The Blue Jackets have given fans a lot to do over the course of All-Star weekend with All-Star Winter Park presented by Worthington Industries in full swing. But with fans from all over the world pouring into Columbus along with the league’s best players, it’s no surprise the National Hockey League is in on the fan-fun as well.
NHL Fan Fair opened to all fans on Friday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Hockey fans enjoyed the 200,000-square foot block-party like atmosphere inside the Convention Center with a variety of skill games, jersey displays, and all of the NHL’s various trophies on display, including the Stanley Cup.
“Anybody who comes into this thing, I don’t care if you like hockey or not, they’re going to think that this is unbelievable,” said Ben Francisco, a Bruins fan in Columbus.
The Stanley Cup is the obvious crown jewel of the event, on display atop a raised stage with the rest of the league’s awards lining the base of the platform. Fans can pose for pictures with all of the trophies, including the Vezina Trophy won by Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in 2013.
Philip Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup, was also on hand Friday night answering questions from Bob McElligott and fans about the history of the Stanley Cup and his experiences as its primary care-taker.
Fans also relished the opportunity to meet some of their favorite players during autograph session.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic value. For 12 bucks for a college student, there are so many events to do. It’s just endless,” said Andrew Allen from Mason, Ohio. “The opportunity to meet players and get autographs, that just doesn’t happen very often.”
The younger crowd had plenty to keep them busy as well. Kids enjoyed testing their stick-handling and passing abilities, clocking their hardest shot, and nailing targets at the accuracy shooting booth.
Todd Van Allen, from Westerville, took advantage of the games with his son, Nick. “We were trying out a few of the hockey games and we spent some money on some souvenirs,” he said.
Once they were tired out from the activities, the fans could cheer on Stinger during the inaugural NHL Mascot Showdown. Stinger led the Eastern Conference mascots in games of broomball and dodgeball against the friendly characters of the Western Conference.
Ohio hockey fans were having fun, but this wasn’t just a celebration for Blue Jackets fans.
Kirk O’Donnell and Charlie Garavaglia brought their families to All-Star weekend from St. Louis. It was their first visit to Columbus.
“With the NHL putting this on, I can’t wait to see the rest of the city and what they are highlighting about it,” said O'Donnell.
“I’ve been impressed with how they’ve been able to make it a family friendly event. The kids have been entertained, we’ve had fun walking around, and there’s a little something for everyone here.”