ASSINiBOIA – Who will be named the next Hockeyville? The Town of Assiniboia hopes to be the first Saskatchewan centre to claim that honour, and the campaign kicks off right now!
Since 2006, Kraft Hockeyville has been helping communities across Canada upgrade facilities and promote physical activity. The grand prize? A cool $250,000 and an NHL game to the winning community. Even cracking the top four is huge as the three runners-up will be awarded $25,000 devoted to upgrades.
Now people may ask, “we have a new arena - what kind of upgrades could the Southland Co-op Centre possibly require?”
“We want to get kids on the ice at a local level,” said Stephanie VanDeSype, Recreation & Community Wellness Manager with the Town of Assiniboia. “So that will be purchasing equipment, helping kids with their skating club or hockey fees if they need some help.”
She noted seeing people not able to access programs that could relieve those costs, making for a hard decision.
“We find that people just don’t play instead,” said VanDeSype. “We want to get more kids on the ice and remove those financial barriers.”
There is one thing that VanDeSype said would quite enhance the arena - a big ticket item that would otherwise be tricky to fund, hence the community’s nomination to Kraft Hockeyville.
“We want to enhance the experience for those watching the game and put up a digital banner around the inside,” she said.
Of course, with all the work and local support of even building the new facility, what better way to celebrate than hosting an NHL pre-season game?
“The big thing that we’re going for, we just want to celebrate the achievement of having the arena built, and we want to celebrate with an NHL game,” VanDeSype said.
Currently, we’re in the first phase on the road to Hockeyville - the ‘Nominate and Rally’ portion. From now until Feb. 19, people can visit the Kraft Hockeyville website (hockeyville.kraftcanada.ca) and bolster their community. It’s as simple as searching for ‘Assiniboia’ in the ‘Find My Arena’ tab, then people can upload images, write their own nomination story, or even submit a two-minute video declaring why Assiniboia ought to be Hockeyville 2023.
“Whatever people’s experience has been in our facility, we want to see those photos,” VanDeSype said. “The more attention we get and the more rallying we do, the better our chances are.”
After the nomination period is over, the judging process begins. An announcement of the top four communities across Canada is scheduled for March 11, then an intense round of voting before the April 1 winner announcement.
“It’s become the hub of our community,” said Van DeSype of the Southland Co-op Centre. “There’s people who have never watched a hockey game in their life who are now living at the rink - they can’t get enough of it!”
Over the years, Hockeyville has become more than just a contest, it’s turned into a catalyst to bolster the region where communities have won.
Grant White is the Recreation Director with the Town of Twillingate, Newfoundland & Labrador. His town won the honour back in 2020, and the money they received helped repair their aging facility. In fact, the rink in Twillingate has an interesting heritage; being a former aircraft hanger in Gander. Back in the 1960s, it was moved by rail and boat to Twillingate, then re-assembled in 1967. Upgrades that required the most attention in this arena were repairs to a leaking roof and fixing their ice chiller. White said the Town was able to leverage additional funding through other sources - some $1.3 million - and work is ongoing on the facility.
He said that while hosting the NHL game in their region was fantastic, it was the facility upgrades that leave a lasting legacy.
“More importantly was the money to put back into the rink,” White said. “That’s what’s going to benefit the community and the kids in years to come.”
His biggest tip was to get your community excited about their facility and to promote why the town deserves to win.