TAMPA, FL — After a week-long vacation in Disney World, I decided to take in some of the NHL All-Star festivities in Tampa over the weekend. While I decided to pass on the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon, I took in some of the events that occurred on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.
This was my second NHL All-Star weekend, as I took in the experience in Raleigh back in 2011. I have been to some Tampa Bay Lightning games in the past, so heading back to the Tampa area was nothing new for me.
In addition to the NHL All-Star festivities, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival was taking place on Saturday throughout the day, so downtown Tampa Bay was flooded with many NHL fans and thousands of pirates.
FUN FOR ALL AGES
The Lightning did a fantastic job setting up their main plaza area right outside of the arena. Outside the arena, fans could stand very close to the NHL Network broadcast booth. In addition to being near the NHL Network broadcast booth, there were cameras that floated over the main walkway area. There was plenty of opportunity for fans to be on television.
In addition to the many television cameras, fans could wander around to the Silver Lot (adjacent to the arena) and could visit the multiple tents set up. Inside the tents, fans could play games, buy various merchandise, and meet current and former players. In the middle of the Silver Lot was a little mini-rink setup, where kids could play ball hockey. This mini-rink was also the main area where mascots would perform in front of the fans.
On Saturday evening, I attended the NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena. There was over 19,000 people on hand for the event, and it appeared close to a sellout. I enjoyed seeing the NHL stars show off their skills in different events.
The crowd was very active from start to finish. During player introductions, it was awesome to see the tremendous ovation New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle received from his former home crowd. It was also funny to see the not-so-warm reaction the crowd gave to Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand and to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang.
As far as the various competitions go, I enjoyed the “Save Streak” competition which displayed the best of the NHL goaltenders. Marc-Andre Fleury gave the fans a great show during this event, and the crowd was into this one. In addition to the “Save Streak” competition, there were other competitions that included fastest skater, accuracy shooting, hardest shot, puck control relay, and passing challenge.
EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
NHL All-Star games are fun events for hockey fans. I feel that any hockey fan should experience it at least once in their lifetime. It is fun to meet and talk to various hockey fans from all walks of life. It is fun to be able to see current and former players walk the red carpet. The NHL All-Star weekend gives hockey fans a unique experience by putting some of the best players up on the center stage. I highly recommend it to any hockey fan that is thinking about attending. It is definitely worth the trip.
By: George Foussekis