FinFest to kick off Toledo hockey season Oct. 13Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Walleye hockey returns to Toledo on Oct. 13 and fans are invited to celebrate the start of a new season at FinFest, a free Opening Night pregame party.
FinFest is set for 4:30-6:30 p.m. outside the Huntington Center on Huron Street, weather permitting, said Michael Keedy, manager of special events for the Walleye.
“That’s how we kick everything off,” Keedy said. “We’re going to have live music from local band 56DAZE, live ice sculptures, street performers and all kinds of fun stuff going on. We’ve done this every year and we usually get a great turnout.”
Another pregame opportunity is OctoberFeast, which includes a game ticket and all-you-can-eat buffet for $45. The buffet will be available 5-6:30 p.m.
The game starts at 7:05 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the first 4,000 fans will get blue and gold glow wands.
“As part of our introductions, we turn all the lights out in the building for several minutes and it will be just a great effect to see all the blue and gold glow wands waving around at once, so we do encourage people to get in their seats early,” Keedy said.
There are still game tickets available, but they are going fast, Keedy said.
“We’ve always sold out and we anticipate the same thing this year, so the sooner the better,” he said. “It’s starting to become the routine in Toledo, that this is really the place to be.”
There is also a post-game party with the Walleye players in the Club Level Lounge, open to anyone with a ticket, Keedy said.
No matter what they choose to do, people who come out for Opening Night can expect to have fun, Keedy said.
“Everything we do is going to be entertaining,” Keedy said. “Opening Night is really meant to be a celebration.”
Walleye fans can also look forward to various theme nights and promotions planned throughout the season, Keedy said.
Jersey auctions, in which game-worn jerseys are auctioned after the game to benefit local charities, are always popular. This season will feature Captain America jerseys Nov. 10, Boy Scout-themed jerseys Jan. 5, Toledo Blades throwback jerseys Feb. 16 and pink jerseys on March 2 during Pink in the Rink, benefiting breast cancer research.
Nov. 10 will also feature an appearance by Captain America and a giveaway of 1,500 Captain America shield frisbees, Keedy said.
Also Nov. 10, Toledo police and firefighters will square off in a 3 p.m. hockey game called Battle of the Badges. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Toledo-Lucas County Police Athletic League and the Toledo Firefighters Local 92 Charities. Admission is free with the purchase of a Walleye ticket for Nov. 10.
Nov. 11 is Veterans Appreciation Night.
Nov. 17 will feature an appearance from former Detroit Red Wings player Joey Kocur, who will also be signing autographs on the main concourse.
The annual Teddy Bear Toss, where fans throw new or gently used stuffed animals onto the ice for Lucas County Children Services, is set for Dec. 1.
“That’s always a big one,” Keedy said. “It’s a lot of fun and we get an incredible amount of people who participate in that.”
Dec. 1 will also feature an appearance from the Hanson brothers, stars of the movie “Slap Shot,” including an on-ice skit and autographs.
Dec. 16 will feature “an assortment of chocolate-covered goodies,” in honor of National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, Keedy said.
Hockey and Hops is a pregame craft beer-tasting event on Dec. 28. Cost is $45, which includes a souvenir glass, all-you-can-eat buffet and game ticket.
Jan. 6 will feature a Spike “bobble-body” giveaway to the first 2,000 fans.
Feb. 24 is Mascot Mania Night, featuring more than 20 mascots from local businesses and professional sports teams, Keedy said.
“Anybody planning to come to that game is going to see a lot of characters walking around and a lot of opportunities for autographs and photos,” Keedy said.
Pink in the Rink, a popular annual promotion that raises money for breast cancer research, will be March 2-3, with games played on pink ice.
Every Friday night home game will offer a post-game party with the players for anyone with a ticket. Every Sunday home game offers a free post-game open skate. One Sunday per month Walleye players will join fans at the open skate, Keedy said. Every Sunday home game also features the Chuck-A-Punk game, benefiting local youth hockey organizations.
Promotions are subject to change.For more information, visit www.walleyetoledo.com/promotions.
