HockeyFest — Game On! set up 15 rinks at a shopping center to follow local limits on outdoor events. (Courtesy HockeyFest — Game On!)

Street hockey event returns to London, Ontario, for first tournament since shutdown

HockeyFest – Game On! has staged its first street hockey event of the COVID-19 era, taking to a London, Ontario, shopping center parking lot to host 140 teams and 1,200 players.

The 3-on-3 festival put on by Jones Entertainment Group took place Sept. 11-13 at Westmount Shopping Centre under strict health and safety guidelines and in close cooperation with government health officials.

It was Jones’ second HockeyFest in London after one in the summer of 2019. The event has also been staged at Chicago’s United Center, one of six held last year. This year, Jones was set to do 10 tournaments, but even the best-laid plans have had a rough go of it in 2020.

To deal with the province’s 100-person limit for outdoor events, the organizers secured space at the shopping center, which has five municipal addresses, and set up three rinks, each about half the size of an NHL rink and equipped with boards and nets, in each pod.

“We did a straight rental deal,” said Jones Entertainment Group President Brad Jones. “We come in early Friday and leave the parking lots cleaner than we get them. The shopping center loves it because it drives traffic.”

Participants ranged in age from 6 to 60 and were kept in five pods, each with an assigned referee. One spectator was allowed for each participant. The event was a near sellout, Jones said.

Jones plans on expanding the fest and building the relationship it has established with several NHL teams. He’s got his eye on bringing HockeyFest to Seattle and working with the NHL’s newest club, the Kraken

“We’d like to help prove that Seattle is a hockey town,” he said.

Jones is also excited to have David Feherty of NBC and Golf Channel fame as a HockeyFest investor.

The entire production travels in two tractor trailers and typically features food and games in a fan fest-type atmosphere, but those elements had to scrapped in light of the pandemic, Jones said.