By JOSH ALDRICH
The shell of the collapsed Sylvan Lake Arena still stands. It is a constant reminder of a tragic end to a building that helped make the town what it is.
But on Saturday, community members will finally get the chance to celebrate it and give it a proper send-off as they gather to watch the final announcement for the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
“It just looks so cold, it’s like an open casket, it’s time we took it away,” said Sylvan Lake town councillor and Spirit of Sylvan Hockeyville chairman Graham Parsons.
However, Saturday will be no funeral. Win or lose, this will be a fun memorial as they close the chapter on the arena that collapsed in January and build toward a new multiplex. There will be a lot of stories told and memories rehashed of minor hockey and winter sports glory.
“It’s almost like she had a life and said ‘I’m going to grow this community together,’ and she did,” said Parsons.
Like many longtime residents, Parsons spent most his winters over the last 40 years tightly tethered to the building.
Sylvan Lake has already earned $100,000 — along with fellow finalist Kingston, N.S. However, if they win the competition — voting for the final round was on March 22 to 24 — they will receive the title of Hockeyville and get to host an NHL exhibition game.
Tentative plans have Saturday festivities starting at 9 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the Lions Hall with entertainment provided by Flashback Freddy.
There is also a road hockey tournament to go with a barbecue set for the Lions Club parking lot, and in the afternoon they will start their parade, led by the Red Deer Royals marching band.
The parade is designed for everybody to march with the band through downtown Sylvan Lake to the multiplex; just throw on a hockey jersey or get in costume or carry a sign of support.
At the multiplex is when the real party will start. With live music being provided by West of the Fifth, the Boom Chucka Boys and St. James’ Gate, the night will continue to build towards the announcement of the winner of Hockeyville. Times for these events have not been finalized.
CBC will even have satellite trucks onsite to capture the scene as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reveals this year’s champion at approximately 4:55 p.m. — a review of the competition, with a look at both finalists, will begin at 4:45 p.m.
Saturday will also be a chance for Sylvan Lake to recognize and thank all of the communities in Central Alberta for their support, not just during the competition but since the collapse of the arena. Fifteen communities helped supply ice to host hockey games and another eight for figure skating.
“As much as we want to be Hockeyville, the greater prize in all of this has been the solidarity of the community and getting everybody together,” said committee media co-ordinator Jared Waldo. “Just being able to showcase how we’re able to pull together at a time like this where we really need everybody’s support.”