John Tortora, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the San Jose Sharks, attended the All-Star Game in Ottawa this past weekend. Here are his thoughts on the weekend.
THE EVENTS OF ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The National Hockey League hosted another very successful annual All-Star Weekend this past weekend in Ottawa. The obvious on-ice highlights of the weekend included the Fantasy Draft, the Skills Competition, and the All-Star Game. Beyond the on-ice events, however, All-Star Weekend also represented an opportunity for the League to conduct off-ice business with the Clubs and to thank its many business partners and sponsors for their on-going and loyal support.
One of the more high profile off-ice events was the NHL Board of Governors meeting. The BOG meets four times per year, usually during All-Star Weekend, then in June, September, and December. The BOG consists of about 100 executives from across the 30 NHL Clubs. Each Club is represented by a Governor (usually the owner) and two or more Alternate Governors. Kevin Compton (Governor) and Doug Wilson and I (Alternate Governors) represented the San Jose Sharks. Each Club is entitled to one board vote (usually belonging to the Governor) on League matters. As with any board, the primary purpose of the BOG is to provide direction to the League's executive management and to vote on certain agenda items.
The League conducted the BOG meeting on Saturday morning in a downtown Ottawa hotel. Since the League held its last meeting recently in early December, the agenda for this meeting was relatively light and included an update on the overall business operations of the League and an update on issues such as realignment, collective bargaining, franchise matters, and concussions. Also, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, the NHL's national over-the-air television partner in Canada, presented on the manner in which the network continues to enhance its hockey coverage through it's long-standing relationship with the NHL. CBC has televised NHL hockey every Saturday night since 1952 through it's "Hockey Night in Canada" property, one of the longest running series in the history of television.
In addition to the meeting, the League entertained the BOG during All-Star Weekend in the form of a cultural experience unique to the host city. As the capital of Canada, Ottawa presented the League with the opportunity to create an event with senior Canadian government officials. On Friday night, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk invited the BOG to attend a private dinner on Parliament Hill, hosted by Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, Noel Kinsella, the Speaker of the Canadian Senate, and Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons. Afterwards, the Speakers offered a brief tour of the Parliament building, whose hallways are adorned with majestic wall paintings of past Canadian government officials, as well as tours of the Senate and House chambers and offices. Similar to touring the Capitol building in Washington, the experience was very educational and interesting.
Beyond BOG activities, the League used All-Star Weekend to entertain and celebrate the game with its many business partners and sponsors, all of whom spend countless hours and dollars marketing and promoting the game through their products and services. The entertaining consisted of two major private events - the Saturday Night All-Star Party and the Sunday All-Star Brunch - sandwiched between the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game.
The League held the All-Star Party in a massive convention complex outside of downtown Ottawa immediately after the Skills Competition on Saturday Night. About 5,000 League business partners and sponsors attended the event, which consisted of live bands mixed with dancing acrobats. Guests found a variety of food choices spread across seven stations, each station representing delicacies from one of the seven Canadian NHL cities.
The Sunday All-Star Brunch, held immediately prior to the All-Star Game, was a slower-paced version of the Saturday Night Party. Held at the All-Star Fan Fest in the Ottawa Convention Center, the brunch also contained plenty of entertainment and food, highlighted by Beaver Tails, an Ottawa specialty food tradition of fried dough shaped in the form of a beaver tail and topped with cinnamon.
The All-Star Fan Fest itself was unique to the weekend. Opened to the public from Thursday through Saturday, the Fan Fest displayed exhibits of hockey history and memorabilia mixed with interactive activities for children such as a hardest shot competition, floor hockey games, and the like. The League estimated that approximately 30,000 fans visited Fan Fest during All Star Weekend.
Coupled with the on-ice events, All-Star Weekend provided the NHL, its Clubs, partners, and sponsors with an excellent platform to conduct business and to grow the game. All-Star Weekend remains a very successful and busy initiative for the NHL.