All Star Classic Soars with Excitement

    icon Feb 08, 2007
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The G & G boys have pulled it off.

The G & G boys - Dick Garber and Craig Goslin - accomplished their goal of putting on a first-class all-star game along with an abundance of family-themed activities packed into a six-day span, which was dubbed the PRIDE All-Star Ice Fest.

Planning for the All-Star Classic began in March 2005 when officials from the Ontario Hockey League awarded the game to the Saginaw Spirit. That in itself was a coup since it marked the first time the game has ever been outside of Canada.

The OHL brass looked at the team's management skills, its family-friendly mode of operation, along with the simple fact that the team averaged more than 4,300 fans a game last season as to reasons why the five-year-old franchise got the nod.

There's an old saying in business that says 'To be successful, you must surround yourself with good people.' That's exactly what Garber and Goslin did when they contacted PRIDE in Saginaw, Inc., a group of downtown boosters who are best known for sponsoring the popular Friday Night Live concert series. The PRIDE crew, headed up by co-chairs Scott Lewless and Tammy Weighman and PRIDE coordinator Jeanne Conger, had close to 100 volunteers working during the six-day fest.

The Ice Fest featured movies at the Temple Theater, activities at the Children's Zoo at Celebration Square, and a pair of heated tents in front of the Event Center featuring food, music and children's games. There were more games and displays inside TheDow, along with free skating. There were also fireworks, all-star merchandise, entertainers, search lights, a bevy of trophies, and believe-it-or-not, men on stilts.

The game itself is an annual showcase of the top hockey players in the OHL. Former National Hockey League stars Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy all played in the event, as well as Eric Lindros, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Rick Nash.

All-star games are typically high-scoring affairs that feature the offensive skills of the players. Saginaw's All-Star Classic didn't disappoint fans in that regard. The game produced an OHL record 22 goals as the East squad defeated the West team 13-9. Both teams combined for 109 shots-on-goal, another OHL all-star game record.

Barrie's Hunter Tremblay was named the Eastern Conference's MVP as he produced a three-goal hat trick and added two assists. Steve Stamkos of Sarnia was the West MVP with a pair of goals and a couple of helpers.

Neither Saginaw Spirit player on the ice delivered nary a point as both Tom Pyatt and Ryan O'Marra were shut down. A third Spirit player, Patrick McNeill, was injured and did not play.

You can't put on an event of this magnitude if it wasn't for two factors. First, are the Saginaw County taxpayers who in 2001 approved a 10-year 0.45-mill tax to not only keep the building open, but to bring it up-to-date. Secondly, were the sponsors: Meijer of Michigan, The Dow Chemical Co., Citizens Bank, Fabiano Brothers, Travel Michigan, and the Saginaw County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.


* The all-star program, designed by Bay City freelance graphic designer Shawn E. MacDonald, was spectacular. The glossy, 30-page magazine featured player profiles, photos, stats and records of past Ontario Hockey League all-star games.

* The Saginaw News' photo exhibit featured hockey/skating/ice fishing photographs, bringing back great memories - especially the vintage photos of the four Wrona Sisters of Saginaw.

* Trophies galore. Nearly two dozen hockey trophies were on display for the general public to view. The older, wooden trophies were quite attractive.

* TheDow Event Center couldn't have looked better, especially the bright and shiny dasher boards. Event Center General Manager Zane Collings and his crew hosted the Shrine Circus and the Harlem Globetrotters before the Ice Fest, and quickly changed gears to prepare everything for the All-Star Classic. After Wednesday's game, the Blue Line Club was spic-and-span for the next morning's Saginaw Chamber of Commerce Percolator Breakfast meeting.

* The friendliness of the ushers, ticket takers and Spirit personnel were prevalent as usual. It's nice to be thanked for coming to an event. Dick Garber, majority owner of the team, was viewed moving from section to section shaking hands and thanking people for their patronage. Classy.

* Rogers Sportsnet of Canada teamed with WNEM TV-5 to jointly produce and televise the game. The game was seen locally on WNEM's My5. TV-5 had a crew of 17 helping out to make sure everything went according to Hoyle. That's additional eye-balls trained on our community. The all-star game was also broadcast by the Spirit's regular radio partner, WMJO-FM 97.3.

* The OHL All-Star Classic Skills Competition proved to be a big hit with the fans. Patterned after the NHL Skills Competition, players were pegged in 3-on-3 play, along with the hardest shot and fastest skater competition. They were also on hand to sign autographs afterward. The "Finals, Skate, Shoot and Score" competition, sponsored by Bay Regional Medical Center, got the younger set involved with skating and scoring competition.

* In a nice move, the Spirit organization brought back all the former captains from each year of its five-year existence. Peter Flasche, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Harrison were on hand and introduced, but the original captain, Chris Thorburn, couldn't attend because he's currently playing with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins.

* There were mascots aplenty inside the Wendler Arena as no fewer than seven OHL mascots joined local mascots Lou E. Loon of the Great Lakes Loons, Chad the Parrot from Kokomo's Family Fun Center, and Willy the Dragon from Bavarian Inn frolicking around the concourse. And let's not forget the two Saginaw Spirit Ducks . . . I mean Eagles.

* It was good to see the local politicos out and about at the all-star game. Saginaw Mayor Carol Cottrell and State Rep. Andy Coulouris were in the stands along with regular hockey game attendees Sheriff Charles L. Brown and Tittabawassee Township Manager Brian Kischnick.


* Charging to get your picture taken with Lord Stanley's Cup. If you took your own photo, they charged you $10. If they took the photo, it was $19. Sure, I know the line was long but how many fans would have lined up if it was free?

* The game was reported as a sell-out. Sure, all 5,527 seats were sold but there were only about 4,600 or so people in attendance. A corporate sponsor picked up the tab for the remaining ducats, and the seats were empty. Wouldn't it have been nice to hand them off to the Boys and Girls Club of Saginaw and get more kids in the stands?

* TheDow Event Center must do something about their hot dogs. You can slather on all the mustard you want, but it's still an inferior dog.

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