Bobcaygeon gets shortlisted for potential NHL pre-season game, new money for arena

By Geoff Coleman

The village could win $250,000 to put toward its arena. Photo: Geoff Coleman.

Bobcaygeon has found another cause to rally behind. From annual events like the Craft Beer and Food Festival and the Fall Fair, to more impromptu ones like organizing huge screens downtown to broadcast the final concert by the Tragically Hip, Bobcaygeon residents are no strangers to pulling together and making things happen.

The latest initiative is an entry into the Kraft Hockeyville contest that sees towns across Canada vie for the honour of hosting an NHL pre-season game and winning $250,000 in arena improvements. Bobcaygeon has been shortlisted to be among 20 submissions to go on to the next level.

The impetus for the entry came from Michael Mudie, and as is typical for the town, there are lots of people pitching in to move it forward. Ann Adare, who works with the community group ‘Impact 32’ (charged with initiating village improvements to drive year-round economic development) was quick to point out the breadth of involvement, saying the volunteers range from her group to private citizens, to business owners, to schoolteachers and their classes.

The contest is divided into two parts for judging. First, an entry must demonstrate community backing for the initiative by posting stories on the Hockeyville website about why hockey and the arena is significant to the town. These brief essays must answer three specific questions and stay under 1000 characters in length. A full 80 per cent of the overall score is based on these original compositions. Social media sharing of, and response to, the stories comprise the second part of the evaluation. This is when photos and videos and shorter reminiscences about the building can be submitted.

The significance of the rink won’t be hard to establish, since it is a cornerstone of town activities, hosting dances, fairs, town meetings, and Canada Day celebrations for 65 years. Completed in 1955, it seems like everyone in the town and surrounding area at the time contributed to the construction in some fashion. Women’s Institutes hosted fundraising dinners, $250 club raffle tickets were sold, “buy a brick” campaigns were run, and volunteers picked up the slack on chores for men labouring at the worksite instead of the farm. A section of The Bobcaygeon Independent printed a weekly record detailing donations of materials, equipment, and labour, and financial gifts were canvassed and received from as far away as Sturgeon Point. In fact, around $100,000 1954 dollars were raised.

All that money and civic pride couldn’t prevent one unscheduled delay, unfortunately. When the winds picked up on Oct. 15, 1954 much of the construction was complete, but Hurricane Hazel still had enough steam to tear off the back end of the building.

Since its completion, generations of residents have gone to the rink for hockey games and practices. NHLers like Joe Junkin, Bernie Nicholls, Matt Duchene, and Brady Austin have played there as well, but so has Charley Pride, Rita McNeil, Tommy Hunter and Blue Rodeo. To focus on the hockey history of the building is really only telling part of its story. Over the years it has been home to girl’s hockey, curling, ringette, figure skating, roller skating, professional wrestling, summer movies and fiddle and step dance competitions making it a community centre in the truest sense of the term.

Last year, Twillingate, Newfoundland was named Hockeyville, and its recreation director, Jeff Blackler said community support was unbelievable. “The town just erupted when we heard we made the final four. The town just started to buzz.” He went on to say during the 36-hour final popular vote, the town was deserted.

“Everyone was home on their phones, their computers, voting. We got calls from people across Canada — Ontario, Alberta – even the States telling us they had voted.”

Twillingate has not actually spent their windfall yet. They have had engineering firms come in and assess the building to see where the money would best be spent. And, in a show of Newfoundland pragmatism, they have leveraged the prize money by applying to the provincial government for another $1,000,000 in public funds. As Blackler noted, “$250,000 would put a new roof on the building, but it needs more than that.”

If you have a great story to tell about the Bobcaygeon-Verulam Community Centre and Arena, you have until Feb. 14 to add it to the growing number of stories already submitted. Representatives from Kraft, NHL, and the NHL Players Association will evaluate the story based on its depiction of the nominated community’s spirit and passion for hockey, the description of the arena’s importance, and the description of how the prize money will be used. Three second prizes of $25,000 toward arena upgrades are also up for grabs. Judging takes place from Feb. 15 to March 19. The top four nominees will be announced on March 20.

Further information can be obtained by contacting the Impact 32 Facebook page, or website.

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