The Story Behind The NHL All Star Gibson Guitars
Every play at the NHL all star game will receive a Gibson Les Paul guitar. Most will likely never play it.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
In November, Taylor Berryman, special projects coordinator for Gibson Guitars and a Nashville Predators season ticket holder, got a call from the team's sales department. Jeff Cogen, the team's CEO, wanted to have dinner. "He made the request to us that he wanted to gift 60-some guitars to the NHL All-Stars for participation in this year's All-Star Game to make it the most special All-Star Game gift of all time," Berryman told me over the phone. "So that's basically what we did."
Even if you've never played a guitar in your life, you still know Gibson. Founded in 1894, the company makes the most popular model of electric guitar, the Les Paul. Berryman, a Nashville native, works with celebrities and companies to make custom models, which is not the worst job. His dad moved to Nashville from Buffalo, where he used to go to Sabres games with his dad. When the Preds arrived in Nashville in 1997, Berryman's dad couldn't wait to take his son to NHL games. He's been a season ticket holder since Day One.
With three months to get the guitars ready, Berryman looked through his inventory and saw that they had 63 ready to go, the exact number Cogen needed. "These were old guitars"—by which Berryman means new, but not custom made to order—"which is probably not good for the record, but these were in inventory." It takes approximately 25 days to make each guitar. He wasn't sure the exact retail price, but estimated each guitar cost "a little over a thousand."
Knowing that most of the players wouldn't actually play the instruments, Berryman prioritized the guitar's visual aesthetics. "More than anything, we wanted to make it look nice so it could be a good wall piece." The guitars have a shiny gold face to match the Predators' main color. Dixie Graphics, a company down the street from Gibson, added the All-Star Game logo—the shape of a guitar pick—at the base and additional graphics on the back. The guitars also feature the Predators logo on the toggle switch backplate, and the NHL's logo on the electronics backplate. "It really does have the Nashville flavor, which we're pretty proud of."
Once ready, Predators staff loaded the guitars on a truck and hauled them to Bridgestone Arena. There, the players would receive the guitars as part of their welcome gift basket, along with a special bottle of Jack Daniel's Select Tennessee Whiskey, Goo Goo Clusters, local sweets from various bake shops, and a limited-edition Winter Park American Wheat beer produced by Nashville's Yazoo brewery. No word on whether the league's two under-21 All-Stars, Dylan Larkin and Aaron Ekblad, received the alcohol.
Berryman sounded excited that at least a few of the guitars might be played. "I've read that Matt Duchene is an avid guitar player." Duchesne, who mostly plays acoustic, is in a band with his dad, named his dog Paisley after Brad, and described himself as "the country hookup on our team."
"Besides him, I'm not exactly sure from this year's class who plays," Berryman confessed. "But we actually had Roman Josi do a factory tour with Vince Gill, because he has actually learned how to play guitar for his girlfriend, and he has an acoustic so he'll have an electric to add to the inventory."
However, the most famous NHL guitar player won't be getting an All-Star axe. "Personally, I'm pretty disappointed Henrik Lundqvist didn't make the All-Star Game," Berryman confided. "Because he's a shredder." As of 2012, Lundqvist had "thirteen or something" guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul Classic. Berryman says they've made guitars for him in the past.
Not everyone is as good at Lundqvist at guitar or life, but others do play. Brent Burns, the majestically bearded defenseman on San Jose, has been playing for about five years. "I started because my brother was playing and I didn't want him to do something I couldn't do." He practices mostly after games, when he doesn't sleep very well. He's learned mostly from "a good buddy of mine in Minnesota who was a really good musician" and YouTube.
Dylan Larkin, the 19 year old Red Wings phenom, doesn't play but took a guitar class in high school. "I might frame [the guitar] or do something cool with the jersey or something. Or it might just sit in my room."