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NHL Face-Off 2013 to bring Canadians together

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL – Just about any game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens is a tough ticket, but it will be even tougher to get into the Bell Centre on Tuesday night as two iconic Canadian franchises will drop the puck on the 2013-14 season.

But those not among the lucky 21,273 to be watching the game will still have a unique way to experience the first game of the season, and it will be just a few blocks away from Bell Centre.

NHL Face-Off 2013 will provide fans with a day full of activities in the Place des Festivals sector of Montreal, with interactive games and activities starting Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, concerts by the Kings of Leon, Quebec hip-hop group Loco Locass and Toronto rock band The Beaches later in the evening. The game will be broadcast live on several big screens throughout the large downtown venue that hosts such world-class events as the Montreal Jazz Festival.

"When you think about a fan's mentality at the start of a season it's about hope and anticipation, the possibilities of a new season," Brian Jennings, the NHL's Chief Marketing Officer, said Monday. "So what we've done is find a fan-friendly way to enjoy the start of the season."

Fans who arrive earlier in the afternoon will be able to take part in activities set up by some of the League's corporate sponsors, such as an Olympic-themed booth from Canadian Tire, and a hardest shot and accuracy shooting activity from Bridgestone.

This is the third season the NHL has held a Face-Off event in a Canadian city, following Toronto and Winnipeg, and Jennings says the point is to make the game as inclusive as possible.

"These types of events are a way for us to demonstrate that hockey is a socially unifying force in this country and it's what brings Canadians together," Jennings said. "I think that's an important message in all of this, because when you look at the changing demographics there are new Canadians immigrating to this country coming from regions of the world that aren't predisposed to the sport of hockey. So you want to make sure you are doing things to appeal to new Canadians."

Another way the NHL is incorporating new fans into the event is attracting a high profile musical act like Kings of Leon, who launched their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, on Sept. 24. The Nashville-based Grammy Award-winning band has the potential of bringing a whole new crowd to the game of hockey, while hockey fans who may not have been exposed to their music will get the chance.

"This is both for the avid fan, because there's something here for the avids," Jennings said, "but it's also for the casuals who are maybe not as ardent but they can come down and see some music, see some activation from our sponsors and maybe realize they have much more in common with the game than they initially thought."

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