When heavy snow collapsed the roof of Sylvan Lake’s 40-year-old arena this winter, Jared Waldo and Kevin Putnam saw it as a “timely” sign to enter the town in Kraft’s annual Hockeyville contest.
“It’s something that a lot of people in Sylvan have talked about for a few years,” said Waldo. “But if ever there was a time to do it, now would be the time.”
Their effort has sparked an outpouring of support for the town’s bid to win $100,000 for arena upgrades and the right to host an NHL pre-season game.
“The arena collapse has brought up a lot of nostalgia,” said Waldo. “I knew there would be support, but I’m pretty blown away by it.”
Since the old arena will be demolished and the money can only be used for upgrades, Waldo and Putnam nominated the town’s multiplex. To win the prize, supporters need to send in stories that demonstrate the town’s “passion for hockey” and the “heart and spirit” of the community.
Two of the criteria for a good story is that it’s heartwarming and “engaging.” Waldo has one that definitely fits that bill.
“I met my wife there,” he said. “We were working at the hockey school when we met. I proposed to her at centre ice.”
There’s been a flood of stories from current and former residents, along with those who have fond hockey memories from Sylvan Lake, he added.
“I always knew what a hockey community it was,” Waldo said. “We always joke that there’s no off-season in Sylvan. When the hockey season would wrap up, that’s when the hockey camp would kick in.”
It’s not just minor hockey or the arena, he said.
“When the lake freezes over, you’ve got people down there having the biggest hockey games that you’ll find on a Saturday.”
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Support for Sylvan Lake’s Hockeyville bid has taken on “a life of its own,” he said. The community’s Hockeyville page on Facebook has thousands of supporters, and Los Angeles Kings centre Colin Fraser — a B.C. boy whose wife is from Sylvan Lake and now calls it home — has also thrown his support behind the town by encouraging his Twitter followers, all 18,000 of them, to share their stories about the arena.
The community ranked No. 1 in the nation in the nomination round. The next step is to secure a spot in the top 16 (eight from the West and eight from the East), which will be announced on Hockey Night in Canada on March 8. People can submit stories, photos and videos to the Hockeyville website — krafthockeyville.cbc.ca — that show “how much passion you have for the game and how much passion you have for your community.”
Waldo is confident Sylvan Lake has what it takes to go all the way.
“It takes one or two people to spark the idea, but it’s the entire support of the community that’s going to make this happen.”