Given how far-flung my family is, I don’t see my brothers or my parents as much as I’d like to. Naturally, I miss them but for some reason, the longing to see them grows stronger at this time of year. My brothers and father always spent this time analyzing and discussing our hopes for the upcoming hockey season, praying that this year, the Maple Leafs would win it all. We had a tradition, where we’d all get together on a Saturday night to watch the first Leafs game on Hockey Night in Canada. My mother would throw together a family favourite for the game-time meal. It was always Chinese hot pot and as we dipped slices of pork or beef or tofu into the bubbling broth, it was with both eyes on the television. Minor scalding was never a concern.
These days, our conversations take place over the telephone, which isn’t the same. I long to see a game with my father or one of my brothers, if only because seeing a hockey game live with any of them takes me back to my childhood, when everything seemed simpler. Whenever we were at a game, everything outside of the arena fell away. For a few hours, it was just about family, the fans, the electric atmosphere and the game. Call me nostalgic, but who wouldn’t want to relive that experience over and over again?
So help me, when I heard about the Coca-Cola Zero Fans First Game and all that the Maple Leafs were doing to make the event memorable, I called my brothers and my father, urging them to take a trip to the city so that we could together journey back. Seriously, how could any of them say no?
To start, there’s a free tailgate party starting at four pm on Wednesday, September 16th. Leafs alumni are going to be there, ready and eager to chat with fans both new and old. Sloan will give a live performance and there are going to be interactive games. Everyone will have a chance to see the Leafs take on the Boston Bruins on the new Gate 5 big screen. I don’t know, but sitting out there, in the warmth of the waning days of summer, a carnival atmosphere all around and a game on a big screen sounds pretty near idyllic to me. It gets better though. Over a hundred tickets will be given away to the game because as amazing as the outdoor festivities sound, it couldn’t possibly compare with the action inside the Air Canada Centre.
During the game, players will be interacting with fans in new and exciting ways and how to write about the prize giveaways without drooling over my keyboard? Courtesy of Coca-Cola, giveaways will include jerseys, Coke prizing, dressing room visits, gift cards and even season seats. Season seats and dressing room visits? Somebody pinch me, because I must be dreaming. Just pinched myself. Not dreaming at all. The Coca-Cola Zero Fans First Game is real and it’s free. Tickets for the game are still being distributed through this very website. Just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject heading stating, “I’m a Fan First” for a chance to get a pair. From now until Wednesday, I’ll be doing everything I can to get my hands on a pair so that I can take my dad, or one of my brothers to the game.