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Centennial Fan Arena

NHL Centennial Fan Arena makes stop at Flames' Red Rally

Fans get picture with Stanley Cup, autographs from players during weekend celebration

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- Mark Bylsma looked but didn't touch the Stanley Cup.

Luke, his son, didn't hesitate, tracing his finger along to last season's winner, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both had the opportunity to get up close to hockey's greatest prize with the NHL's Centennial Fan Arena, an interactive traveling fan experience that is visiting every NHL market across North America in 2017 to celebrate the League's 100th year.

"I think it's great the NHL is doing this to allow fans to interact with some of the aspects of the game a little bit more than they would normally get the chance to," Bylsma said. "That's cool."

The celebration began Friday with an appearance by the Stanley Cup outside Scotiabank Saddledome.

It continued into Saturday in conjunction with the Calgary Flames' Red Rally, a family-friendly event featuring interactive games, an open practice featuring coach Glen Gulutzan mic'd up, and autograph signings with the players.

"It's always nice for the fans to come around and see the players, especially the young kids that watch so closely and idolize a lot of these guys," said forward Kris Versteeg, who grew up two hours southeast of Calgary and played his junior with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.

"For them to meet guys on a personal level is probably big for them and it's big for us to show our support to the community that gives everything they have to us.

"I know as a kid I never really got the experience. The Lethbridge Hurricanes were like my NHL team, where every time I got to meet them I was awestruck. As a kid for me, it was big to have role models and guys to look forward to and look up to. I think it's big for these kids too, especially little hockey players."

On site is a 53-foot museum truck, which features interactive displays, original video content, unique photo moments and historic memorabilia. A second trailer hosts a video screen with highlights overlooking a pop-up ball hockey rink.

An interactive experience allowing fans to compete against each other in a virtual race to resurface the ice with a mini-Zamboni is among the other activities enjoyed.

The Centennial celebration, which began in front of 40,148 fans at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on Jan. 1 at the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic, will close out the weekend when the Flames host the Washington Capitals on Sunday (9 p.m. ET; SN360, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).

"It's great," Bylsma said. "I've seen the Cup before at the Hockey Hall of Fame, but to allow [Luke] to see it and also to meet players inside, it's perfect timing to have it this year with the Red Rally."

The next stop for the NHL Centennial Fan Arena will be in Edmonton Nov. 3-5. For more information and the most up-to-date schedule of events, visit nhl.com/fanarena.

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