Its legacy is guaranteed to be felt long beyond NHL All-Star Weekend itself.
Then again, the Energizer Night Skate at NHL All-Star is more than just a mere addition to the calendar for the parade of activities slated during the National Hockey League's mid-season showcase, set for Jan. 26-29 in the nation's capital.
Rather, this evening dash on blades down the Rideau Canal is designed to provide a springboard to a community rink project the Sens Foundation hopes will benefit high-priority neighbourhoods throughout the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
If all goes as planned, more than 2,500 people will don skates on Jan. 27 and, guided by personal headlights, "light up the night" to support the Sens Foundation in a five-kilomentre fundraising event to help raise the money need to build 19 community outdoor rinks on both sides of the Ottawa River. It's an extension of the Rink of Dreams project now underway at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall.
"We want to give one rink for every year we've been in business here," Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson said with reference to the Senators organization's 20th anniversary. "It's a legacy that we want to give back in celebration of our 20 years in the community."
The Energizer night skate will be the kickstart to that fundraising drive, with the Foundation hoping to turn it into an annual event that carries on beyond all-star weekend. More than $7 million will be required to build the 19 rinks, Robinson said, with fundraising efforts determining the time frame in which all the rinks will be completed. They're also intended to be recreational spaces year round, available for sports such as basketball and ball hockey during the summer months.
"We hope (it'll happen) fairly quickly, in the next four or five years," said Senators president Cyril Leeder. "The fundraising will really dictate how quickly we get these done. We're hoping to do a multiple number of them each year ... We've got one on the boards now we'd like to do in the spring and, as the fundraising gets completed, we'll look to add more."
Senators centre Jason Spezza and his wife, Jennifer, have been named honorary chairs for the Jan. 27 event, as well as the community rink campaign. For Spezza, who grew up playing on outdoor rinks, it's a perfect fit.
"I've been very fortunate to play my whole career here and we're always looking for different ways to help the community," said Spezza. "As a kid growing up in Canada, you spend lots of time on outdoor rinks and you really hone your craft. Even now, when you skate outside, you get that special feeling you don’t always get when you’re playing in arenas. To share this feeling throughout the community and to figure out ways to help build this program up is something we jumped at.
"We have a young family at home that’s growing and we consider Ottawa our second home. We want our kids to be able to play in outdoor rinks and, hopefully, we can raise lots of money and lots of awareness to help this cause."
To register for the Jan. 27 event, log on to www.energizernightskate.ca. The cost to register is $20 or $15 for those aged 12 and under. Each participant receives an Energizer LED headlight and commemorative event toque.