In the trendy surf 'n' sun environment of Los Angeles, the mention of puck can just as easily bring to mind Wolfgang as it does a vulcanized rubber disc sliding across the ice.
But next week, the National Hockey League will attempt to temporarily turn Hollywood into Hockeywood with a series of special events preceding its All-Star game on Feb. 2 at Staples Center.
The last time the NHL's greatest players assembled in Los Angeles--1981--the league's itinerant All-Star game was just that--an All-Star game. Since then, this annual convergence of the world's best stick-wielding talent on ice has evolved into a multi-day festivity that also includes a slew of fan-friendly activities.
And the savvy marketers at the NHL promise that this year's All-Star bash will represent its glitziest and hippest midseason celebration to date.
"We're taking a different approach this year and making everything more of an entertainment show because we will be in the entertainment capital," said Greta Palmer, manager of events and entertainment for the NHL. "We want to offer something to fans of the sport and future fans of the sport by offering both hockey and entertainment."
A celebrity hockey game, performances by local rock bands and appearances by a number of non-hockey playing celebrities will help bring a distinct L.A. feel to the whole shebang, which runs Wednesday through next Saturday (Feb. 2).
The benefit celebrity game will take place at Staples Center on Wednesday night. Film producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("Black Hawk Down" and "Pearl Harbor") will lead a squad of hyped-up entertainers against a team captained by television creator-writer David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal," "The Practice" and "Boston Public"). Cuba Gooding Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, Alex Trebek and Brendan Fehr will be among the celebrities skating for Bruckheimer's Bad Boys. Denis Leary, Jason Priestley, Scott Wolf and Joshua Jackson will be among the stars lining up for Kelley's Heroes. The skill level of both teams will be greatly enhanced by the participation of ex-NHL greats such as Phil Esposito, Jari Kurri and Dave Taylor.
"I never in a million years thought I would get a chance to skate with Phil Esposito and Jari Kurri," says Fehr, an actor on the UPN television drama "Roswell." "Being from Canada, this is going to be one of the most exciting moments of my life. If I skate on a line with Jari [who teamed with Wayne Gretzky for many years in Edmonton], I am going to have big shoes to fill in feeding him those passes!"
Taking a Slap Shot at Contests, Prizes
Taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center next door to Staples Center, NHL All-Star FANtasy will anchor the festivities leading up to the NHL All-Star game. This multifaceted fan fair will take place over the course of the four-day celebration.
At All-Star FANtasy, puck followers will get a chance to test their slap shot against a radar gun and tend goal in a virtual-reality setting.
Trivia contests with prizes, exhibits featuring the Stanley Cup and NHL memorabilia, street hockey clinics, vendors hawking hockey merchandise and various interactive activities will add to this celebration of the coolest game on ice. Hockey masks designed and painted by various celebrities such as Britney Spears, the cast of "The West Wing" and Mel Gibson will also be on display.
Special hockey games occurring at a Convention Center ice rink include a match pitting the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic team against a group of former NHL players at 3 p.m. next Friday (Feb. 1); a battle between USC and UCLA at 8 p.m. next Thursday (Jan. 31); and the Los Angeles Police Department facing off against the New York Police Department at 10 a.m. next Saturday (Feb. 2).
"I've gotten more calls from the media about the U.S. Olympic reunion game because of the upcoming Olympics [starting Feb. 8 in Salt Lake City] and the NYPD-LAPD game because of the [social] climate [in this country since Sept. 11]," Palmer says.
Live music will be offered nightly at All-Star FANtasy. The Irish-flavored rock band the Young Dubliners will kick up its Celtic heels on Wednesday night; alternative rockers Unwritten Law will play next Thursday evening.
A skills competition featuring current NHL stars on Friday night at Staples Center and the NHL All-Star game on Saturday afternoon are both sold out.
NHL All-Star FANtasy takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., L.A., Wed., 4-10 p.m.; next Thu. (Jan. 31), 4-11 p.m.; next Fri. (Feb. 1), 1 p.m.-midnight; Sat. (Feb. 2), 9 a.m.-midnight. Adults, $15; ages 2-12 and seniors, $10.
The NHL All-Star Celebrity Challenge game occurs Wed. at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., L.A. $25 and $10. Tickets also include admission to NHL All-Star FANtasy. (800) 4 NHL FANS or www.nhl.com