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2012 all-star weekend a true festival of hockey fun

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators centre Jason Spezza talks about NHL all-star weekend, which is coming to Scotiabank Place in January. Event details were unveiled earlier today at Scotiabank Place for the mid-season showcase, set to run from Jan. 26-29 in the nation's capital (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

The stage has officially been set for one of the most memorable hockey celebrations ever held in the nation's capital.

Count on All-Star Weekend being much more than a game when the National Hockey League brings its mid-season showcase to Ottawa from Jan. 26-29. The four-day festival figures to captivate the attention of puck lovers throughout the community when the hockey world descends on the city in a way unlike anything seen before in these parts.

"It's a great weekend for our hockey fans here," Senators president Cyril Leeder said earlier today after unveiling details for the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend, which arrives in Ottawa for the first time in a little more than a month. "We’ve been saying all along it’s like an international film festival. All the stars are here, whether it’s players, it’s coaches, it’s managers, it’s media personalities … everybody that’s somebody special in our sport will be here for that weekend.

"It’ll be hard to move anywhere in downtown Ottawa without bumping into somebody that you recognize."

Senators centre Jason Spezza, a participant in the 2008 all-star event in Atlanta, believes the city and its hockey fans are in for a major treat when the event comes to the capital.

"All-star weekend is a light-hearted weekend where everybody can really show their personalities," said Spezza, who'd love to be in the game as a participant. "Guys really look forward to it and enjoy it and being in a hockey atmosphere like Ottawa has, it’s just going to be a great mix.

"People will really enjoy getting to see everybody together at once and see everybody associated with each other. It’s the one time you let your guard down and you see guys talking to each other a little bit more and getting to know each other. I think the fans will feel that vibe. The experience I had was extremely memorable and the fans here will really enjoy it."

They'll have plenty of opportunities to catch all-star fever. From the NHL trophy procession down the Rideau Canal that will launch the festivities on Jan. 26, to the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fair that'll occupy the new Ottawa Convention Centre for three days, to the skills competition and game itself at Scotiabank Place, all-star weekend indeed offers up the proverbial something for everyone.

Fans can also become participants themselves during the Energizer Night Skate at NHL All-Star on Jan. 27. It's a one-of-a-kind skating event on the Rideau Canal, with more than 2,500 people expected to head down the world's longest skating rink wearing personal headlights.

"Undoubtedly, it'll become one of the highlights of the weekend," said Kyle McMann, the NHL's vice-president of integrated marketing. "Imagine thousands of passionate hockey fans skating down the historic Rideau Canal, each one of them illuminating the night sky with their own personal headlight courtesy of Energizer. I can’t imagine anything we’ve done in recent memory that has the potential to be as visually powerful as the event promises to be."

Back by popular demand is the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, set for the evening of Jan. 26 at the Theatre du Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau. That's when two designated captains will draft the teams for the 59th Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, to be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place. They'll also take part in the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills competition on Jan. 28.

"It's fun for the fans," Spezza said of the player draft. "The fans really responded to it and I'm glad they've gone forward with it. It seems like something that was a big success last year."

Of course, nothing would make the weekend more complete for Senators fans than to see some of their own take part in the game. Erik Karlsson is the current leader among defencemen in NHL fan balloting, which runs through to Jan. 4, while captain Daniel Alfredsson and Spezza stand third and fourth, respectively, among forwards. NHL goal-scoring leader Milan Michalek and blueliner Sergei Gonchar are also on the ballot.

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For a complete list of all-star weekend activities, click here.

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