All they had to do was show up, put on a happy face, no matter how manufactured and contrived, and there would be no distraction, no criticism, no controversy.

But as the NHL entered the All-Star break last week, two separate incidents painted separate NHL stars as selfish, spoiled brats.

First, Tim Thomas snubbed the President of the United States and in turn, his Boston teammates, by skipping the Bruins' Stanley Cup celebration at the White House. Then Washington's Alex Ovechkin used the ridiculous excuse that he doesn't deserve to play in the All-Star Game because he's a suspended player.

So, of course, Ovi went to Florida for a little fun in the sun while giving the cold shoulder to the NHL's chief showcase and the passionate hockey fans who deserve to see the best of the best in such an exhibition.

But Ovechkin's, at times, immaturity is not headline-making news.

Thomas' was. The usually media-savvy proud American couldn't stomach standing in the East Room as Barack Obama did what U.S. presidents have done for years -- pay tribute to a champion.

On his Facebook page, Thomas, a fan of former Fox News host Glenn Beck and called a true "Tea Party patriot" by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, said this wasn't about "politics or party."

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People," Thomas, who accepts $5 million a year to play goal, said. "This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."

Problem is Thomas wasn't invited as an INDIVIDUAL. This was a TEAM function, and in turn, Thomas forced his teammates and "disappointed" team to answer for him. It's now created an unnecessary distraction for a team determined to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

From a Vezina Trophy winner and playoff MVP who claims to care about his teammates, it screamed selfishness, not to mention complete obliviousness that his decision would create an uproar.

The envelopes, please

Here's a look at the league as it hits Sunday's All-Star Game:

Early Hart Trophy favorite, Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh: With the Penguins smarting, they entered the All-Star break on a seven-game winning streak despite Sidney Crosby being sidelined again because of a concussion and injuries to a host of others. Malkin leads the league with 58 points in only 22 games.

Early Vezina favorite, Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers: The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference with 66 points, and King Henrik ranks second in the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.

Early Norris favorite, Shea Weber, Nashville: Potential restricted free agent is about to cash in regardless, but the league's best defenseman award would certainly help matters. The 6-4 physical specimen with a blazing slapper is third among blue-liners in scoring.

Early Calder favorite, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Edmonton: He hasn't played because of a shoulder injury in almost a month, but he still leads all rookies in scoring.

Early Jack Adams favorite, Paul MacLean, Ottawa: More pundits had the Senators pegged for 15th in the East than making the playoffs, but the first-year coach and long-time Detroit assistant has guided an impressive resurgence.

Best team, Detroit: The Red Wings started unusually slow, but not surprisingly, this veteran-laden team is on fire (that 7-2 loss to Montreal, notwithstanding) and has lost three times at home (shockingly, once to the Wild).

Most surprising team, Florida: After a dramatic offseason overhaul that included the additions of Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann, the Panthers have a good chance to end a postseason drought that spans back to 2000.

Biggest turnaround, St. Louis: After a 6-7 start, Davis Payne was fired and Ken Hitchcock brought in. The Blues are 23-6-7 since and two points behind Detroit for tops in the Central Division.

Likeliest to be traded, Ryan Suter, Nashville: It's hard to imagine Predators General Manager David Poile would be willing to lose the stud two-way defenseman for nothing, and now that Suter says he won't sign an extension before the Feb. 27 trade deadline, you know teams will be lining up to attempt to acquire his services.