(Note: This is the first of a three-part series on our trip to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles. You can read Part 2 on the All-Star Skills Challenge here, and Part 3 on the All-Star Game here.)
We love just about all spectator sports here at I-Fan, but when you get down to it, it’s hockey that’s truly in our blood. So you can just imagine how thrilled Mrs. Fan and I were last winter when we found out the NHL All-Star Game was headed to Los Angeles, our hometown.
All-Star Weekend finally came and went, and it really was everything we had hoped it would be. While we expected most of what we saw and experienced, we were happy to stumble upon a few surprises as well. And yes, there was enough to see and do over the course of the weekend to satisfy our insatiable appetites for hockey.
The weekend actually spanned four days — the All-Star FanFair on Thursday and Friday nights as well as all day Saturday, the All-Star Skills Challenge at Staples Center on Saturday night, and the All-Star Game itself on Sunday afternoon. This diary will cover three days, though, as we didn’t attend the FanFair on Friday. So read on for Day 1, on the opening day of the FanFair.
Day 1: All-Star FanFair
As most leagues do during their big events, the NHL holds a fan convention during the All-Star Game, known as the FanFair. It lasted for three days (though only during evening hours on Thursday and Friday, and not at all on Sunday when the game was held). Though I had never been to the NHL’s event, I had an idea of what to expect when I went to MLB’s FanFest at the 2016 All-Star Game, and figured if the NHL version was half that, I’d have an awesome time.
Turned out, the NHL’s version was indeed half that, at least in terms of size. That’s how it looked, anyway, as there wasn’t quite the amount of space to cover as there was in MLB’s version. But that’s OK, because there was plenty to see and, more importantly, do.
As far as admission, entry was $20 a day unless you purchased a three-day pass for $45. I seriously considered the three-day pass in the days leading up to the event, but I hemmed and hawed for a while. Then on Wednesday, Mrs. Fan informed me that someone had offered her free passes for Thursday — as part of the NHL’s publicity leading up to All-Star Weekend, the Stanley Cup had stopped by her place of employment, and along with allowing folks to take their picture with the trophy, league officials were also offering FanFest tickets. I found that quite fortuitous and jumped at the opportunity.
(As an aside, we went to the FanFair again on Saturday, this time bringing Little Fan along for the ride, but as it turned out we got free tickets again. My sister, aka Twisted Sister, had a friend who had extras and gave them to us for free. So instead of spending $45 a person, Mrs. Fan and I wound up spending $0. I feel like we made out OK.)
The reason why we wanted to go Thursday was that we figured it would be the most lightly attended day and that we’d be able to do and see the things we most wanted without much of a wait, and we were largely right. The lines were short to get in and the convention floor was pretty clear early on, though the crowd definitely grew as the night continued.
The majority of people were there to either get a photo with the Stanley Cup (see above pic) or to get an autograph with one of the NHL legends scheduled to appear at the Autograph Stage. Admittedly, I’m not much of an autograph hound, but I do have a soft spot for mascots, and all of them (27, to be exact — three NHL teams don’t have mascots) were present and roaming around the grounds when they weren’t participating in pre-scheduled events. We managed to snag a few pics with mascots during our time at FanFair, including Youppi of the Montreal Canadiens, Hunter of the Edmonton Oilers and Sabretooth of the Buffalo Sabres.
The rest of the FanFair, as much of these types of events turn out to be, are sponsor booths, exhibits and interactive games. We largely skipped the Geico, Upper Deck and Bridgestone stands and gravitated toward the middle of the event floor, where the games were — and as it turned out, where we easily had the most fun.
Both Mrs. Fan and I are recreational hockey players, so it seemed like the perfect way to test our skills. Neither of us brought the house down but we had such a grand old time challenging each other at such games as accuracy shooting and precision passing that, after we went through one round of games, we went right back into line like a couple giddy kids at Disneyland. Hey, the line was only 10 minutes long.
When we came back on Saturday, we again went for the games — but this time had to wait an hour and a half. Still, it was a great way to spend a few hours, and though the cost might seem steep, if you love a sport there aren’t too many better ways to connect with it than by going to a convention that’s all about it.