Going around the block
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The Block Party concept is an exciting challenge to the NHL Events and Entertainment staff, being a departure from the usual convention-hall setting.
"South Florida's culture and climate lends itself to this kind of event," said Dean Matsuzaki, senior manager, Events and Entertainment, NHL. "This is exactly what south Florida is about: It's known for its large, outdoor events. The opportunity to host NHL FANtasy, named Block Party this year, outside is a great opportunity and south Florida is one of the few places within the League that we could do that."
There's a little more work than usual this year. With no convention center within 20 miles of the Office Center Depot, the NHL staff faces a greater challenge, albeit with more available space.
"The desire to keep events centralized as much as possible dictated the format," Matsuzaki said. "When All-Star Weekend comes to town, everybody focuses on the arena because that's where the premier events, the All-Star Game and the Skills Competition, are held. We like to be as closely associated with that as possible, being part of All-Star weekend, so we think being right there in the parking lot is a tremendous opportunity."
It wouldn't be possible to put on a show of NHL All-Star Block Party's magnitude without the assistance of the NHL's sponsoring partners, including Bauer Nike Hockey, BIC, Bud Light, Coca-Cola, Dodge, EA Sports, ESPN, Fleer Trading Cards, In-the-Game Trading Cards, LEGO, MasterCard International, MBNA Corporation, Midway Games, Nextel, Pacific Trading Cards, POWERade, Quizno's, Sega, Southwest Airlines, Sun Microsystems, The Hockey Company, Topps, Upper Deck, and 989 Sports.
If this were Chicago, there might be brats and pierogies on the menu, but being south Florida, there will be a Caribbean flavor to the food offerings, in addition to standard menu items like burgers, franks, fries and cotton candy.
"The south Florida culture allows us to keep our traditional roots with our hockey show, as it has been in the past," Matsuzaki said. "But we can also really tailor it to the market by going with the festival atmosphere as we are trying to do with different foods and beverages, live entertainment, and special events, in a south Florida-type of festival."
"It's a festival mentality in that you'll walk up to different tents and find differing kinds of concessions," Matsuzaki said. "Everything will be cooked on site so we'll have the mingling food smells that you associate with a festival. So, the experience won't be limited to just the events that you're going to but also the sights, the smells and sounds of a south Florida festival. We'll have a combination of outdoor displays and those under tents so you'll drive up and see a true festival look in the parking lot."
Look for tents of all shapes and sizes, housing food courts and hockey-themed displays, as well as demonstrations of hockey skills by former NHL players.
It's not unusual to see a former player shopping for one of his old playing cards at one of the memorabilia displays. For three days, the NHL Block Party will be the place to be seen.