Hockey fans enjoy FanFest before ECHL All-Star Classic

ECHL+fans+take+pictures+with+Solar+Bears%27+mascot+Shades+at+ECHL+All-Star+Classic+FanFest.

Ty Wright / Valencia Voice

ECHL fans take pictures with Solar Bears' mascot Shades at ECHL All-Star Classic FanFest.

Hockey fans of all ages came out to Church Street in downtown Orlando for the ECHL All-Star Classic FanFest that was held in conjunction with the Orlando Solar Bears in preparation for Wednesday’s game between the All-Star team and the Solar Bears.

The festivities started on Pine Street where a street hockey game was organized for the youth to play with different Solar Bear players as well as players from the All-Star team.

“I think its great, I know a lot of the guys on the other team may not know each other so they have us to show them around and make it enjoyable. And the fans can come out to support the hometown team instead of having people they may not know, so its a good experience for them and us as a team.” said Solar Bear veteran player and fan favorite Scott Tanski. “It’ll be perfect for the league to grow the sport in Orlando and other places as well.”

Fans were also entertained with live DJs, food trucks, as well as skill-based games where the crowd could show off their inner Wayne Gretzky by shooting pucks through a plastic goalie.

Moving over to Church Street people were greeted with drink specials, dinner specials, give-aways all while players from both teams signed autographs and took pictures.

Located in the historic Cheyenne Saloon ballroom was the Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit that showcased classic and retired jerseys as well as trophies from past Hockey leagues including the Turner Cup from the IHL that bears the Orlando Solar Bears name from their 2001 championship victory.

Also available for a photo-opportunity was the ever-coveted Stanley Cup that was kept behind a wall of curtains and a wall of security that fans could line up for and see inside the Amway Center lobby.

“I really enjoyed it, got out picture taken with the Stanley Cup. We get to see who all is here, get to see some of the players from some of the other teams.” said long-time Solar Bears fan and season ticket holder Kevin Ewen. “I’m thinking the Bears are gonna take care of it and win by a goal, maybe two, its the all-star game, so it’ll be high scoring for sure.”

The ECHL All-Star game has changed its format in recent years to include an All-star team compiled from the entire league that is hosted in an exhibition game by a home team that changes each year. This year it is Orlando who is hosting the game meaning that no player from the Solar Bears may enter the All-Star team.

For the last two years under this format the All-Star team has come out victorious in a landslide win over the hosting teams both times with the 9-3 victory over the Bakersfield Condors in 2011 and the 7-3 victory over the Colorado Eagles in 2013, there was no All-Star game in 2014 or 2012.

The Solar Bears will take on the ECHL’s best on Wednesday at the Amway Center  when the ECHL All-Star Classic gets underway with puck-drop at 7 p.m. feature skills competitions during intermission.