01/26/2012 07:23 EST | Updated 03/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Rideau Canal open as Ottawa welcomes hockey world

Ottawa is opening its doors to hockey fans from around the world starting Thursday with a number of events centred around Sunday's NHL All-Star Game.

Business and municipal leaders estimate hosting the event will bring in some $30 million in economic benefits to the city.

That was helped Thursday morning as the Rideau Canal opened its entire 7.8-km stretch to skaters in preparation for the day's events.

"It's important to get it right," said Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder. "We want our city shown in the best possible light.

We want our team to be shown in the best possible light. So there is some pressure in hosting an event on behalf of the league."

On Wednesday the city unveiled The Rink of Dreams, a 12,500-square foot oval ice surface outside city hall that will add another outdoor skating surface to a city already boasting the Rideau Canal.

Thursday events

The events begin Thursday with a 2:30 p.m. skate down the canal with all the NHL Trophies, including the Stanley Cup, Hart Memorial Trophy and Vezina Trophy.

The canal had been closed earlier this week after freezing rain and warmer temperatures hurt ice conditions, but it is expected to be ready for Thursday's skate.

Casino du Lac-Leamy is also holding the All-Star Fantasy draft Thursday night from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. where Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara will choose their all-star teams.

And the Ottawa Convention Centre is hosting the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fair from Thursday to Saturday, where fans can get a picture taken with the Stanley Cup, meet and get autographs from NHL legends and play interactive games to test slap shots and goal scoring skills.

Friday night skate race

On Friday evening at 7 p.m. the Rideau Canal will host the Energizer Skate Night, a five-kilometre event to benefit the Sens Foundation.

Hockey fans will don headlights as they skate down the canal to raise money to construct future outdoor ice rinks in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Entry to the event is $20 per person or $15 for seniors or children 12 and under.

Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon the skateway will be the site of the junior skills national championship.

The NHL skills competition will be at Scotiabank Place on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Four Ottawa Senators players — Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson — are lacing up for the All Star game at Scotiabank Place on Sunday.

The puck drops for the all-star game at 4 p.m. ET Sunday and can be watched on CBC and