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Not to go all "back in the day" on you, but I remember when Fan Fest was referred to as "open practice", and basically it was the sleepy heathens of Kanata who came out to check out the new meat on a Sunday instead of receiving communion. A couple hundred people would show up, the team would run through drills, and you'd have a scrimmage at the end. Frankly, I can't believe how big it's gotten -- with activities, face painting, handouts at the door...you'd think an actual game was taking place. Not to mention the fact that 90% of the lower bowl was filled (seriously), and at least one-third of the second. The concessions were open...there were lineups in the womens' concourse bathrooms for Christ's sakes.

And while I missed the intimacy of the smaller events of yore, the larger crowd brought with it some elements I wasn't expecting (more on that later).

Basically the morning for me entailed calling out numerical troikas in the manner of locker combinations, or really buggered up measurements. Paddock had the lines all over the place (with the exception of one). Combos included:

- Heatley-Spezza-Dimitrakos (Dimitrakos served as a warm body for the majority of ths scrimmage that could keep up with the pace. Other than that, I wasn't overly impressed.)

- Donovan-Eaves-Kelly

- Foligno-Alfredsson-Daugavins (it's blatantly obvious that they're desperate for someone to hang long-term with Alfie and wish for Foligno to play that role. If it happens, I'll eat my Arizona State ballcap -- it's the closest thing to non-animated progeny that I own.)


-Eaves-Kelly-Dimitrakos (Eaves is on a short leash -- he needs to step it up.)

- Zubov, Neil, Donati (weird)

There were two defensive pairing that stuck out like a sore thumb: Phillips-Lee and at one point, Meszaros-Corvo. Look that last duo up in the dictionary -- you'll find it under "masochism".

As for basic vibe:

- (insert obvious Manatee on brink of distinction crack here) To put it bluntly, he looked like hell. Plodding movement, poor positioning and timing...it's not looking good.

- For the Meszaros haters (and I know we have a few here): You won't be shocked to hear that he's picked up where he left off from last season.

- Alfredsson's ready to go. Didn't miss a beat, and looked in season-form. Phillips also appeared prepped for the year to start.

- Spezza was actually booed for a giveaway (backwards pass). The reaction was surprising; the catalyst was not.

- By now you've likely heard about the Yablonski-Neil fight. Yablonski definitely got the better of No. 25. (At one point The Driver yelped, "Watch the orbital bone -- we need him!") Apparently this wasn't enough to sell people on the one they obviously must refer to as "Yabs" -- he was being heckled mercilessly towards the end of the scrimmage by two dudes at the glass. The Corvo-Neil dustup was slightly entertaining as well, with No. 7 delivering a punch to the back of Neil's head.

- McGrattan knows he's in trouble. He's doing everything he can to prevent it (including scoring a goal yesterday).

- Neil and Hamel have a noticeable chemistry and read each other quite well.

It was difficult to get a proper read on true lines because the combos were changing constantly. I'm hoping to have a better assessment once the preseason begins.

More later.