The 60th NHL All-Star game takes place this Sunday but the league and the host team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, are making sure that there is plenty of opportunity to involve the entire community in a weekend long celebration starting with Fan Fair that takes place Friday through Sunday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Thursday night presented the opportunity for Blue Jackets season ticket holders to purchase tickets to a preview of the Fan Fest activities that engulfes over 20,000 square feet of the convention center. Reynoldsburg’s Matt Pfeffer was nothing but impressed.
"The NHL went all out for this thing," Pfeffer said. "It’s an amazing event for families to come in and enjoy an actual hockey experience."
Fan Fest presents a variety of experiences, merchandise and hockey history for fans of all teams and ages. One of the first things to catch Pfeffer’s attention was part of a memorabilia display that focused on the history of hockey in Ohio.
"People don’t realize there’s a deep hockey history here," Pfeffer said. "The state has teams at a variety of levels not only in Columbus but also Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton. And there are so many teams at the collegiate level as well. When you come here you realize it’s part of who we are."
In addition to the Ohio-centric display, the NHL and Hockey Hall of Fame have sent some of the most prominent trophies in the sport to be viewable including the Stanley Cup, the Hart Trophy, and the Vezina.
But the Fan Fair isn’t just about looking at hockey accomplishments; it’s about feeding and building the sport itself. There are floor hockey rinks for a variety of ages, and the "Skills Zone" provides fans the opportunity to try their hand at sniping shots, precision passing, deflecting passes into the goal, accuracy shooting, dangling, and having the hardest shot.
"You can see Bauer and Reebok equipment here," Pfeffer said. "This might spark an interest in a kid who wants to play hockey. Just bring the family down – it might get a younger generation to like hockey and perhaps play hockey."
And if playing hockey isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do that is unique to the All-Star experience at Fan Fair. NHL current and former players will be in attendance for question and answer sessions, mascots from across the league will be visiting with fans, and many media outlets will be broadcasting live from the event.
Fox Sports Ohio’s booth at Fan Fair will give attendees the opportunity to not only watch on-air talent but also record their own segments that may be included in future Blue Jackets televised promotions.
There are places to order a customized bobblehead, look at trading cards and collector’s pins and even see an NHL ultimate fan cave. Friday night, the Fan Fest is also the location for the NHL Fantasy Draft that will happen on a special stage.
Based on what he’s seen, Pfeffer believes that this may be the best All-Star Fan Fair yet and that it provides a unique opportunity for anyone to be part of the All-Star experience.
"Come (to Fan Fest) and you feel like you’re a part of what’s going on," Pfeffer said. "Everything is accessible. You get to come and do all this stuff even if you don’t go inside the Arena for the game. It’s all been provided by the NHL and the great people at the Blue Jackets who have worked to make this possible."
Fan Fair is open Friday, Jan 23 — 35 and tickets are available online, at the Nationwide Arena box office, and at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for children (ages 3-12), Seniors, College students and military members. Complete information on how to buy tickets as well as a description of the Fair’s events can be found here.