So you don't have a ticket to the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Tampa, but you still want to feel like you're in on the action. No problem.
"Our mindset is, few are honored with a ticket to the game," said Steve Mayer, the NHL's executive vice president and chief content officer. "If you're privileged and you get to go, that's fantastic. But for us, how does everyone get a chance to experience All-Star Weekend? That's the most important thing for us."
Therefore, the league is bringing the party to fans in Tampa's first All-Star Weekend since 1999, with a free outdoor concert, several fan-friendly parties and plenty of opportunities to see players, mascots and trophies.
A big part of the plan involves tying the game to Tampa's biggest annual party, Gasparilla on Saturday. Former Lightning great Vinny Lecavalier will serve as the parade's grand marshal, the Stanley Cup will float aboard the Jose Gasparilla and players and league personnel will participate in other Gasparilla activities. Click here for a full Gasparilla guide.
Here's a guide to the celebrities coming to town (Kid Rock! Taylor Kitsch! Flo Rida!) and all the action fans can check out even if they don't have that golden All-Star Game ticket.
The NHL All-Star Game is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Amalie Arena. It's sold out, but resale tickets are listed for less than $200 apiece on Ticketmaster, StubHub, SeatGeek and similar sites. The in-game entertainment will have a country flavor, as Brett Young, inset right, will sing the U.S. national anthem, Lindsey Ell will sing the Canadian anthem, and Chase Rice will assist with player introductions. Between the second and third periods, fans will get a concert by Kid Rock, right. Indie pop outfit Moon Taxi will serve as the arena's "house band." (Read an interview with Moon Taxi's Trevor Terndrup here.) The game will be televised on NBC.
THE SKILLS COMPETITION
The NHL All-Star Skills Competition takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at Amalie Arena. Flo Rida, above, will perform during player intros, and Tampa's Joshua Cruz and the Experience will serve as house band. It's sold out, but resale sites list tickets for a little more than $100. This will be broadcast on NBCSN.
The All-Star Game won't bring the same star-studded party atmosphere as the Super Bowl, or even last year's College Football Playoff National Championship. But the league will host invite-only luncheons attended by players and league personnel around downtown Tampa on Friday and Saturday. There will also be a welcome party for visiting media at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Glazer Children's Museum, and an invite-only NHL party on Saturday night at the Tampa Convention Center, with Flo Rida performing. Lindsey Ell will headline another private league party Sunday at the convention center. Oh, and there's the whole Gasparilla thing happening on Saturday.
FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERT
Indie pop bands Fitz and the Tantrums (HandClap, Out of My League, The Walker) and Moon Taxi will headline a free concert from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday in Curtis Hixon Park, with appearances from past and present NHL greats, including the Predators' P.K. Subban.
All three days this weekend, the NHL will host a fan-friendly fest in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park and the Silver Parking Lot west of Amalie Arena. Fans can get autographs from players past and present, meet mascots, show off their hockey skills and take a photo with the Stanley Cup. It runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. This year's All-Stars will arrive for the game by boat through Cotanchobee Park starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, and walk to the arena via red carpet. This might be a good time to try to catch some autographs.
WHERE TO PARK
The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and NHL All-Star Weekend overlap Saturday in downtown Tampa. Special event rates will be in place for parking in public garages and privately operated lots throughout downtown Tampa and around Bayshore Boulevard. Note that many tend to fill up by 10:30 a.m. Click here for details.
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, the league will set up four street hockey rinks at Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 for a round-robin tournament featuring more than 15 teams from around the country. The Stanley Cup will be on hand 9-10 a.m.
The weekend's star quotient will be dimmer than in the last two years, when the All-Star Game was held in entertainment meccas Los Angeles and Nashville. But in addition to all the announced performers, sportscaster Sara Walsh, a New Port Richey native, is scheduled to appear at Beyond the Blue Line, an invite-only soiree celebrating women of influence at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Tampa Bay History Center. (Actor Alyssa Milano was originally scheduled to appear, but has since dropped out.) And actor and diehard hockey fan Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, Waco) is expected to attend the Skills Competition on Saturday, though only as a fan. Other celebrity appearances may be announced closer to the game.