Eager for some real-time hockey, Toronto beckoned as the World Cup of Hockey (WCH) tournament drew closer. In the midst of August, with October seeming a lifetime away, this NoVa Caps contributor caved and made plans to attend the 2016 WCH.
The tournament, featuring six national and two “special” compilation teams seemed the perfect antidote to my ongoing hockey withdrawal that had befallen me in May with the Capitals untimely exit from the playoff stage. The trip, less than 90 minutes from Dulles Airport, was a quick and easy jaunt to the home of hockey heaven aka Toronto, Ontario.
Arriving on a Tuesday, three days into the tournament, the eyes of Toronto we’re already firmly fixed on all things World Cup. Prior to puck drop, throngs of fans filled Maple Leaf Square making their way toward the Air Canada Centre (ACC) and congregating with likeminded fans cheering their favorite national team along the way. Maple Leaf Square became a melting pot of fans from all nationalities and a babble with chants and cheers in Swedish, Russian, English, French, German and many others. Fans readily came together, united by their goal to see the hockey action unfold during the NHL’s best on best WCH tournament.
The ACC features a team store that was brimming with jerseys, sweatshirts and team memorabilia from the WCH – keepsakes ranging from “mini player” replicas to signed player memorabilia from the tournament. Unfortunately, Team North America wearables were snapped up by their starry-eyed fan base who were bewitched with the team’s speed, agility and ability to give the established players a true run for the money. Otherwise, merchandise was abundant for all national teams and Team Europe and hockey fans were eager to shell out their hard-earned cash to represent their colors during the WCH.
One of the most heralded experiences was the Fan Village that the NHL established to enhance the fans’ WCH sojourn. The free village included food, music and culture of the participating hockey nations as well as daily viewing parties. The village was a few miles from the ACC and easily accessible via shuttle busses running regularly to and from the ACC. The village included daily activities, line-ups and exhibitions to keep fans engaged with the WCH. Some of the activities included giving fans a chance to see and learn the WCH history and get a glimpse of the tournament’s unique trophy, take a picture with the coveted Stanley Cup, play a lively round of human bubble hockey, and participate in a four-part skills challenge that let fans test their shooting skills and hockey skills. The fan village also featured local and national musical acts that culminated with a performance by super star Lenny Kravitz to kick off the tournament’s playoff finals.
It was an exciting experience to be part of, and see the WCH first hand. Fans attending the WCH spanned the globe from each hockey nation and while all were cheering for their teams, the atmosphere was good-hearted hockey fun.
By Stephanie Judge