Having lived in New England my whole life, I'm pretty immune to cabin fever during the frozen winter months, but even the heartiest of winter warriors enjoys an occasional break from the snow and ice. With the NHL All-Star Game being held in Los Angeles this year, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and head southwest for a long weekend of hockey and sunshine.
Before the actual All-Star events got underway, we started our weekend on Friday by checking out Fan Fair, next door to Staples at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Not really knowing what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the event was like a hockey fan's amusement park with everything from Hall of Fame artifacts and Zamboni-driving simulators to photo booths and the Stanley Cup itself. The Convention Center was packed with not just local Kings and Ducks jerseys, but fans from as far as Chicago, Florida and Toronto––even a few fellow Bostonians. After making our way through the various attractions, we took a stroll around the Staples Center, which was decked out for the stars, the only way Hollywood knows how.
The next day, we returned to the Staples Center for the Skills Competition. Assuming this would probably be our only chance to see Justin Bieber play hockey against Ray Bourque, we arrived early to take in the Celebrity Game beforehand. As we made our way to the main entrance sporting our Bruins attire, a certain Tweet from the Bruins caught our eye. Immediately taking off in a sprint around the building to the "Hockeywood" sign we had seen the night before, we spotted the yellow Atlantic Division jersey signed by Tuukka Rask hanging on the edge of the H. Being the first Bruins fans to arrive (I mean, we literally sprinted), the one-of-a-kind souvenir was ours.
Coming down from the excitement of our prize winning, we made our way into the Staples Center for the Celebrity Game. Being that we were in Los Angeles, members of the NHL 100 were mixed in with famous hockey fans like Jerry Bruckheimer, Taylor Kitsch, Cuba Gooding Jr. and the Biebs himself to play under the coaching eyes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Bieber wasn't particularly popular with the Staples Center crowd, receiving an echo of boos when he took his first penalty shot (followed by cheers when he missed) and a roar of applause upon being boarded by (the much larger) Chris Pronger. While the game itself wasn't something to write home about, the novelty of seeing hockey legends take the ice together (plus with a handful of celebrities) was pretty special.
#1. Bobby Orr's flying game winner. #2. Rocket Richard shaking hand of Bruins goalie. #3. THIS ONE! #prongerbiebs pic.twitter.com/NjkZxVLo8C — Brendan Shanahan (@brendanshanahan) January 29, 2017
The Skills Competition itself was an entertaining treat, seeing the NHL's best face off in battles of singular skills. Connor McDavid was inches away from breaking Dylan Larkin's fastest skater record, Sidney Crosby and future Sidney Crosby (otherwise known as Auston Matthews) battled head-to-head in accuracy shooting, and Ryan Kesler's son was the only player to score in the shootout on Carey Price.
Final verdict: the weekend was a novelty experience that brought the best players in the world and hockey fans from all over North America together for a two-day event. We had the pleasure of meeting fans from LA, Washington, and even Slovakia, all united to watch their favorite players show off their skills.
Thanks for the hospitality, Hollywood. Til' next time!