Those looking for new “Walleye wear” will have plenty of options this season as well as a new retail location to browse during games.
The new shopping area will be near sections 104-105, said Craig Katz, director of merchandise and licensing.
“We’re really excited about that,” Katz said. “We now have three areas at Huntington Center for fans to purchase their new Walleye wear and we encourage people to come check it out. It has some very cool aspects.”
New merchandise includes 40 new T-shirts, 30 new sweatshirts, two dozen new hat styles and three dozen new novelty items, Katz said.
Among the new items Katz expects to be popular are “Tufgloves,” which look like “Hulk Hands” with a cup-holder built into the fist, Katz said.
“We’ve had a lot of success with them over at the Mud Hens,” Katz said. “Fans can use them to high-five friends and pump up the crowd as well as enjoy their favorite beverage.”
Also new this year are foam hockey helmets and “puck heads,” Katz said.
“[Foam items] are some of our most popular items every year, so we’re always looking to broaden that line,” Katz said.
Closer to the holidays, the shop will offer a style of knit hat that looks like a hockey helmet, Katz said.
“We have lots of new items and new designs,” he said. “We’re excited to get the season going.”
Among the dozen new food items on the menu at Walleye games this season will be homemade white cheddar macaroni and cheese.
“Kids will love it,” stated a news release from the Walleye. “You can get it plain, but if you’re a little more adventuresome, create your own by adding bacon, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, peppers and onions, chives, bleu cheese and barbecue pulled pork.”
Walleye fans can also get boneless wings as well as wraps, including “The Winger,” “Full Strength” and “Cross-Chick.” For dessert, fans can try the Fun-Dae (funnel cake topped with soft-serve ice cream, hot fudge, chopped peanuts, whipped cream and sprinkles), S’more Sundae (vanilla soft-serve ice cream, graham cracker and hot fudge with marshmallow topping) or Chocolate “Heath Bar” Sundae (soft-serve ice cream, caramel and whipped cream topped with crumbled Heath bars).
Fans can expect to see more photos on Walleye social media sites this season, said Nathan Steinmetz, manager of online marketing.
“It’s all about photos now,” Steinmetz said. “That’s one focus we’ll have moving ahead.”
The team already shares photos on Facebook and Twitter and plans to start an Instagram account soon.
“Over the last few months, there’s really been a change in focus from a description or a link back to our website to an album of photos,” Steinmetz said. “That’s what people want to see. That’s what’s interesting. That’s what stands out and catches your eye. We have tons of photos — players, games, fans, behind the scenes — and for us, it’s a no-brainer to share those with our fans. We even have some fun with caption contests and guessing contests. It’s a neat way to engage with fans. It’s fun for them and always gets a lot of commentary.”
Last season, the Walleye started posting photos of people wearing Walleye gear and fans started sending in their own photos, Steinmetz said.
“The whole program started with social media and grew from there,” he said. “It really emphasized the team pride and the camaraderie and the spirit of wearing your Walleye wear at games. We’re looking to continue that this year.”
The team’s mobile website allows fans to browse news, stats, rosters, seating charts, dining options and more.
“Mobile is the way to go,” Steinmetz said. “A lot of fans are looking for information that way. I look on my phone more than I look at a computer anymore.”
Fans can also listen to Walleye games live on their smartphones via the iheartradio app.
The third annual Social Media Night will be March 24.
“The last two years have been a lot of fun,” Steinmetz said. “We get an incredible amount of participation from fans at games. We get hundreds of tweets, hundreds of posts on our Facebook wall. Tons of people send us pictures. We sift through those and put them on the video board throughout the game along with trivia questions and prizes.”
The Walleye also maintain a dialogue with fans during games.
“There’s always somebody watching Twitter feeds and someone paying attention to Facebook during games, so if you mention the Walleye, there’s a great chance you’ll hear a response really quick,” Steinmetz said. “We encourage fans to ask questions and get involved in the conversation.”
For more information, visit www.toledowalleye.com.