As the NHL gears up for it’s All-Star weekend in Ottawa, it got me thinking about last year’s All-Star festivities hosted by the Hurricanes and held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh was put on the world stage and the city came through with flying colors. The RBC Center was decked out in All-Star glory, everywhere around town you could find All-Star banners, posters and other promotional material. Downtown Raleigh was transformed into hockey central for the Fan Fest activities, which included everything a hockey fan could handle. Fan Fest included several highlights including the Fantasy Draft, but most Caniacs remember the expansion of “Skinnermania.” Thousands of fans showed up to his hour-long autograph session to see the (then) 18-year old freshman phenomenon for the Carolina Hurricanes. The ‘Canes were represented well in the All-Star game festivities, with Eric Staal being a captain, Cam Ward being the first overall pick in the fantasy draft, Jeff Skinner creating a mania around Raleigh and Jamie McBain participating in the skills competition as a member of Team Staal’s rookies. The whole weekend created so many memories for throngs of fans who took part in the weekend, but I want to recollect my weekend and why it was awesome.
Personally for me, my highlight of All-Star weekend came outside of the RBC Center — literally, right outside. My brother and I went to the Skills Competition and got there a little early before everyone was supposed to appear on the red carpet. We went inside The Eye (The Hurricanes’ team store) and started browsing, stumbling upon a Cam Ward All-Star jersey. I snatched one of the last ones up and we went over to the red carpet and we were able to get a spot a couple of rows of people back. The mascots from all around the league began to arrive to entertain the crowd, including Stormy, Lightningbug, Slapshot and Thrash, who decided to say hello:
The players started to arrive and we noticed Cam Ward down the autograph line. My brother being the sneaky guy he is, was chatting up a gentleman and his wife next to us and asked if they could get their daughter, who was standing in front, to sign my jersey. They were kind enough to oblige and asked their daughter to get Cam Ward to sign it when he passed by. She didn’t let anyone down, and my All-Star jersey is now proudly displayed in my Canes room. My brother recently got engaged to his girlfriend of two years — I probably need to step it up to get him a sweet wedding present, huh?
I spent the day of the All-Star game itself with my Dad and spent the whole day talking about hockey. My Dad wasn’t originally too into hockey, but the more I got into it and took him and other members of my family to games, the more that they all got hooked. It was good to get to spend some time with him and watch the best hockey players in the world do what they do best. The introduction that they did featuring past Hurricanes’ captains Rod Brind’Amour and Ron Francis rocked the RBC Center so hard that I haven’t felt (felt, not heard) it that loud in that building since the playoffs in the 2009 season. It was also special to see Glen Wesley, whose number 2 is retired by the Hurricanes, sound the siren prior to the game. The game itself was entertaining as always, despite Team Staal losing 11-10 in a goal scoring frenzy.
Now the game goes up to Ottawa, where many more memories will be made by those attending. I recall hearing that Raleigh put on the All-Star game “like an original 6 franchise” and that it was the “best All-Star experience that I can remember” by several members of the media. It should be (and it is) a moment of pride for Caniacs, the City of Raleigh and the state of North Carolina. I’m just thrilled that I got to be a part of it.
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