As Wayne Simmonds walked off the press-room stage, he was asked a question that seemed silly but probably needed to be asked.
Was he named after Wayne Gretzky?
“No,” Simmonds said as he laughed.
It was indeed Waynes’ World in Sunday’s NHL All-Star game at Staples Center, a contest that culminated a Hollywood-themed weekend celebration of hockey and prominently featured two men with ties to the Kings.
Simmonds, a popular Kings forward earlier in his career who now plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, was named MVP after he scored the winning goal for the Metropolitan Division in a 4-3 win against the Pacific Division. It occurred after the Gretzky-coached Metropolitan side had a Pacific goal by Ryan Kesler of the Ducks overturned because of an offside call.
Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Simmonds scored the tying and winning goals, the latter a full-circle story for Simmonds, traded to Philadelphia by the Kings before their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup runs.
The fans still remembered “Wayne Train,” though.
“You know, it meant a lot,” Simmonds said. “When you leave a place, you don’t expect to come back and get all the cheers as I did today, but I must have done something right when I was here. I know I had lot of die-hard fans here, and I really appreciate those people. I just appreciate everything. It made me feel good today.”
Gretzky was a feel-good late replacement for Columbus’ John Tortorella and a fun, fitting choice given his ambassador role during the weekend. He was animated in his celebration on the bench when the call was overturned.
The offside review is normally reserved for far more serious games, so it was looked at sideways in some corners.
Kesler’s goal off a pass from Edmonton’s Connor McDavid would have given the Pacific a 4-2 lead, but McDavid was offside.
“It’s all part of the show,” Kesler said. “I think they extended the [Nick] Jonas concert a little bit. Made it part of the show. Bad call. Terrible call.”
Kesler spoke with a wry smile.
“I heard offsides, but I don’t believe it,” he said. “McDavid’s too fast. I couldn’t keep up with him.”
“We’re going to Philly in, like, a week here and he’ll pick up dinner, for sure,” Doughty said of Simmonds.
Simmonds, of course, didn’t have a problem with the negated goal. The league initiated the review, although some, including Simmonds, thought Gretzky made a coach’s challenge.
“Helped us win, right?” Simmonds said. “That was the play. That was the game changer. Obviously he’s got a great hockey mind.”
The three-on-three tournament had its highlights, including Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alex Ovechkin of Washington as Metropolitan teammates, although they only produced two goals, none in the final. Crosby did score his first All-Star goal.
Doughty, Kings teammate Jeff Carter and Joe Pavelski of San Jose were grouped together for the Pacific while Kesler formed an interesting trio with McDavid and Brent Burns of San Jose. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler had a goal and three assists in the semifinal against the Central Division.
On the downside, there were lulls when the Pacific beat the Central, 10-3, and the Metropolitan defeated the Atlantic, 10-6.
“I think the format is fabulous, and it’s totally understandable, the guys are here on the break having fun,” said former Ducks and current Minnesota Coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached the Central squad. “You’re not going to get the intensity that you have of the Stanley Cup Final. The intensity of a preseason game would be good every now and then.”
Erik Karlsson of Ottawa said he would like the format to continue despite the aforementioned disinterest. The Metropolitan Division players shared $1 million for the win.
“It’s hard sometimes, maybe, to get guys to go as hard as you will when you play for your team at home,” Karlsson said. “But I think it’s better. You have a little better room out there to do your thing. Even though there’s a lot of goals, I think you can see flashes of incredible talent that is out there.”