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On the ground in Ottawa: All-Star Weekend Day 1

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
This weekend, the Blackhawks Blog will be on the ground in Ottawa taking in all of the sights and sounds of NHL All-Star Weekend 2012.

2:30 p.m. ET, NHL Trophy Processional: As hockey is the national sport of Canada, it only makes sense for its capital of Ottawa to welcome the NHL All-Star Game in grand fashion. And the city found a way to celebrate the game and its unique traditions in a way that may never be replicated: by skating the NHL's trophies down the world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway on their way to the Ottawa Convention Center for the All-Star Fan Fest.

Accompanied by hundreds of Timbits Minor Hockey players, as well as their parents, coaches and hundreds of NHL fans, the trophies skated their way down down the canal one by one. If there was large security presence or a velvet rope on site, it was not easy to spot; hockey fans from all over North America were free to get within inches of some of the most important hardware in professional sports, and snap a few pictures as they moved past.

As the Hart, Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophies made their way toward downtown, traffic on the nearby streets and overpasses stopped; fans left their cars or ran across icy sidewalks in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the parade.

Each trophy eventually completed its journey, making it to the outside the convention center and just a block from Canada's Parliament Hill. When each trophy ended its frozen trek, it was announced over the P.A. and greeted by hundreds of fans standing in the middle of canal, on top of a thick layers of ice.

In not many places can one find a small shanty town of vendors, shops and makeshift media studios built entirely on a frozen canal, but this is not just any place. The sport of hockey was born outdoors on frozen ponds and waterways just like this one. In a way, bringing these all-important trophies back to Canada is a way to honor the origins of hockey, and give something back to the fans who helped make the NHL what it is today.

Finally, a slight hush began in the crowd, and it quickly spread in preparation for the final trophy in the parade. With all others accounted for, only the Stanley Cup remained, joined by the largest crowd of young fans in the processional.

With the Cup in sight, one man in the crowd pointed down toward the ice and said to his friends standing beside him, "Now, that is the trophy."

On a chilly day in Ottawa, among thousands of hockey's most die-hard fans, it's likely no one would disagree.

8:00 p.m. ET, All-Star Fantasy Draft: As if 82 games wasn't enough, the 2012 All-Star Game will provide another chance for some Blackhawks team bonding with Team Chara drafting both Chicago participants Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.

For Hossa, being selected in the fourth round came with an extra added perk: "I got picked before Kaner... that's a big win for me," he said after the draft.

Meanwhile, Kane lasted until the 12th round before being selected by the Boston Bruins' captain. The situation was not without its irony, having a similar feel to last year's draft when Kane - then an alternate captain for Team Lidstrom - left teammate Jonathan Toews for several rounds before picking him. And Kane did admit to feeling a little bit of heat.

"It was a different experience. Last time I went through a draft, I was picked first so I didn't sweat too much, and I was a captain last year," he said. "You definitely don't want to go last. You win a car and everything, but it's a tough position to be in even though you're at the All-Star game and there's really no bad picks."

Despite the wait, both Kane and Hossa discussed the possibilities of playing together on the same side, and were happy with the draft's ultimate result.

“I’m just looking forward to it,” said Hossa, who will also be joined by countrymen Chara and New York's Marian Gaborik. “Being together on a team is awesome.
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