There is nothing like a tailgate to kick off a season.
Fans came from near and far to attend the Coca-Cola Zero Fans First event, convened in the shadow of the spanking new atrium and giant screen at Air Canada Centre, Wednesday.
The party commemorated the Leafs’ pre-season opener against the Boston Bruins.
All 20,000 tickets for the event were given away through various promotions.
Nathan Hewlett, 8, and his brother Sebastian, 11, were among the first on hand. The boys are students at Bowmore School. Each has a favorite Leaf. Nathan is partial to Luke Schenn
, Sebastian holds to Mats Sundin.
“He was born on the 13th day of the month and he wears 13 in hockey so he has been slow to disengage,” his dad said.
Twenty-year-old Nick Porretta won a pair of tickets and came with his girlfriend, 19-year-old Sarah Slonetsky. “The tickets were hands-down going to Sarah,” he said. Smart guy.
Porretta listed his favorite player as Schenn with Sundin a close second. Then why was he wearing a Leafs’ number 13 while Slonetsky was sporting the less retro Schenn number two?
“Uh,” laughed Porretta, “they are both my jerseys.”
Rose Nesbitt is a horse trainer in Sarnia. She was going to take in the tailgate, enjoy the game and then head out for a night on the town with her sister –in-law Kristina Webb.
“I chose Kristina because there was so much fighting going on for the second ticket,” she said.
“I figured I would just choose my sister-in-law and be done with it.”
Participants participated in a street hockey game with Gary Leeman, Bill Derlago, Johnny Bower and Rick Vaive.
Sloan provided the music and there were plenty of ticket giveaways for tailgaters. Those who did not win a ticket were welcome to stay and watch the game on the giant screen.
Nineteen-year-old Caitlin Woolcott enjoyed the party with her dad Jim.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “This is my first game.”