One year after supporting Fernie in its Kraft Hockeyville bid, a small Prairie town has made it to the final four and they need all the support they can get to keep hockey alive in their town.
The people of Wilkie, Saskatchewan, are vying for votes after receiving word that they are one of four towns nominated to host an NHL game and win $250,000 in upgrades to their recreational facility.
In 2018, Fernie put its name in as a contender in the Kraft Hockeyville contest but was not selected as a finalist. However, throughout the campaign promoting the small mountain town, Wilkie dedicated its nomination votes to Fernie following the arena tragedy in October 2017.
“We decided to help out Fernie as a pay-it-forward gesture,” said Helen Urlacher, co-organizer of Wilkie’s Hockeyville campaign.
In 2017, Wilkie entered the Hockeyville competition and placed in the top 10. They were awarded $25,000 to help rebuild their arena after it sustained major damage from an electrical fire two years earlier. During that time, they received support from another B.C. town, Sylvan Lake.
“Upon reading the nomination for Fernie, Kathy Heilman and I decided to support Fernie 100 per cent, just because it was such a tragedy and Fernie really needed the support,” said Urlacher.
“We felt like we had to help you, and we loved every minute of helping you,” she said. “We would support you guys again and again.”
The money that Wilkie received in 2017 was greatly appreciated but only brought the dormant arena back to working order. A very large part of their hockey arena and curling rink remains outdated and in need of replacement.
“We’ve noticed a bunch of things that need attention,” said Urlacher.
She explained that the glass separating the rink from the lobby continue to break in practice, which she said is a huge safety issue, as well as recurring cost. Two panes were fixed but a more permanent fix is needed.
The visitor change room and washrooms haven’t been updated since the rink was built in the early 1970s, nor has the seating.
“We want to get something so we can redo the seating out there, maybe get more people into the rink,” said Urlacher.
She also hopes to install heating above the stands, so fans can stay warm during games.
Minor hockey, recreational hockey, senior hockey, curling and a public free skate are just some of the activities on offer at the NHL-size rink.
“It’s used by everyone in the community,” said Urlacher.
To support Wilkie, visit Krafthockeyville.ca and vote for them from Friday, March 29 at 12 p.m. ET (10 a.m. local time) until March 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET (6:30 p.m. local time).
“Your votes would really help us,” said Urlacher. “We would be so honoured to have your help and support.”
The winner of Kraft Hockeyville will be announced on Saturday, March 30 at approximately 7:30 p.m. Pacific time (8:30 p.m. local time) on Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet.