(ISN) – Canada’s National Junior Team finally arrived in Montreal for a pre-tournament match-up with Switzerland on Dec. 23, but the excitement wasn’t limited to the ice at the Bell Centre.
Outside, on Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal and on the concourse at Windsor Station, hundreds of workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the McDonald’s Fan Zone, which officially opens on Boxing Day, the first day of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“We are going to live the global excitement,” says Éric Fortin-Lambert, production manager for the McDonald’s Fan Zone in Montreal. “People are going to come from Quebec, but also from everywhere around the world. The teams are motivated and we have a great facility here.”
The concourse at Windsor Station has been transformed and will give fans the opportunity to put their skills to the test with activities such as precision shooting competitions. A huge synthetic skating rink has also been built so that minor hockey teams can participate in skills clinics.
“There is a sense of anxiety and energy around the Bell Centre,” said Simon Arseneault, special events director. “It has been 37 years since Montreal hosted the World Juniors, and everyone is just so happy they are back. We want to offer them a unique and memorable experience.”
Fans can also connect with a number of Team Canada alumni, including Stéphane Fiset, José Théodore, Gilbert Delorme and Claude Lemieux, who will participate in workshops on the McDonald’s stage at Windsor Station and sign autographs.
Fans who do not have access to the Bell Centre can watch the games on giant screens in front of the Bell Centre or at Windsor Station, where the screen used as a social wall will also broadcast the games.
Planning for the McDonald’s Fan Zone has been going on almost as long as preparations for the World Juniors themselves, with everything intensified over that past few months as the tournament approached.
“It has been a year since we have started to plan all of this, by inspecting fields and facilities,” said Fortin-Lambert. “The past two months have been the most intense, but we’re ready to go.”
The McDonald’s Fan Zone will also be home to the Hockey Canada Century Tour, which rolls into Montreal beginning Dec. 26.
The tour, which is criss-crossing the country to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hockey Canada, includes a 20,000-square-foot interactive hockey experience and provides opportunities for young Canadians to try the game and learn more about the rich history of hockey in Canada.
The Hockey Canada Century Tour and McDonald’s Fan Zone run until Dec. 31, before heading west to Toronto, where they will set up from Jan. 2 until the gold medal is presented at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 5.