In December of 2014, I was invited to visit Kingston, Ontario to explore the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour.
The Hometown Hockey Tour was a series of incredible (and free!) events, for communities across Canada, that featured fun activities and the opportunity to get out into the brisk air of our good ol’ Canadian winter. There was just one reason that people across Canada were coming together to celebrate: our nation’s love of hockey.
The Tour was incredibly successful and allowed people across the country to meet their favourite hockey stars and connect with their community. The winter months can be a bit hard on us, as Canadians, and this event gave people something to look forward to and celebrate.
Here is my experience with the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour stop in Kingston, Ontario.
Arriving in Kingston
To kick off the Tour, I checked in at the Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront, which is located on Princess Street. The hotel is in a fabulous location, with gorgeous waterfront views, and affords visitors the opportunity to explore the heart of downtown as well as gain quick and easy access in and out of the city.
Welcome to the Hometown Hockey Tour
As I wandered around the Tour grounds, I couldn’t help but become immersed in the spirit of the event. Everywhere I looked there were people coming together for the love of hockey; bundled up in their warmest clothes, sipping hot chocolate and eating Beavertails.
One of the primary features of the event, and situated right in the centre of it all, was the outdoor ice skating rink at Springer Market Square. The Square features outdoor ice skating during the winter months and is an excellent way to soak up the richness of the downtown architecture while having a lot of fun.
Even though I don’t do much ice skating, I was tempted to rent some skates and get out there. It looked like so much fun and the backdrop was incredible!
The Hometown Hockey Tour was also very child-focused and featured many activities that they could partake in. You also didn’t need to go very far before running into Hank, the Hometown Hockey Tour’s friendly mascot, who was likely to drop you a high five and pose for a photo op.
For many people in attendance, a highlight of the event was getting the chance to meet Wendel Clark, a Toronto Maple Leafs alumni. He stood, rather graciously, and signed autographs for a long line of fans and posed for photos with every single person. If he was tired, he didn’t show it. He chatted with fans who recounted many of their favourite moments from past seasons and he greeted everyone with a big smile. It was definitely a moment for people to cherish.
As you meandered through the festival, live music filled the air. Performances happened throughout the day and featured artists, such as Sam Cash, and bands, like Toronto-based Aukland. The music created a light-hearted vibe that added so much richness to the buzz of the event.
Unique Experiences with a Hockey Focus
One of the other highlights of the day was touring the Sportsnet Mobile Studio.
The mobile studio was a tractor trailer that converted into a full-fledged studio complete with a dressing room and a “man cave” for Ron MacLean. The trailer had everything that a typical studio needs to run a live show: soundproofing, lights, cameras and a desk from which to broadcast from. Later, Don Cherry joined Ron MacLean on-set, to broadcast a live edition of Hockey Night in Canada, as people watched from the street.
Everywhere you turned, there was something that inspired play. The best part about the tour was finding moments to create memories that would last a lifetime. The team at Rogers set that stage and invited everyone in to enjoy it and enjoy it they did.
Also at the festival, situated right beside Springer Market Square, was the Sportsnet “Be a Broadcaster” experience. If you were brave enough to participate, you could do a 30-second segment with Evanka Osmack, which was later uploaded to a private YouTube channel. A link was then given to you, that led you straight to your recorded video, which you could share with family and friends.
Kudos to the Hometown Team
The Hometown Hockey Tour event in Kingston, Ontario was pure perfection and everyone seemed to have a fantastic experience. The event afforded people the opportunity to get outside, during a season when many people hibernate, connect with community and explore the beautiful city of Kingston.
To close, here are a few more photos from the festival and from downtown Kingston.