Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview - Peter Ing Celebrates the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Finale and All-Star Fan Fair

NHL Alumni member Peter Ing at the
Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Championship
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
After stops in 15 cities during their cross Canada tour, Peter Ing and the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition returned to Ottawa during the recent All-Star festivities to crown their champions. The journey to find some of Canada’s best young hockey players began in Vancouver on October 7th and ended on December 15th in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with stops everywhere in between. Testing their skills in shooting accuracy, passing accuracy, timed skating and puck control, the top qualifiers from each city were invited to Ottawa for the grand finale on the historic Rideau Canal on January 28th.

It took a tremendous amount of effort and planning to complete their cross Canada tour, but there was one final hurdle waiting for Peter when the Junior Skills National Championship arrived in Ottawa - the weather! The day before the final event, the nation’s capital was inundated with freezing rain and unusually warm temperatures, which left the canal temporarily closed to skaters. Despite the previous day’s weather, when the competitors awoke on the big day, the sun was shining and the ice on the canal was ready for the innovative XHockey products provided by Peter’s company; the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition began as planned at the historic venue.

“I was really happy that we were able to have it out on the canal,” Peter said in a recent interview. “That was the plan from day one, but with the weather we had a few days before, it was touch and go. The decision came down at 2am and the official word that we would be able to go out on the canal came at 6am. They worked really hard to make it the best ice that they possibly could.”

“The day of the event though was amazing. The wind was calm, it was not too cold, the sun came out for a while and to have the backdrop of the Parliament Buildings - it was spectacular!”

The weather preceding the event and the fact that it was outdoors made the ice conditions a little more challenging when compared to the indoor facilities used in the qualifying rounds, but as Peter explained, it was the same for all of the participants. The young hockey players were not competing against their own past scores; it was an entirely new competition, so the playing field was identical for all of the participants.

The Junior Skills competition was open to boys and girls, ages 7 to 12, in three different categories - peewee, novice and atom. In the novice category, Katie Chan, Angela Huo and Zachary Dean skated, passed and shot their way to victory. In the atom category, Sydney Kennedy and Tommy Bouchard earned the top scores, while Maggie Connors and Stevon Hlusiak won the peewee category. Along with their trophies and All-Star status, the winners were introduced on the ice at Scotiabank Place during a break in the action at the NHL’s Skills Competition.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience for those that do not go on to play in the NHL,” Peter said. “It was a feel-good event from the beginning in Vancouver, all the way through to Newfoundland. There were lots of smiles and I think that’s what it is all about - promoting the game of hockey at the grassroots level and providing an experience, whether it was a qualifier or the finale, where a player could experience what it is like to be an All-Star.”

“To feel like an All-Star,” he continued. “That was our goal - to make every player feel special and give them a unique opportunity to compete.”

As we spoke about the successful conclusion to the Junior Skills competition, I asked Peter if he had a favourite moment on the tour.

“I think honestly, the favourite part for me was the finale,” he answered. “Having it outside brought back memories for me of playing on the outdoor rinks; that doesn’t happen at all for me any more. Just how the air feels against your face when you’re outside - the ice isn’t perfect but the game is still great. What I really enjoyed too, was seeing kids from coast to coast participating in the game and enjoying what they were doing.”

While the focus of the event was not promoting the XHockey products, being involved in an event like the Junior Skills competition provided a great way for Fan-tastic Sports, which is co-owned by Peter and New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador, to showcase the portable products in the XHockey division.

“We certainly didn’t talk about the products that much, but it certainly helps to create an awareness about what we do as a company and what services we offer,” Peter acknowledged. “It would be nice to get the message out about our portable products, but it’s good to have our company known as being involved in the game and helping at that grassroots level.”

The partnership between Fan-tastic Sports, the NHL and Canadian Tire provided the participants in the Junior Skills competition with that once in a lifetime experience Peter previously mentioned. Having attended the November 25th qualifier in Nepean, Ontario and the finale on the Rideau Canal, I can say from firsthand experience, that all the hard work that went into planning the events provided the participants with memories that will last a lifetime.

“Our partners are fabulous,” Peter said. “Obviously, the NHL believes in the game and believes in growing the game at that grassroots level, but Canadian Tire also did a spectacular job of putting the players first and targeting the age groups that are just developing in hockey.”

“Every single event was first-rate - from hanging the jerseys up for all the different players, to their accommodations at the rink, the process of checking in and having the scoring system up for everyone to see - right from the beginning, all the way to the end, it was first-rate!”

“It’s a huge compliment to have both the NHL and Canadian Tire believe in the service we provide and the equipment we can provide to put on this great show from coast to coast.”

The Junior Skills finale was not the sole reason for Peter’s visit to Ottawa, as Fan-tastic Sports also provided the interactive equipment for the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair at the downtown Convention Centre. While the thousands of hockey fans that visited the Fan-Fair posed for pictures with the Stanley Cup or met with NHL Alumni members and this year’s All-Stars in autograph sessions, they could also test their hockey skills on the 14 interactive lanes set up by Fan-tastic Sports for the event.

“There was an electricity around Ottawa,” explained Peter. “I didn’t hear one single complaint during the entire three-day weekend; there was nothing but great comments and great reviews. We had zero downtime on any of the equipment and everything went flawlessly. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it all turned out - the comments and the smiles. The fans really seemed to enjoy that interactive experience.”

An added bonus to being involved in the All-Star festivities in a Canadian city was that there was no shortage of media coverage for the Fan-Fair and the Junior Skills events. Whether you picked up the local newspaper or turned on the television, Peter and the Fan-tastic Sports equipment were prominently featured. Media members from all of the various news outlets were eager to test their hockey skills and as Peter told me during our conversation, he did not have to twist any arms to get them to try the interactive equipment.

“I think that is one of the neat things that we are able to bring to the game - equipment that is fun and engaging. Every level of participant can have a level of success, while it is still challenging if you are a pro. That has been our goal since the beginning and it helps promote the brand of hockey. That’s what we are tying to do; bring positive awareness to the game and grow it from the fan level.”

After back-to-back years at the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair, the completion of the Junior Skills competition, as well as taking part in the Red Wings Hockeyfest and the Washington Capitals Fanfest in the fall, I asked Peter, what’s next for Fan-tastic Sports?

“We have a number of different events coming in the next year and we are looking at doing a lot of the events we did this year with some of the NHL clubs we have worked with,” he said. “Our next big show will be the Let’s Play Hockey Expo in Minnesota, where we will be unveiling some new XHockey products.”

“That division (the XHockey products) has really started to gain traction and that’s one we really enjoy because you don’t have to have tens of thousands of dollars to buy the big interactive equipment we have - it’s the equipment priced at under $200 that you can practise with at home. In the basement, in the driveway and out on the rinks - improving your skills with affordable items. That is the ultimate grassroots right? ”

To stay up to date on next year’s Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition, young hockey players and their parents can visit the Canadian Tire Hockey School website (www.canadiantirehockeyschool.ca) and register for updates.

To learn more about Fan-tastic Sports and all of their innovative products, as well as news on any upcoming events, visit their website www.fan-tasticsports.com and follow them on Twitter (@XHockeyPoducts)

NHL and Ottawa Senators Alumni members Patrick Lalime and Brad Marsh
watch the action during the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Finale in Ottawa
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)

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