Lumby supports the vote for Fernie Hockeyville idea

Okanagan village that won the 2016 crown backs Saskatchewan call to vote for Fernie, B.C.

The idea gave Angie Clowry goosebumps.

Clowry, one of the main organizers of Lumby’s 2016 Hockeyville Canada victory, is back on the Hockeyville bandwagon after hearing a town in Saskatchewan has thrown its Hockeyville support behind Fernie, B.C., whose arena has been closed for three months after a deadly ammonia leak resulted in the deaths of three men.

“After what Fernie has gone through, it’s a beautiful thing to do,” said Clowry of Wilkie’s decision to support Fernie for the title of Hockeyville 2018, where the winner will get $250,000 in upgrades to its local rink.

The Fernie Memorial Arena remains closed. The Junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have been playing their home games in nearby Sparwood, 31 kilometres away.

Wilkie’s own Saskcan Community Centre was severely damaged in a fire in 2015, and took about $300,000 in upgrades to get it operational again.

Related: Sask. residents help Fernie get back on the ice after arena disaster

Towns across Canada are voting for the community they think deserves $250,000 in upgrades to a local ice rink, as a part of the Kraft Hockeyville competition.

Despite being nearly 600 kilometres away, some people living in Wilkie say instead of voting for their own town, they will vote for Fernie instead.

“Fernie, B.C. has a tragic story,” read a post from a Wilkie, Sask., Facebook page on Jan. 9. “Three of the rink workers were killed from a ammonia leak in their rink. Their hockey teams now are using local rinks to play in, and Memorial Arena in Fernie, B.C. remains empty and not usable.”

“Wilkie, Sask and area, round up the troops!” it continued. “We’ve suffered a loss and been displaced before, now it’s our turn to help them skate on their home ice again!”

It took two years to rebuild the Saskcan Community Centre, and according to locals, this process was not easy.

This past summer, they were able to step back into their community centre for the first time.

“Our hockey teams and curlers and back doing what they love… it’s a tremendous feeling!” says Kathy Heilman, a Wilkie resident who helped rally support for Fernie.

Clowry wants Lumby and North Okanagan residents to throw their support behind Fernie.

“It would be nice to bring Hockeyville back to the West Coast,” said Clowry.

Related: Locals nominating Fernie Memorial Arena to win $250,000 in upgrades

The 2017 Hockeyville winners were O’Leary, PEI.

As of Friday morning, there were 82 stories, 63 pictures/videos and 131 notes showing support for Fernie.

Voting can be done at www.krafthockeyville.ca

Arena nominations run until Feb. 11. Judging takes place from Feb. 12 to March 16, then the top-four finalists are announced March 17. Voting on the top-four opens March 30.

The grand prize winner ($250,000 in arena upgrades and hosting an NHL pre-season game) will be announced Saturday, March 31, on Hockey Night in Canada.

Lumby’s win in 2016 resulted in a pre-season game at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers.

(with files from the Fernie Free Press)

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