Maskwacis — For this First Nations community, winning Kraft Hockeyville would be its Stanley Cup.
Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Randy Ermineskin believes how big winning Kraft Hockeyville would be hasn’t fully sunk in for many.
“I don’t think a lot of (residents) realize the impact it’s going to have on the community to have NHL teams come to your community.
“Some of them will never have another opportunity to watch another NHL game in their life.”
It’s the kind of shared community experience that will live long after the event, Ermineskin expects.
“I think it’s going inspire them to encourage others to play and I think it’s going to help them in their future lives.
“I think the community is just going to come behind us and help us in whatever way to make sure our kids are first and foremost.”
By making the final 10, Maskwacis has already won $25,000.
Online voting takes place Sunday and Monday to pick the final two, one each from the East and West. The final two will be announced on March 18 and each will win $100,000.
The overall winner, and the community that gets to host an NHL pre-season game, will be announced on April 1.
To vote go to www.khv2017.ca and click on Neyaskweyahk Arena.
If they win the $100,000 it will be used to extend the lobby to create a warm viewing area for elders to watch the games among other upgrades.
“The lighting needs to be improved and the dressing rooms really need some attention,” he said.
“Last year we had to shut down for a whole year and that really hurt our community. We lost a season.”
A broken ice plant needed fixing but when engineers took a look at the aging rink’s equipment replacement was recommended, which meant a $500,000 bill.
Darren Simon, president of the Maskwacis Minor Hockey Association, said there are more than 250 youngsters playing on 13 teams, seven of which have their home ice at the Neyaskweyahk Arena.
The arena means a lot to the community.
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“I have three sons who would live at the arena if they could,” he said.
One of them, nine-year-old Tralen Simon, is a big Calgary Flames fan and would love to see his hockey heroes up close.
Tara Cutarm, communications manager for Ermineskin Cree Nation, said the junior and senior high school are hosting a voting party on Sunday to help rally the community of 4,500, which is about half the total population of Maskwacis.
Computers in the band’s employment centre have also been freed up so residents can vote online.
“The community really needs to come together and step up and do what we can because this is for our kids,” she said.
Sylvan Lake, which won Kraft Hockeyville in 2014, is in Maskwacis’s corner.
Mayor Sean McIntyre says in a message of support it’s all about helping neighbours.
“I consider Maskwacis to be our neighbours because in our hour of need they were among those who were there for us, providing ice time for Sylvan Lake teams and their support in the Hockeyville competition.”
Maskwacis offered Sylvan Lake ice time when one of the town’s two arenas collapsed under snow load in January 2014.