I've never been to the Grammy's. I've never been a college football bowl game participant. But I've had at least a taste of both experiences after attending the first night of the NHL's three-day buildup to its Stadium Series event in Santa Clara, California.
The NHL kicked off its three-day celebration by stripping all attending media members of any objectivity. On Saturday night, the San Jose Sharks will host the Los Angeles Kings in an outdoor game played at the brand-new -- not to mention visually stunning -- Levi's Stadium. By the time the game starts, media and fans alike will be so deliriously happy from the lead-up festivities that the game will feel more like dessert than the main course.
Thursday was designated as a media-only day -- a chance to take in the scene and luxuriate before one of professional hockey's signature events. In the evening, media members were invited to an open skate on the stadium ice. Shortly after sunset, those with some degree of skating prowess laced up and enjoyed an hour carving it up.
As someone who hasn't ice-skated in 20 or so years, I stayed on the sideline, deferring until another time my impression of a baby deer standing up for the first time.
After the skate, media were ushered into a bar and lounge area under the east side of the stadium, where an open bar was waiting. In one corner of the sprawling room was a spread-out display of shoes set atop waist-high pillars. As I wandered around the new line of shoes designed by UGG for Men, one of the vendors approached me and explained that the shoes were made of sheepskin, designed to be ultra-lightweight, and hadn't been released yet.
"And we'd like to send you home with a pair," she said.
What could I say? I hate to disappoint anyone.
With a pair of perfectly fitting shoes in tow, I headed over to the buffet -- an impressive spread, complete with dessert. By that point, the night had simply turned into a social hour. Media members mingled, enjoyed drinks and good food, marveled at the beauty of the lounge area, and -- what else -- watched hockey highlights on panels of flat-screens lining either side of the room.
And all the pageantry around the game tells you how important these outdoor games are to the league. The Coors Light Stadium Series is the closest thing the NHL has to the Super Bowl.