The World Cup of Hockey is now in full swing. After a global pre-tournament series, and now two days of tournament games in Toronto, there has been a fair bit of surprise from fans about the high quality and intensity of the games.

In addition to the games, the NHL and company set up the World Cup of Hockey Fan Village east of downtown Toronto. I have been to check it out and had a great time.

The Stage and big screen

The main stage is at the far west end. When there are no games, some music acts are booked for entertainment. When games are underway they put them up on the three large screens. I went on Saturday night to see Team Canada steamroll over the Czechs. Attendance was sparse, though I attributed that to it having rained all day, stopping only an hour before the start of the game.

On Sunday night I returned to watch Team North America vs. Team Finland. The atmosphere is good, but note that there is almost nowhere to sit down. There are about twenty small tables out where you can at least put down your drink while you watch. There are also three or four picnic benches, but don’t expect those to be available.

There are some tables with seats at the nearby Molson Hockey House, including on the nice second floor patio, though it is about 100 metres further away, and the sightlines aren’t great to the screens.

If you go, expect to stand to watch the games.

Bubble Hockey

Life. Size. Bubble. Hockey. Rink.

First, let’s clear up some confusion. A lot of people first thought this would be like the “bubble hockey” during intermissions at Toronto Marlies games. That’s where people wear giant plastic bubbles over their head and torso and run around on the ice attempting to play something resembling hockey while smashing into each other and falling everywhere.

This is actually a life size version of the table hockey game where you slide around the players with levers and make them shoot the puck. In this case you manually control the players from inside by physically turning them around to make shots. It’s pretty elaborate, and lots of fun. I recommend you have at least a group of four to play. It would get a bit tedious running around to the various positions with only two players.

Skills Competition

The skills competition area replicates all the events at the NHL All-Star Game competition. Each station has staff on hand to set you up with a stick and provide instructions on what to do.

This was a popular station and pretty busy, but the staff kept things moving well. Your results are recorded, and you can get a summary sheet at the end if you like.

Sonnet Cheer Station

This one is a personal favourite. Sonnet is an official sponsor of the tournament. At their booth they let you customize 10X14 inch posters with team logos, and a message that follows, “What’s the best that could happen?” They print it out for you on high quality poster paper, and it’s free!

You can literally put anything on it you like. I make one every time I go, including this one last night.

Food and Beer

There is a good selection of food on the premises. Prices are similar to what you would pay at the ACC, or another venue. The Euro grill has some great dogs, if you like sauerkraut.

Personally, I recommend the gourmet grilled cheese booth. They make them in a panini press and they are ooey-gooey delicious.

The beer selection is limited to those produced by sponsor Molson: Canadian, Creemore, Molson Cider, and a few others. Mixed drinks are also available at some booths. There is no beer tent or beer garden; if you buy an alcoholic drink you can walk around the whole premises with it.

Alternatively you can eat and drink one block west in the Distillery District itself, which has a lot of options, and nice air conditioned places to sit down and rest.

Where is it?

The Fan Village is on Mill Street, adjacent to the Distillery District, on the east side of Cherry Street. You can reach it directly by TTC on the 514 streetcar route, or on the 121 bus route. It’s only a few minutes walk south from King Street itself.

Entrance to the event is free, except for the closing night concert (Green Day cancelled so who knows). You can come and go as you please. If you want to stretch your legs take a walk to the large new Corktown Common park and wetlands preserve, 5 minutes further east on Mill Street.

Where’s Species?

I will be at the Fan Village many nights this week to watch the games. I live close by so why not? Also I am trying to see how many free posters I can get from the Sonnet booth before they ban me. Watch our Twitter feed and I will tell you what jersey I am wearing, and who I am cheering for (they hand out little flags of the participating teams).

If you find me, say hi and I will buy you a drink. Seriously! Drinks on me!