There’s a lot more going on at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre than just great hockey during the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championship.
From posters to giveaways and prizes, organizers want the fans to be a part of the action, instead of just watching it on the ice.
“Our goal for each and every game has been to get the fans involved, but also to enjoy it so much they will come back again and again,” said Travis Mitchell, coordinator of marketing and community initiatives. “We’re trying to get the fans more into the action, get them to make some noise, and make that exciting environment for the athletes.”
It’s what made them kick-start the tournament with a Fan Fest that took over the Winnipeg Convention Centre last Sunday. Fans had a chance to welcome their home team, Canada, while testing out their slapshot accuracy and puckhandling skills.
And it’s why they’re following it up with giveaways and fan activities during games at the MTS Centre.
“When you’re walking in the doors, we have giveaways for you,” said Mitchell. “Our sponsors have been great.”
Fans have already been treated to clappers, thundersticks and posters, including ones printed for Canada’s opening game and the 100-goal club presentation to Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette, and Jayne Hefford.
But, there’s a lot more to come.
Saturday’s been declared a throwback to the 1990’s in honour of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Team Canada will don the pink jerseys to bring awareness to breast cancer and honour their team alumni. Fifteen retired members of the 1990 team will be on hand to sign autographs on the main concourse, and the first 1000 fans will get their hands on a special-edition Team Canada poster.
On Monday, the MTS Centre will host 8,000 students from around the province during the tournament’s Schools Game, a matinee affair featuring Germany versus Russia.
But the fun will start before they even get to the arena. With the overwhelming response, organizers have run out of parking around the MTS Centre and are directing buses to park by The Forks, Winnipeg’s famous riverside stroll with colourful markets. That’s where they plan to get it started.
“We’re going to turn it into a bit of a parade,” said Mitchell. “We’re trying to get some of the Team Canada athletes, and Peggy the Polar Bear, our mascot, is heading up the parade. We’re going to make it a fun event to get the students back to the MTS Centre and into the stands.”
When they get back, they’ll be treated to megaphones from Manitoba Hydro, lunch, hockey, and a bunch of interactive activities.
While Team Canada’s going to be the focus in the evening, as it faces Finland, the Canadian Armed Forces will take centre stage for pre-game activities. Their rappelling team will be on hand for a demonstration, and they’ll have special concourse displays.
And if that’s not enough, Manitoba Lotteries will be there to hand out keychains to the first 2000 fans.
The biggest day of the tournament will be Tuesday, when fans converge on the MTS Centre to cheer on their favourites in the gold and bronze medal games. The gold medal game’s been sold out since early Thursday, and the bronze medal game is coming pretty close.
With the huge response to the games, the organizers have a lot more in store.
“Fans can anticipate an unbelievable atmosphere with the help of thundersticks, posters, and a variety of giveaways,” said Mitchell.
This is truly a 21st-century women’s hockey experience, with excitement on and off the ice.
Although 1987 pushed international women’s hockey in the right direction with the first unofficial World Championship, things really took off in 1990. And Canada played a leading role from the get-go.