Going around the block
Masters of the art of hockey extravaganzas in the acclaimed NHL All-Star FANtasy shows that accompanied NHL All-Star Weekend in recent years, the League's Events and Entertainment staff this season will take advantage of south Florida's moderate weather to host its first-ever, free, outdoor "block party."
The 2003 NHL All-Star Game will be held Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Fla., home of the Florida Panthers. After five years of matching North American-born All-Stars against those from all other nations, the NHL will return to the format in which the Eastern Conference All-Stars take on their Western Conference foes.
The 53rd NHL All-Star Game, presented by Nextel, will be broadcast on ABC-TV in the United States and the CBC and RDS in Canada at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The South Florida area will be abuzz with NHL activity for the four days prior to the All-Star Game.
The NHL All-Star Opening Night Celebration, presented by Nextel at Las Olas Riverfront in downtown Fort Lauderdale will take place Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET, when the Stanley Cup, hockey's symbol of supremacy, will travel down the Intercoastal Waterway into the city. The opening-night festivities also will include live musical appearances, interactive hockey games, and a performance by a famed illusionist. Admission is free.
The action swings into Sunrise on Thursday, Jan. 30, with the opening of the NHL All-Star Block Party, presented by Nextel, in the parking lot adjacent to the Office Depot Center off the Sawgrass Expressway. For three days, the NHL will host an eight-acre outdoor hockey and entertainment festival designed to celebrate hockey for fans of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.
The Block Party will feature interactive hockey attractions, unique memorabilia and trophy exhibits, player appearances, great prizes and a beer garden. You can test your goaltending ability or your shooting accuracy and the speed of your shot. Play street hockey and participate in in-line hockey clinics. The Hockey Hall of Fame annually provides a display of breathtaking, museum-quality artifacts. Sun Microsystems will power the NHL.com display.
The Stanley Cup and all the other historic NHL trophies will be on display.
The Block Party will be open Thursday, Jan. 30, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 31, from 12 noon to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"Never before have we staged a hockey and entertainment event of this magnitude that is free for fans of all ages," said Frank Supovitz, group vice president, Events and Entertainment, NHL. "We decided to do so in South Florida, a hotbed of culture and activities, to celebrate those new to and passionate about the game. It's a chance for Floridians and visitors to lace up, enjoy hockey and experience the uniqueness of NHL All-Star festivities."
That Saturday will be a big day around the Office Depot Center. Not only will the Block Party be in full swing, but the Topps/NHL YoungStars Game and Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Competition will be held at 7 p.m. ET and seen on ESPN in the United States and the CBC and RDS in Canada. The Topps/NHL YoungStars Game was high- scoring affair last year in Los Angeles, showcasing the offensive skills of the next generation of great NHL players. The Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Competition shows those young players how high the bar is raised as great stars like Sergei Fedorov, Mike Modano and Bill Guerin are tested for skating speed, shot speed and shooting accuracy.
The critics said hockey would never be popular in Florida but the fans proved them wrong in 1996, taking their team to heart when the Florida Panthers played for the 1996 Stanley Cup. Both the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are having excellent seasons, competing for the Southeast Division crown and Stanley Cup playoff berths.
But it isn't only the South Florida fans who have embraced hockey, the NHL has also embraced the Southland, establishing teams in Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The NHL held its 2000 Entry Draft in Sunrise, attracting fans, including many families, in droves.