A team gathers on the ice of the Neyaskweyahk Arena. (Photo contributed)

Maskwacis has shot at Hockeyville’s grand prize

Ermineskin arena in final top 10 out of 3,000 applicants

A Central Alberta First Nations community has made it to the top 10 in a national competition that could bring improvements to their busy arena.

The Neyaskweyahk Arena, also known as the Ermineskin Arena located in Maskwacis, had to be shut down last winter for a while midseason for repairs.

The Ermineskin community in Maskwacis could get $100,000 in arena upgrades and a pre-season NHL game if it wins the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville competition.

Second place runner-up will get $100,000 in arena upgrades. The third prize is $25,ooo in arena upgrades to each of the remaining eight finalists.

Tara Cutarm, Ermineskin Cree Nation communications manager, said Tuesday that the community is overwhelmed and surprised they made it to the top 10.

“Just the fact that we beat out so many other applicants was amazing.” There were about 3,000 applicants across Canada.

She said even just the $25,000 they will get for sure is enough to make them happy. “If it’s all we get, we’re pleased with that.”

“But to get the NHL game here would be amazing because many of these kids will never get to see an NHL game in their lifetime. … Hockey is really huge here in Maskwachis. There’s some kids that just live, eat and breathe hockey. … It’s their passion.”

They could use the money for improvements such as better and energy-efficient lighting, seating and also improvements to the arena lobby.

The Sylvan Lake Multi-plex won top place in 2014. The town’s arena roof had collapsed and the money went toward the new facility.

The public will have an opportunity to vote online in support of 2017’s 10 contenders on Sunday and Monday only. This will lead to the top two being announced on March 18 for the final round. The ultimate winner will be announced on April 1.

There are plans to arrange a skating day on Sunday at Neyaskweyahk Arena, the first day of voting, and have computers set up so people can vote, Cutarm said. There are only about 4,500 residents of Ermineskin, but closer to 9,000 in all of Maskwachis.

The top 10 Hockeyville contenders were announced last weekend. There’s one other nomination from Alberta, the Didsbury Memorial Complex.

Ermineskin Chief, Randy Ermineskin, nominated the Neyaskweyahk Arena. A video includes support for the nomination from him and Maskwacis RCMP officer Perry Cardinal. Both speak about the important positive impact the arena and hockey has on youth in the community.

The contenders’ videos are posted on Hockeyville’s website. They can be seen at khv2017.ca

When voting starts on Sunday, people can click any of the “Vote Now” buttons on the website. From there they can select the finalist they would like to vote for by clicking on their nomination. Then find the “Vote” button. Voters can vote for their favourite finalist as many times as they want.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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