Weeks of persistent voting and working tirelessly to raise awareness of their cause finally paid off for residents of Sylvan Lake, who celebrated their town’s triumph in the 2014 Kraft Hockeyville competition at the multiplex Saturday.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced during a live CBC broadcast that Sylvan Lake had won the competition after garnering 2,558,137 votes in the final round of voting, defeating runner-up Kingston N.S., which had 2,449,973.
On top of the $100,000 that had already been won for arena upgrades, the town, as a result of its win, will host an NHL pre-season game between Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes Sept. 24.
News of the outcome was met with scenes of jubilation inside the multiplex, where Sylvan Lakers gathered to celebrate their hard work and community spirit.
“For everyone who has supported us, for everyone who has been there for Sylvan Lake — whether you’ve been here for 100 years, or you moved here last week — with the deepest of our hearts, thank you so much,” said Mayor Sean McIntyre, shortly after the announcement. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Organizing committee chair Graham Parsons, after being interviewed in a live CBC broadcast, took to the stage to offer his own words of gratitude to those who helped the town earn its new Kraft Hockeyville 2014 moniker.
“This has been one incredible journey,” he said. “You dedicated three weekends to this cause — thank yous can’t be enough.”
Saturday’s celebrations began long before the announcement of Sylvan Lake’s win.
A Lions Club hosted pancake breakfast, attended by over 350 people plus children was held in the morning, and was followed by a road hockey tournament in the afternoon.
A people parade then made its way through town to the multiplex, arriving just in time for people to prepare for a party that included musical entertainment by West of the Fifth, the Boom Chucka Boys and St. James’ Gate.
During that time, and throughout the day, acknowledgements were made to many surrounding communities who offered Sylvan Lake ice time in wake of the arena’s collapse earlier this year.
Committee member Jared Waldo invited representatives from those communities onto the stage to receive a plaque recognizing their assistance.
“Without the fine folks of these towns and these cities helping us out this winter, we would not have been able to complete our hockey seasons and our skating clubs and everything that we do on the ice,” he said. “On behalf of the town of Sylvan Lake, a warm thank you.”
Parsons and Kevin Putnam also received special recognition for contributions to minor hockey, and for beginning the Hockeyville nomination process, respectively.
Dignitaries and elected officials from throughout Central Alberta took part in the festivities, and McIntyre thanked the “honorary Sylvan Lakers across the country” for their votes and support.
He also acknowledged the dedication of volunteers and people who spent countless hours voting to help turn the town’s Hockeyville dreams into reality.
“As somebody who grew up in Sylvan Lake, seeing us all work together for one purpose touches me so deeply,” he said. “I’m proud to stand among you as Sylvan Lakers.”
Shortly after Saturday’s announcement, representatives of both the Calgary Flames and the Phoenix Coyotes spoke of their excitement to be playing in Sylvan Lake this September.
“We are thrilled that Sylvan Lake has deservingly earned the title of Kraft Hockeyville for 2014,” said Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, in a news release. “The Calgary Flames are very proud of our Alberta roots and have made it a priority to be a strong supporter of our community’s well-being.
“We look forward to celebrating the game of hockey with all the fans in Sylvan Lake and supporting this great hockey community.”
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney echoed that sentiment.
“We are very excited to participate in next season’s Kraft Hockeyville event in Sylvan Lake,” he said.
A record-breaking 532 communities were nominated in the 2014 Hockeyville competition, resulting in nearly 16 million votes being cast throughout three rounds of voting.