With Kraft Hockeyville celebrations having come and gone, Graham Parsons, like many Sylvan Lake residents this week, has been suffering from what he calls “Hockeyville withdrawal.”
But given the hugely successful manner in which last week’s events unfolded, it’s a state the Sylvan Lake Hockeyville organizing committee chair is more than willing to accept.
“Personally, I was blown away by the magnitude of the show,” he said. “We saw it in bits and pieces in how the rink was being prepared, but game day, I thought, was spectacular.
“You see all the activity, the professionalism, the cameras, the production, then all of a sudden, the people show up … and it all hits home. The television coverage, the spectacular shots of the lake — how can you get any better than that?”
Last Wednesday’s NHL pre-season game — one half of the town’s grand prize in the Kraft Hockeyville competition — saw the Calgary Flames defeat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 thanks to a Curtis Glencross overtime winner. And there were plenty of other on-ice highlights that took place both before the game and during its intervals.
A $100,000 cheque for arena upgrades — the other half of the Hockeyville grand prize — was presented by Jack Hewitt of Kraft Canada to Parsons, his fellow committee member Steve Dills, and Sylvan Lake mayor Sean McIntyre. Parsons was also presented the official Hockeyville trophy and sweater, which he’ll eventually pass on to next year’s winner.
It was all part of a fun-filled day that marked what Parsons feels was an ideal end to the town’s Hockeyville journey.
“People are so appreciative, and it was fun,” he said, adding from an organizational perspective, it was “hard work, but it was a labour of love.”
But the event’s success wasn’t just down to the hard working committee members, he assured. Rather, there are plenty of people who have gone unmentioned over the past several months that deserve just as much credit, he said.
“We’re proud of the stuff we did, but there’s other people to thank, and that’s everybody,” he said. “There were over 300 volunteers that don’t get the recognition that we get, and there’s a whole community out there that bought in, and we thank them and all the people that voted and showed their support from all over the place, and didn’t get to participate.
“We wish everybody could have been in the rink, but people understood, and that was tremendous.”
Not everyone needed to be inside to have fun, however. Some who were offered tickets to the game instead chose to remain outside at the viewing party, where they enjoyed musical entertainment by St. James’ Gate and watched the game on a large screen.
A morning red carpet arrival by both teams gave local youngsters the chance to meet their hockey heroes — some of whom visited Sylvan Lake schools in the afternoon. CBC personalities Ron MacLean and Don Cherry made an on-ice appearance during the first period intermission, and spoke of their delight at being in Sylvan Lake.
“This is Canada,” said Cherry.
Rev. John Yoos of Sylvan Lake dropped the ceremonial first puck before dancing his way off the ice — an act that seemed to embody the jubilation felt all around town last week.
That, according to Jack Hewitt of Kraft Canada, is what Kraft Hockeyville is all about.
“(Sylvan Lake) represents the spirit of Hockeyville over and over,” he said. “It’s all about rebuilding the future of hockey, and keeping the spirit of the game that has been in this community for a long time, whether it’s through the hockey schools or whether it’s through the locals that play either at the major junior level or in the NHL. That’s what you want to see.”
Hewitt added the Sylvan Lake Hockeyville committee had been “outstanding to work with,” and commended them on their hard work in the days, weeks and months leading up to the event.
“It’s a lot of work, and I’m not sure everybody in the community sees all the work that they do,” he said. “It’s getting all the nominations together, it’s getting the stories together, it’s rallying the vote, and then once you win, then the work really begins.
“All of the Hockeyvilles do an outstanding job, and every year it gets better and better, and that’s a tribute to Graham (Parsons) and his team.”