The puck is about to drop on the biggest sporting event ever to hit Halifax.
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s men’s world championship officially begins Friday, but already eight participating teams, officials and several thousand fans are touching down in Halifax.
Greeted by welcoming signs at the Halifax International Stanfield Airport, Team Norway arrived Saturday and Team Germany checked in at the Delta Barrington yesterday.
The downtown hotel’s lobby was decked out with a German flag and hockey silhouette, and staff sported championship T-shirts welcoming the German players as they arrived on a motor coach yesterday afternoon.
Mary Dempster, IIHF accommodations co-ordinator and Delta Barrington hotel manager, said staff have been instructed to treat the players like VIPs.
“It’s mostly giving them their privacy, not asking for autographs and not making conversation unless they initiate it,” Dempster said.
The players will dine on Nova Scotia cuisine, including Atlantic salmon, haddock and local lamb. The menu was reviewed by an IIHF nutritionist to make sure it includes the right combinations of carbohydrates and protein, and lighter fare on game days, she said.
Restaurants are also prepping for the hundreds of players and fans who will toast their wins and drown their losses over the next two weeks. Some took advantage of regional council’s recent decision to allow sidewalk cafes to put out their decks early for the championships.
The Economy Shoe Shop is the party headquarters for about 1,000 Latvian fans that are about to invade the city starting Wednesday.
“They paint themselves up, they will have wigs on, funny hats and Latvian shirts,” organizer, Robert Damberg said. “We know how to party. We are crazy and we love hockey.”
The Shoe Shop has ordered 58 cases of Aldaris Zelta, a Latvian lager, and is preparing a Latvian menu to cater to revellers following the country’s games on May 2, 4 and 6. Live Latvian music will also be on tap at the adjoining Seahorse Tavern.