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Monday, 24 October 2016

The Day After

The Heritage Classic is over, and we'll now await the next outdoor game on December 31 when Toronto welcomes the world to its city for the 2017 Centennial Classic between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field. I have to admit that I had a blast at this event, but there were some observations that need to be made. Some of these observations may have been written on this blog already, but let's air the laundry when it comes to what I saw this weekend.

SECURITY. I wrote about this the other day, but the security people hired by either the Jets or by the NHL need more than a high-end briefing on what is and isn't allowed at an NHL outdoor game. I was baffled by the stance taken on cameras when it comes to an event like this, and I find it hard to believe that the hired rent-a-cops couldn't get the rules right. This needs to be infinitely better for future events.

JERSEYS ON FANS. I saw some incredible jerseys. I want to toss out some kudos to the guy wearing the WHA Alberta Oilers jersey complete with "Alberta" block name on the back. This jersey reaches back to the earliest days of the WHA in 1972 when the Alberta Oilers wore the province's name across their shoulders prior to using players' names in that spot. Kudos will be passed along to the few people wearing WHA Jets jersey. I'll also hand out kudos to the one guy who was seen wearing a Shane Doan Winnipeg Jets jersey! That one caught my attention in a big way!

JERSEYS ON FANS. Look, for every incredible jersey, there was someone wearing a jersey that was less-than-incredible. I saw more "Gretzky" jerseys on the orange Edmonton alternates. I saw a "Gretzky" on a McFarlane Oilers alternate. I saw a number of "Hawerchuk" jerseys on current Jets uniforms. I saw players' nicknames on jerseys. I saw statements on jerseys where names should have been. Look, I get that you bought the jersey so you can decide to put whatever you want on it, but it looks wrong. In fact, it is wrong in most cases. This pet peeve will never die for me.

SPECTATOR PLAZA. A fantastic place where a pile of things were happening, but I've never had so many people ask me where they can buy merchandise. I get that there are certain places to buy gear, but a place like Spectator Plaza is literally a gold mine for merchandise sales as people are already prepared to spend money there. When fans offer me money for the toque I was wearing, you might want to reconsider your merchandise and retail strategy.

SPECTATOR PLAZA. For the vendors that were there, I have to admit there was a pile of cool stuff to do and keep fans entertained. From the bands on stage keeping the place rocking to the Molson bubble hockey game to the free coffee from Tim Hortons to the free cake and candy provided by Hershey and Reece, there was literally something for everyone. If there's a Spectator Plaza in Toronto - and by every account there will be - go and have a ball doing all the activities there!

MORE INCLUSION. When the Winter Classic was in Boston, there were games from all levels of hockey played on the rink prior to and after the Winter Classic. Winnipeg could have had all sorts of games at the rink in Investors Group Field if they had wanted. There were Manitoba Moose games, University of Manitoba Bisons games, and an assortment of minor hockey games that could have played there. I'm not sure why this wasn't done, but this is something that should be offered to local teams when possible. The memories would be off the charts for everyone who participated!

Besides the outcome of the game, it was still an incredible experience for me. I was even lucky enough to skate on the ice, and I have to tell you that it's surreal. Investors Group Field looked enormous from center ice, and you can literally see every corner of the stadium from the nosebleed seats to the very front row. These are the memories I'll remember, and they are irreplaceable.

I do want to thank a few people for including me in the fun. I am always appreciative of my good friends Brenda B., Ryan G., and Rhonda G. for their contributions this weekend in making this an experience I'll never forget, and I cannot thank them enough. I want to thank Natalie from Reebok for an incredible experience, and Michelle from CTV Morning Live for putting up with my "superfandom". I also want to thank Jamie, Jenelle, and Brayden who worked with me at the Spectator Plaza tent where we ended up laughing more than working. It was so much fun!

Get out and experience one of these events, folks. There were some bumps on the road this weekend, but the overall experience is one that will not be forgotten nor would I have traded it for anything else!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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