OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 26: Ben Wiens of Kanta, Canada competes in a skill test at NHL Fan Fair at the Ottawa Convention Centre as part of NHL All Star weekend on January 26, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, Ontario - There were many entertaining events at the NHL Fan Fair event held in the city's new convention center, but without a doubt the best was the kids' foam hockey game: take off your shoes, grab a foam-bladed stick, and get ready to dominate.
Tonight's game was an especially spirited battle, with two separate children crying to my great amusement. Though the game started off like a bunch of guppies feeding from the same spot, top talent eventually broke through.
Now, everyone knows that stick handling a plastic puck on a plastic floor would challenge even Jason Spezza, but it would not prevent him from blind passes, and it didn't prevent these kids from attempting them either.
(Read on for heroes and zeroes...)
Red killer: Defense
Choosing the approach of playing all their men in the offensive zone hurt the red team early as shy kid in the angry centurion jersey was repeatedly open for breakaway passes in front of the red net. Thinly-veiled Red Zero Idiot kid in Canucks jersey (Henrik Sedin, no less) made more than a few saves on him, but the first goal was given up on a rebound from one of those shots.
Red Zero: Idiot kid in Canucks jersey
Though Idiot kid in Canucks jersey made a number of good saves, including one that rolled up his body and hit him in the face, the game-winner will almost certainly haunt him for the rest of his life. A floating wrister from the short side AND from a bad angle to boot, it was the kind of goal a six-year-old could have stopped, and Idiot kid in Canucks jersey looked about eight.
Red Hero: Girl in pink shirt
Easily the best player on either team, Girl in pink shirt came to play. Winning every puck battle she was in, dishing feeds to her teammates, and consistently first on the puck, she looked like the only player on team Red who came to play. It's no coincidence that she scored her team's only goal, a bang-in of her own rebound from close in the crease. Kudos to you, Girl ink pink shirt--you're a hockey player.
Yellow Zero: Overager who didn't take off his shoes
How lame are you, kid? First of all, you're way older than everyone you're playing against, and then you refuse to take off your shoes off so that you can step on the toes of your opponents? That might be the lamest thing I've ever seen in a hockey game. There was no unsportsmanlike penalty called on him, but there should have been. I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite!
Overall, the Fan Fair was a really enjoyable experience. The event was filled with activities for participants of all ages, and it was packed--the line to get in went around the building--with enthusiastic fans. From posing with the Cup to hardest shot challenges to getting to watch player broadcasts, there was entertainment everywhere you looked. The NHL made a good decision in choosing to engage the kids as the source of that entertainment.