Justin Bieber demonstrated impressive sportsmanship at the 2017 NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout game in Los Angeles this past weekend, when another player --- NHL star Chris Pronger --- didn't.
An uncalled-for incident saw a gleeful Pronger slam the pop superstar into the boards at the Staples Center, where the Biebs ate glass in the first half of the game.
The shootout benefited the Echoes of Hope charity, a non-profit organization which aims to inspire hope in at-risk, emancipated foster youth, and the late actor Alan Thicke.
Justin Bieber gets hit, bounces back in celeb hockey game https://t.co/jybvZNHvXA pic.twitter.com/gZBu7uxpZVHowever, despite the charitable, fun premise of the All-Star match Pronger went beyond the expected rough-and-tumble of ice-hockey and acted in an unnecessarily violent way.
— billboard (@billboard) January 29, 2017
During the (now ) infamous moment when the pair chased the puck, the 42-year-old threw the 22-year-old singer into the boards, then forcibly held Bieber's face up against the glass while laughing.
Put bluntly, Pronger's behavior was vicious, gratuitous, and unsporting.
"i just wanted to tell you how to find your purpose. don't need to be pressed bro" pic.twitter.com/0BAcpBuQn0Tellingly, Pronger has previously been arrested for brawling and drunk driving and has two suspensions against him. One for previously elbowing a player in the head during a game, and another for "stomping unnecessarily" on a player's leg in another ice-hockey match.
— Fear of God (@kdrickzzler) January 28, 2017
Fast forward to Saturday's All-Star NHL celebrity shootout. To his credit, Bieber did not try to hit back at Pronger either physically or verbally after their skirmish.
What the pop prince did do, was continue to give his best for the rest of the game and his Wayne Gretzky-led team.
After missing two penalty shots and assisting in one goal, the Biebs subsequently scored a goal without any help at the last minute.
Cuba Gooding Jr. was impressed with Justin Beiber's skills in the Celebrity game at #NHLAllStar weekend pic.twitter.com/ljQqHD55zx
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) January 28, 2017
#NHLAllStar #nhl100 @cubagoodingjr @justinbieber @cmcdavid97 Great Times! @NHLnlm pic.twitter.com/eAEevjepkqOther stars in Bieber's team were musicians Riker and Ross Lynch, Chicago Fire's Steven R. McQueen, and actor Cuba Gooding Jr, who scored the winning goal for a final score of 5:3.
— Michael Rosenbaum (@mrosenbaum711) January 30, 2017
When Gooding was asked about the Biebs' goal in the pressroom after the post-game, Cuba told reporters, "Twenty-five shots later, thank God he made it."
The actor heaped on more praise, "I was shocked at how good the kid can play. He really has nice skills, and he's a real sweet kid, too."
Additionally, the Associated Press noted, "Bieber did not look out of place while sharing the ice with current NHL stars Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane along with a host of retired greats and hockey-loving entertainment figures."
Apart from Pronger's antagonism with Bieber during the shootout, some random ice-hockey fans snarked online about Bieber and praised Pronger's offensive encounter with him.Inevitable memes of Bieber's face pressed against the Staples Center glass also did the rounds online, with mostly snide captions about the singer.
For his part, Justin's participation in the All-Star match, which included legends in the game, appears to have been a childhood dream come true. The Grammy winner has been a keen amateur ice-hockey player for years, and practiced with teams in his native Canada and on his current "Purpose World Tour."
Over the weekend, videographer Alfredo Flores, who is a close friend of Justin tweeted that the singer would have been an ice-hockey player if he hadn't been an artist.
This is so lit. Literally Justin if he never became an artist he would DEF be a hockey player. pic.twitter.com/anhRQJzem6On the day of the game, the official Twitter account of NHL's PR department posted two photos of Bieber with various players.
— Alfredo Flores (@AlfredoFlores) January 28, 2017
Both captions are attributed to Justin and read, "This is one of the highlights of my life. For real."
In fact, based on the slew of photos in the press and on social media from the All-Stars game, Bieber was evidently on cloud nine to be doing something he loved with many of the players he likely idolized growing up.
All of which makes Pronger's over-aggressive treatment of the singer more regrettable.[Featured Image by Harry Howe/Getty Images]