By Josh Aldrich
The top 16 communities in the Kraft Hockeyville competition will not be announced until Saturday, but organizers of Sylvan Lake’s bid are preparing to move forward as if they are already in that group.
Up for grabs is $100,000 to the winning community.
Sylvan Lake will put the money towards a new rink after the roof collapsed on the Sylvan lake Arena in January. The top 16 finalists — eight from Western Canada, eight from the East — will be announced during the second intermission of the early game on Hockey Night in Canada.
Voting will be open for 48 hours. There is no limit to the number of times people can vote.
Jared Waldo, in charge of media relations for the Sylvan Lake bid, said they hope to have the votes start rolling in as soon as the list is unveiled.
A big part of their campaign will be the computer lab at H.J. Cody High School in Sylvan Lake, which will be open to the public from the time of the announcement through Sunday evening.
The Sylvan Lake Legion will also be hosting a Voting Day party at 5 p.m. where people can gather to watch the announcement and then begin voting.
There will also be a rally at the Sylvan lake Multiplex on Saturday evening while booths will be set up at Red Deer Rebels and Bentley Generals games, Bower Place Shopping Centre, the Red Deer Home Show and other sites throughout the weekend to promote the vote.
“We want to make sure everybody in the community has a chance to vote, whether it’s kids, adults or seniors,” said Waldo.
Each of the top 16 communities will receive $25,000.
The top four communities will move on to the next stage of voting, where their prize money will be bumped to $50,000.
The final two will have their total go up to $100,000.
The winning community will secure the title of Kraft Hockeyville and will host an NHL exhibition game.
At each stage, the voting begins all over again at zero and the hope is Sylvan Lake eventually becomes a provincial push. Last year’s champion — the Ontario township of Stirling-Rawdon — won with almost four million votes in the final round over West Kelowna, B.C.
Waldo says this competition gives Sylvan Lake the opportunity to give the 41-year-old arena the retirement party it rightly deserved.
“It’s devastating in the sense that the old barn held a lot of memories for a lot of people and saw a lot of events go through it,” he said.
“It was (arena manager and town Councillor Graham Parson’s) vision to always have a nice send-off and have a nice way to close out the arena and celebrate the memories, and we feel we were robbed of that.”
He adds many of the surrounding communities have reached out to Sylvan Lake and offered their support, as has many of the local people. This includes two songs being written for the campaign by local artists; one by West of Fifth is a take on Stompin’ Tom Connors’ The Hockey Song while the other was written by Flashback Freddie. They should both be uploaded onto YouTube by the weekend.
“These are some of those examples we are seeing, where people want to support the cause anyway they can and when you physically can’t vote right now, there’s still ways people can help out and bring awareness to it,” said Waldo.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s not surprising, we have such a strong community in Sylvan.”