Cheers exploded at the Sylvan Lake Multiplex on Saturday when it was announced on Hockey Night in Canada that the community had made the finals in the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
“It just was crazy,” said local organizer Graham Parsons of the crowd’s reaction.
“Everybody, it didn’t matter if you’re six years old or 86 years old, everyone was collectively the same — just elated.”
Coming out on top in the West was the culmination of an effort that saw hundreds of people take to their computers to register votes for Sylvan Lake.
Parsons said some voted 5,000 times a day, every day, until the polls closed. Local businesses organized challenges and local high schools and libraries opened their doors so voters could go online to cast their votes.
Making the final two means the community has now landed $100,000 to go towards much-needed upgrades to the facility. Sylvan Lake is also one step away from the being crowned Hockeyville 2014, an honour that comes with an opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game in town.
Sylvan Lake as winner in the West is up against Kingston, N.S.. from the East. The winner will be announced during the April 5 Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.
Parsons said besides the tireless efforts of local volunteers, the community’s trials likely struck a chord with many.
“The story is pretty compelling,” said Parsons. The $100,000 will go towards replacing a shared concession and lobby lost with the destroyed arena.
Whether Sylvan Lake takes wins the final round or not, Hockeyville has pulled the community together.
“You’d always like to win. You’d like to see the (pre-season) game. But it’s about community spirit and team building.
“This whole thing is a project that people don’t want to not be part of.”
Volunteer Dianne Womacks used her branding and web designing skills to create the community’s Hockeyville Facebook page and was still buzzing with excitement on Sunday afternoon.
“I haven’t had time to even think about it in one word: unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable,” said Womacks. “I still want to pinch myself today.
“We knew that everybody had worked so hard and we had a good feeling.” But until the town’s name flashed up on CBC, nobody could be sure it was enough.
The whole experience has been amazing with support coming from across Canada “ocean to ocean.”
Online reach-outs have come from as far away as Fort Francis, in the northwestern part of Ontario and had been in the early running. Supporters there contacted Sylvan Lake and even suggested a future hockey match-up between their two hockey teams both called Lakers.
“For communities all across Canada — we’re separated by literally thousands of kilometres — but we’re neighbours,” said Womacks.
Voting for the final closes at 9:59 p.m. (MDT) today. Go to: http://krafthockeyville.cbc.ca