway through the first, as the Campbell Conference held a 2-1 lead after the first period.
The second period would see more goals, as LaFontaine scored at 93 seconds to tie the game again. The Campbell Conference retook the lead at 5:23 on a goal by Gary Suter of the Calgary Flames. They would stretch the lead to 5-2 midway through the period as Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings and Adam Oates of the St. Louis Blues scored 38 seconds apart. Oates was an injury replacement for teammate Brett Hull. Oates had a great game with a goal and four assists. Theo Fleury of the Flames made it 6-2 as the Campbell Conference began to pull away late in the second. Rick Tocchet of the Philadelphia Flyers answered, but after Jeremy Roenick of the Blackhawks scored to make it 7-4, it was clearly the day for the Campbell Conference.
John MacLean of the Devils scored a power-play goal to start the third period, giving the Wales Conference a sense of hope. However, when Chris Chelios of the Blackhawks scored with assists from his Chicago teammates Roenick and Steve Larmer, the roof caved in for the Wales as the fans at the Madhouse on Madison erupted. Damphousse would score the three final goals for the Campbell Conference, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players to score four goals in an All-Star Game. Kevin Stevens of the Pittsburgh Penguins later scored on a power play as Phil Housley of the Winnipeg Jets had the only two penalties of the game.