|Andrew and Peter Ing at the 2011 NHL Alumni Gala|
Using the innovative XHockeyProducts from Peter’s company, Fan-tastic Sports, (www.fan-tasticsports.com) the young hockey players are able to track their scores online and see how they compare with other young Canadian hockey players. Those with the best scores in the qualifying events from each city will be invited to Ottawa during the NHL’s All-Star weekend to compete in the grand finale. With stops in 15 Canadian cities, the events will have brought Peter from Vancouver (on October 7th) all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland (on December 16th) and everywhere in between.
“I haven’t travelled like this since I played hockey,” Peter said in the dressing room before taking to the ice with another group of children. “Things have been fantastic so far! There has been a great response from the kids and the parents. I think it is really exciting to see them out there having a good time. There are lots of smiles, lots of interaction and to have a chance to maybe go to the All-Star game - that is a nice carrot on top of everything.”
“I have really enjoyed being in that hockey environment again, seeing hockey across Canada. It was awesome to see the different rinks across the country. Places like Edmonton, where they have four rinks, rock climbing walls and pools inside. In Regina, they had indoor soccer fields with huge ceilings, along with six ice rinks. I have seen some phenomenal facilities built for hockey and sports in general.”
At each tour stop, a number of local NHL Alumni members have joined Peter on the ice, interacting with the kids, guiding them through the various challenges and offering encouragement to all. When I stopped by the rink to catch up with Peter in Ottawa, it was interesting to see that the smiles were not only on the faces of the youngsters participating, the Alumni members were having a great time too. Joining Peter at this stop on the tour were fellow NHL Alumni members Laurie Boschman, Shaun Van Allen, Tom Fergus and Patrick Lalime.
“It’s great to see where guys have made their homes and finding out what they are doing now in their lives,” he said of meeting up with old friends and former teammates in each city. “With fifteen events and at least four alumni members at each event, you get a pretty good cross section of players. Seeing Shaun Van Allen today for example - we haven’t seen each other since we were teammates back in Edmonton. That was in the early 90’s. Things have changed a lot since then! You get to catch up on news about their families, so it’s great to see so many guys. Not only the ones you played against, but the ones you played with too.”
An event like the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Competition ties right in with the NHL Alumni Association’s mission of growing the game of hockey at all levels. For the former NHL players involved with the Alumni Association, there is nothing better than working with young hockey players and helping to build memories that will last a lifetime.
“That’s what I love about this tour, it is really at the grassroots level. We have it segmented from 7 to 12-year olds, but anyone between those ages, boy or girl, can participate. You are really competing against yourself, so it is a feel-good event no matter who you are or what your background in hockey is. We have had entry-level House League kids come out with a smile and we’ve had Triple A hockey players that really take it seriously and want to have the best score in the country.”
After crossing the country, the tour will return to Ottawa for the grand finale, which will take place on the ice of the world-famous Rideau Canal during the NHL All-Star festivities at the end of January. Along with wrapping up the Junior Skills competition, Peter and Fan-tastic Sports will be providing the interactive equipment for the NHL Fan-Fair at Ottawa's newly built, state of the art, downtown convention centre.
“It should be very interesting - you never know what the weather is going to be like here in Ottawa in January,” Peter said with a laugh. “I hope it’s not 40 below, but it will be interesting to do it right there on the Rideau Canal in front of the Ottawa Convention Centre. Our company is also running the Fan-Fair for the NHL again this year, so we’ll finish up with the big finale out on the ice in the morning and people will have the opportunity to go inside to the warm Fan-Fair where we will have 14 interactive lanes set up.”
The dedication to innovative ideas and all the hard work done by Peter, his partners and colleagues at Fan-tastic Sports, has made the company a leader in the industry. It is a tremendous achievement to be recognized by the NHL and a company like Canadian Tire to run the Junior Skills events and the All-Star Fan-Fair.
“It really is an honour for my partner, Bryce Salvador from the New Jersey Devils, myself and the rest of our partners,” Peter acknowledged. “The whole goal is to provide the best possible experience and the best equipment from a visual and a functional standpoint and put it on a stage. To have the NHL, Canadian Tire, Bauer, Reebok, Easton, all the different groups that come to us and want us to put on events, it really is an honour to be selected - and it is a selection process. As much as we all know that there is a fraternity from guys playing the game and such, those groups expect the best and they don’t pick you based on whether you know somebody or not. It is all about knowing that you have the equipment they need and the experience that they want to portray to their fans.”
“We have had quite an interesting year, both on and off the ice,” he continued. “It has been a lot of fun doing this tour and events like the Detroit Red Wings HockeyFest at the Joe (Joe Louis Arena) and the Washington Capitals Convention. What has also been interesting to see, is that our portable products have really turned a corner this year too. Our entry-level products like the X-Deviator, the X-Passer, our X-Tiles and X-Targets are all starting to take off. Those are our products that any player or parent can purchase for $200 and under to work on their stick handling skills.”
“I am also really happy about the blog we have started (blog.xhockeyproducts.com) because we are helping provide information to people; letting them know what’s going on out in the community. We will have some guest write-ins from some different players and a drill here and there with some free tips for young hockey players. Having the blog is a great way to give back to the hockey community.”
Once the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Competition wraps up on December 16th, Peter and his colleagues at Fan-tastic Sports may be ready for a well-deserved rest, but it will not be too long before the calendar turns to 2012 and they return to Ottawa for more fun on the ice. After attending a Junior Skills event in person, seeing every child smiling and every parent beaming with pride, I think it is safe to say that everyone that took part in the event went home with a memory that will indeed last a lifetime. Congratulations to Peter and everyone at Fan-tastic Sports and Canadian Tire on a job well done!