As part of our Whirlwind Winter Classic Vacation™, we had to check out the Coke Zero™ Fan Zone™ at the Sirius/XM™ Hockeytown Winter Festival™ on Saturday. (Pretty much everything in that last sentence is trademarked except the word ‘Saturday’).
It turned out to be the perfect day to visit as it was a balmy 47 degrees. In fact, it was so unseasonably warm that they had to delay the start of the Great Lakes Invitational™ three and a half hours so the sun would be lower and the ice would have a chance to firm up.
The Coke Zero Fan Zone™ was free to folks with tickets to each day’s events, but you could get in for a five dollar fee. I would venture that is was worth four dollars. Certainly the atmosphere was festive, what with plenty of stands selling State Fair type cuisine (Elephant Ears!) and firepits set up for roasting marshmallows (marshmallows not included in ticket price). Wings and Leafs fans mingled freely without incident. Even the guy decked out in Ohio State gear remained unmolested.
Our first step was to visit one of the many merchandise locations to purchase appropriate headgear for Dwayne (AKA Long Suffering Partner or LSP) since as Floridians we don’t normally have a need for a toques. And it was only $30! The Leafs locker room trailer provided a terribly unthrilling up close look at various player’s jerseys whereas the Wings locker setup was much better. (Full disclosure: it was the same experience, but my pro-Wings bias wins out here)
There were plenty of events for kids like a pick up street hockey rink, synthetic ice surface open skate, and a Red Wings goalie mask bounce house. (All requiring signed waivers to participate) Also, “Snowzilla” with the official explanation “It’s like sliding down a snow-covered hill and is the only one of its kind in the U.S.” Since it was a five dollar upcharge, and I had plenty of actual snow-covered hills in the area from which to choose, I opted out of this experience.
The NHL Network™ tent let you make a video about “Your Goal In 2014™”. LSP and I decided our goal was to not freeze our asses off at the game. Said video has a chance of appearing on the NHL Network. My guess is it’s a snowball’s chance in hell. We didn’t see any point to visiting the Verizon tent as I have seen enough of their ads touting NHL GameCenter™ on one of their many tablet devices.
In fact, my big complaint is that the Fan Zone™ was really one enormous ad where you had to fill out forms with email, physical address, and phone number to get anything. Certainly that was the purpose of the Bridgestone® tent – a huge tire display with wintry pine trees and TVs blaring the joys of treads while you waited in line to take a photo in Winter Classic jerseys. Note in this photo, I am shooting left handed. I would be a right hand shot (if I had the slightest idea what I was doing), but for photo-op purposes, I switched for better staging.
We could’ve tried the Slapshot Challenge™ but someone had already hit an 88 mph shot and seriously, if I had attempted it, I most likely would’ve hit myself with the stick somehow. And I would have filled out a waiver meaning I couldn’t sue.
Even the Molson CANADIAN HOCKEY HOUSE™ with its table top hockey games and local bands (of dubious quality) was really a glorified beer haus.
Although, they did have one of three Alumni Autograph locations which at the time was occupied by Kris Draper – my favorite of the famous Grind Line. Dino Ciccarelli was in the Red Wings Experience tent, but has not aged as well as one might have hoped. Drapes, being a ginger, has fared far better. Inside the Red Wings Experience™ (which sounds like a cover band to me) was a stage where they were holding a trivia contest. In our fifteen minutes in the tent, not one of the three contestants answered a question correctly thus mocking the idea that it was a Fan Zone™.
But for me, the crowning jewel of the Festival was the Hockey Hall Of Fame™ (also trademarked) tent displaying memorabilia (a Patrick Roy Canadiens jersey! BOO! Red Wing pucks from their Stanley Cup victory over the Penguins! YAY!) and various trophies like the Conn Smythe, Ted Lindsay, and Rocket Richard.
The Stanley Cup wasn’t in attendance. It wouldn’t appear until Monday, but that’s okay as it was an extra five dollar charge to get a photo with it and LSP and I already have a picture with the Cup we took for free at a Lightning game. As a matter of fact, there’s also a photo of Other Gay Hockey Friend and I beveling next to the Cup like Price Is Right™ showgirls. And really, isn’t that what photo ops are all about? (Oh, and have I mentioned my Dad drank from the Stanley Cup?)
Now while we would love to watch one of the Alumni Showdowns, we are from Florida and are not about to stand outside in 18 degree weather two days in a row. We would rather save hypothermia for the Winter Classic. And anyway, on Tuesday, I’m dragging LSP through the Henry Ford Museum™ where we will ogle the chair in which Lincoln was sitting in Ford’s Theatre (no relation) when John Wilkes Booth so rudely interrupted the performance of “Our American Cousin©”. Because we are cultural gays. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tweet during the game without frostbite attacking first. Check back later for exclusive coverage only available on this site!
Eric Pinder™ (@operahockeyguy on Twitter) is a highly talented and employable actor/director/writer/hyphenate who is currently updating his resume. In his spare time, he tweets about opera, hockey and the plantar warts on the balls of his feet. He is working on a hockey opera, but isn’t sure which team should win.