TORONTO -- Molson Canadian is doing its part to bring the game of hockey to new heights, literally.
Last year, the beer company and NHL corporate sponsor built a professionally made rink in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia to serve as the centerpiece and grand prize location of its #AnythingForHockey campaign.
This year, Molson Canadian chose an urban and airy setting for its #AnythingForHockey rink location, building a 100-by-45-foot rink 32 stories up on the rooftop at 120 Adelaide Street West in downtown Toronto, complete with breathtaking views of the city's skyline and netting to ensure pucks won't fall down to the street.
"Being up in the mountains last year, we had to find something just as epic," said Brock Hendricks, the U.S. associate brand manager for Molson Canadian. "We wanted to do something that has never been done before. We want to push the limits with hockey."
The impetus of the rooftop rink, the first of its kind as far as Molson Canadian can tell, was the #AnythingForHockey campaign, which celebrates people, their passion for hockey and how they give back to the game.
Using its social media platforms, Molson Canadian asked people to submit their hockey stories as part of the contest, with the grand prize being a trip to Toronto to be featured in a commercial, with the rooftop rink as the setting, that will run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Four Canadians were selected as winners from over 3,000 entries. A 30-second television commercial will debut in early February, likely to coincide with Hockey Day in Canada (Feb. 6). An additional 90-second commercial will air on Molson Canadian's website and through its social platforms.
There were an additional 20 contest winners from the United States, mostly from Western New York, who were invited to Toronto to skate on the rink and play some 3-on-3 shinny.
"We want to celebrate those people that really give back to the game," said Duncan Fraser, the marketing manager for Molson Canadian. "We can't be a company or brand that just says we're irrationally obsessed for anything about hockey, we need to prove that we are too. That's where the rink on the mountains came from. We loved it and we thought it was such a successful campaign, but we thought the biggest miss for us was the fact that people weren't going to be able to access it. That drove us to where we are today."
Molson Canadian will open its rooftop rink to the public from Jan. 29 through Feb. 7. Anybody interested has to reserve ice time in one-hour blocks.
The company is also keeping the #AnythingForHockey contest alive and will hold a random draw for winners to be invited to skate on the rink at a certain time.
"There's a lot of stuff, so much great content," Fraser said. "We had people getting married in hockey gear at center ice. We had one guy playing golf in B.C., and he brought his hockey stick in his bag because it had been so cold the night before that one of the lakes had frozen over. So he played golf and stopped at the hole and played hockey on the pond.
"You get to see what the game does for people."
Members of the Toronto Maple Leafs skated on the rink Sunday. Ex-Maple Leafs players Darcy Tucker and Shayne Corson got some time on the rink Monday morning.
Natalie Spooner, a gold-medal winner with Canada's National Women's team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was also at the rink on Monday as part of a promotion for the Canadian Women's Hockey League All-Star Game, which is Saturday at Air Canada Centre.
"It was really cool," Spooner said. "It was pretty cold up there, windy, but it's not every day you get to skate on a rooftop in the middle of the city looking at the CN Tower. Definitely the craziest place I've skated."
Fraser said Molson Canadian started conceptualizing the rooftop rink idea in September, scouting locations and discovering as many as three buildings in every major Canadian city from Vancouver to St. John's, Newfoundland as options.
They narrowed the choices to the building in Toronto and one just outside of downtown Ottawa. The Toronto building was chosen because of its height, accessibility of the rooftop, and the view.
There were logistical hurdles Molson Canadian had to leap in order to complete the project. They hired Smart Ice, a rink-build consulting company, and required a structural engineer to oversee the project because of weight restrictions on the roof.
All the equipment, including the scaffolding, subfloor, coils below the rink, the four chiller systems, boards, glass, goals and hand-operated ice resurfacing machine that more resembles a lawn mower than a Zamboni, were airlifted by a crane from a neighboring building onto the roof.
"Fortunate or just great design by us, the building next door is under construction, there is a crane, and we asked nicely and we were able to get some crane access," said Richard Kuypers, the senior manager of sponsorship and events for Molson Canadian. "All of our trucks went down to the loading dock and the crane picked it up, loads and loads and loads."
Construction on the rink got underway Nov. 28 and finished Jan. 10. Kuypers said he noticed the buzz about the rink start to build on Jan. 4, when people returned to work after a holiday break.
"All of a sudden it was like, 'Hey, there's a rink on a roof,'" Kuypers said. "It was literally organic like that. We expected there would be some buzz, but it really blew up. Then we slapped the logo on, took the credit for it, and had some fun with it as well."
Kuypers said Molson Canadian is already having very preliminary talks about a rink location for the contest next year.
"We don't know yet," he said. "I don't know how we're going to top this one, literally."