Hockey fans to join pirates for this weekend's invasion

- Up to half a million people are expected to flood into Tampa this weekend as invasion of pirates and an invasion of die-hard hockey fans collide.

With the Gasparilla Festival and NHL All Star Weekend are both taking place at the same time, law enforcement and city leaders are putting the final touches on preparations for a busy couple of days.

"This is really one of the events that separates Tampa from the rest of the country. You combine that with the fact that this year we are hosting the National Hockey League All Star Game, and once again Tampa will be in the international spotlight," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during a news conference.

In addition to the large crowd that's expected for Gasparilla, a spokesperson for the Tampa Bay Lightning said roughly 7,000 out-of-town visitors will be in Tampa for the game.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said authorities will have about 2,000 law enforcement officers along the parade route.

"Think through, have a plan, we want you to have a good time but we want you to be responsible," Dugan said. "It's going to be a fun, great event for our city but I just want people to think things through and have a good time and be safe and look out for each other."

The city has been planning to host the two huge events since last May, when the NHL announced it was awarding the All Star Game to Tampa.

One of the ways organizers are tying the two events together is by putting the Stanley Cup trophy on the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, which leads the mock invasion of Tampa. They wouldn't reveal what's planned for the trophy after it's on land.

The flotilla is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

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