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NHL Fan Fair attracts all kinds of allegiances

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Where else but the 2015 NHL Fan Fair could fans of so many teams wearing so many hockey sweaters co-exist?

Thousands of (peaceful) fans flocked to the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Friday, the first of three days for the festival in conjunction with the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), creating a rainbow of colors.

In an unscientific survey of the crowd over a 45-minute period, at least 20 NHL teams were represented in a variety of old and new styles. The host Columbus Blue Jackets led the way but there was a large presence of Pittsburgh Penguins fans.

Defunct teams including the Hartford Whalers and Cincinnati Stingers were on display as people roamed 200,000 square feet of interactive games and exhibits.

"This was an eye-opening experience. We're looking forward to the rest of the weekend," Garry Kimber of Columbus said.

He was wearing an Erie Otters jersey, one of 80 game-worn jerseys he owns. He and his wife, Anita, have traveled to Ottawa, Toronto, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington to see games but never experienced anything like the Fan Fair.

"It's really amazing to see so many hockey fans in a setting like this," Anita Kimber said.

One family had dad in a Whalers jersey, mom wearing an Anaheim Ducks top, and daughter in a Detroit Red Wings outfit.

By far the most popular destination was the opportunity for photos with the Stanley Cup, but fans also were drawn to the slap shot and precision-passing challenges. The Stanley Cup was one of 20 NHL trophies to be viewed, but that wasn't the main focus for all.

"I'm here for the mascots," Anita Kimber said. "I have a bag full of (miniature) mascots I hope to get autographed."

Music pulsated and lights flashed as fans went from one end to the other to seek trading cards, merchandise, food and drink. One food chain had an eating area for children that was shaped like a giant penalty box.

There seemed to be something for everybody, starting with floor hockey for children to memorabilia for adults. Also, current and former NHL stars are making appearances.

In paying homage to the first All-Star Game in Columbus, the Hockey Hall of Fame had several display cases with jerseys and other mementos chronicling the history of hockey in Ohio. College and pro teams, including the NHL's Cleveland Barons, were given their due.

The 2015 NHL Fan Fair is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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