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How to make hockey games more of an event

Apr 18, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche fan takes a image of Ball Arena before the game against the Seattle Kraken of game one in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, I had the fortunate opportunity to camp out in Phoenix, Arizona, and step away from the hockey world for a few days to cover the NASCAR Championship Weekend for another one of my jobs. While I was able to escape the horrid game against the Vegas Golden Knights where the Avs lost 7-0, I couldn’t help but notice how much of an event being at the races was for fans.

I’ve noticed this several times attending past NASCAR races, how much of an event it is, and how different it is from other sporting events. It’s an entire weekend filled with festivities at a place where NASCAR only visits a certain track or city once or twice a year for a total of 38 races from February to November once a week.

Contrary to the Colorado Avalanche and hockey games as a whole, there are 82 games a season from October to June. 41 games are spent on home ice, giving fans more opportunities to watch games in person than NASCAR being in your neck of the woods only once or twice. It doesn’t make it feel as special.

While there’s nothing quite like cars rumbling past you up to 200 MPH, and it certainly isn’t comparable to being along the glass when a huge hit is thrown, there needs to be more to make hockey games feel more like a special event. Here are some ideas to get this done.

1. Provide more opportunities to interact with fans

One of the main selling points of attending NASCAR races is being able to interact with vendors and grab a lot of free stuff. They have what is called the midway, a place where fans can walk around and talk to sponsors who are giving out items or goodie bags, take pictures with show cars, and buy driver/manufacturer merchandise.

While hockey teams don’t have up to 40 players to buy individual merchandise for (nor is there enough demand for individual player gear apart from stars of the team), there are still chances to have a midway of some sort. This includes some vendor tents outside of arenas before games, as has been seen outside Ball Arena before some playoff games.

There could be opportunities to get goodie bags or sign up for giveaways, which would help with interaction. Plus, taking pictures with things such as the Stanley Cup, and legendary hockey jerseys/items from moments in history like at the Hockey Hall of Fame, could make things feel more special before the games begin.

2. Player appearances

Another mainstay in NASCAR weekends is the various opportunities to see your favorite driver making appearances throughout the weekend and snag a selfie or autograph. Depending on what track and events are going on, you could end up partying with them in the surrounding campgrounds.

While that certainly would not happen with any hockey player, it would be neat to have an appearance or two before a game. Even if it is just for 15-20 minutes to answer some questions from an emcee, along with some fan questions, it could take fandom to the next level with this connection opportunity.

Teams could rotate who would get to talk to fans before a game outside the arena and give fans the opportunity to see their favorite players and get pictures and autographs. While hockey players are far from outspoken and talkative, it would still be neat to see them opening out of their shells to interact with their fans similar to what the Avs did on Opening Night one year ago.

3. Access to behind-the-scenes events

Getting to step onto a NASCAR track, take pictures, and sign the start/finish line and the wall are spectacular events during the race weekends. It’s rare to be able to go onto the playing field for any sport, let alone right before or after the event.

Hockey fans could be given the opportunity to go behind the curtain and get a tour of the locker rooms before the game begins, for example. Perhaps, they could also get to go on the ice before warmups and perhaps sit on the bench or in the penalty boxes as seen at Ball Arena before – but these are mostly for sponsors rather than fans.

Even after the game, fans could get to do this as well. There have been some post-game skating opportunities on the ice which is neat, but these have been open to season-ticket holders. If these opportunities are available to all fans, it can make the experience even greater at hockey games.

These are just some ideas to make hockey even more of a major event to make it more memorable for the fans. Do you have any ideas on how to make a hockey game even more special? Let us know in the comments below!