LAVAL, QC. – “Thank you for believing in us and the City of Laval.” With 11 words, France Margaret Belanger, President of Sports and Entertainment for the Laval Rocket and Montreal Canadiens, spoke volumes about what the 2023 American Hockey League All-Star Classic meant to the fans and community of Laval, Quebec.
After all, when a community rallies around a cause, amazing things happen. Though, a community rarely sees as many starts and stops in one singular event as did the city of Laval, which waited two long years for the AHL community to arrive. Now that this eve it’s here, the community is both grateful and excited to play the role of host for one of the world’s top hockey leagues.
“We’ve Waited a Long Time for This.”
Laval and their AHL team, the Rocket, were initially chosen to host the All-Star Classic during the 2020-21 season. Though, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be postponed two separate times. The city and the Rocket were reassured that they would get the spotlight soon enough.
Their patience has paid off in a weekend revolving around not only the players selected to participate in the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic but the fans that make the league and the game of hockey so special.
Max Lajoie playing rock, paper, scissors with a fan
Loser has to sign an autograph pic.twitter.com/lQ7pqhCRyW
— Andrew Rinaldi (@FPHWolves) February 6, 2023
First was the party on Sunday, as the fans were treated to a traditional hockey skills competition. Then, time in the community and honoring the true modern legends of the league kicked off Sunday. Laval and Montreal have put their personal touch on every part of the All-Star Classic, from local musicians to cuisine and some amazing Quebec hospitality.
No better way to start Day 2. pic.twitter.com/ZejNvuAYfN
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) February 6, 2023
After a $200,000 investment by the Laval government, it was rewarding to see the community’s youth learning from some of the best talents in the hockey world. Plus, seeing everyone having so much fun and sharing their love of their city and team made this an atmosphere unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of.
After all, it wasn’t just the city that waited two long years for this event. The league had to wait to come back together to celebrate their past, present, and future. It was the media that had been anticipating covering this event. Ultimately, it was the players putting their all on the ice for a chance to be named an All-Star (among helping their team get in the win column) for the past two years, only to have that taken away.
That’s why there was much excitement in AHL President and CEO Scott Howson’s voice as he proclaimed, “We’ve waited a long time for this.”
Taking Their Shot
For many of the AHL All-Stars, the two-year hiatus meant that this was their first chance to take in the pageantry and tradition that is the AHL. The wide eyes and excitement spread from the fans over to the players.
The love and respect for the game was palpable on the ice as in the stands. New relationships formed and old ones rekindled are a hallmark of the event. From old teammates like Joseph Woll and Brett Seney and college buddies like Ronnie Attard, Brandon Bussi, and Ethen Frank, these players’ relationships are strong- all united by the game.
But if there was one piece of advice from one of the newest inductions to the AHL Hall of Fame, Keith Aucoin, could impart upon the players, it’s this:
“Enjoy it. It’s going to go real fast. Enjoy every day, have fun, and work hard. It doesn’t matter what league you are in, just enjoy it.”- Aucoin
Have fun. It’s safe to say that’s exactly what happened inside the confines of Place Bell for the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic.
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