Last week the finalists were announced for the annual Kraft Hockeyville competition and when the dust settled, the four were,
- Lumsden, Saskatchewan (Lumsden Community Sports Centre)
- Saint Adolphe, Manitoba (Saint Adolphe Community Club & Arena)
- Bobcaygeon, Ontario (Bobcaygeon-Verulam Community Centre)
- Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick (Chief Young Eagle Recreation Centre)
Each year the competition shines the spotlight on hockey-rich small towns that are in need of a boost to keep their arenas open and hockey at the forefront of the community. Being a finalist is pretty big in itself, as each of them gets a $25,000 arena upgrade and $10,000 to go towards new hockey equipment for their minor hockey programs, even if they don’t win the entire thing. The winner gets the grand prize of $250,000 in arena upgrades and the chance to host an NHL preseason game next season.
Before voting opens on Apr 9, let’s take a closer look at each community and a bit about their story as they prepare for the final push to be crowned Kraft Hockeyville 2021 champions, beginning with the small town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan.
Kraft Hockeyville Gave People Something to Smile About Again
Nestled in the Qu’Appelle Valley in south-central Saskatchewan, 31 kilometers northwest of the city of Regina is the small town of Lumsden. At its heart is the Lumsden Community Sports Centre, where hockey has lived and breathed for many, many years. Like many communities, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the town hard and forced the premature end to minor hockey league seasons, the closure of the arena, and even the cancellation of the annual Duck Derby, which was one of the toughest decisions Jamie Lees had to make.
It was devastating, this has been a 33-year tradition…the fundraising obviously was a big piece of it, but it’s the traditional piece of everyone getting together and rallying behind [Lumsden]. We’re a small town so everybody knows us for that Ducky Derby too, so that was really tough.Jamie Lees, chair of the Lumsden Duck Derby in an interview with THW
The Duck Derby is the primary fundraiser for the arena, so not having it as an income source forced Lees and the community to come up with another way to rally the troops and keep the town’s heart beating. So, she decided to take the plunge and apply for Kraft Hockeyville, not knowing how big it was going to become.
We were spitballing ideas and Kraft Hockeyville came up and I said, well I’ll try and take the lead on this and see how far we get, not knowing that we would get this far…It was mind-blowing, there were 2,400 posts altogether between pictures and videos, and it was so refreshing to see the different posts of people coming together again.
When we get to the minus-50 depths of Winter and COVID…it was something to make them smile. It was so cool, it was every generation of those people posting their kid going for the first skate of their life or it was older generations saying, I remember when that rink was built.
The journey to becoming a finalist gave Lumsden the boost it needed, and the outpouring of support from not only the town itself but from the surrounding communities brought people back together again after a year of isolation due to the pandemic. As Lees said, it gave people something to smile about in a year where smiling was very hard to do.
Growth of Womens Hockey in Lumsden
Not only will the money help upgrade the rink and its amenities, but it will also help spur the idea of growing a full-fledged local female hockey program right in Lumsden. Right now, girls don’t have the opportunity to stay at home and follow their dream of becoming professional hockey players. Unfortunately, the stigma still exists out there that hockey is not for girls, just boys. In fact, the idea of building it came from a hockey dad and his daughter’s belief that it wasn’t for her.
It was actually one of the dads from the community, his daughter wanted to play ringette…then he said, ‘what about hockey?’ and she’s like, ‘well, hockey’s not a girls sport’. That’s what stemmed this whole motion, and it was so neat to see that small seed grow into [what it is today].
Women’s hockey has been a hot topic this past year and it’s growing every day at both the grassroots and professional levels. With the introduction of the Toronto Six to the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the partnership of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the reality of girls having the option to pursue hockey as a career is becoming more of a reality every day.
Even though Lumsden is a small town, Lees is hoping that a local hockey program exclusively for girls will help break the stigma that hockey is solely a boy’s sport.
Giving them [girls] that power at a young age to say, hey, this [hockey] is your sport too, and if you want an all-female team, then we can do that…We’re a small town, so boys play hockey and girls dance. Those stereotypes that go on, we need to try and break those stereotypes.
That’s what we’re doing with this nomination too. It’s showing them that we’re making you a priority too, that this program is as important as any other program we have going on at the rink.
The money can’t technically go to the program itself, but the upgrades to the facilities and the introduction of it should make girls feel that hockey has a place for them too. The grassroots is where it all begins, and Lumsden is hoping to be one of the early seedlings of a full grown tree one day.
Lumsden Pumps Out NHL Players Too
In the history of the NHL, Lumsden has only seen three natives make it to the biggest stage, Bill Hay who played for the Chicago Black Hawks between 1959 and 1967, Earl Miller who played for the Black Hawks and Maple Leafs between 1927 and 1932, and finally Beattie Ramsay who played for the Maple Leafs for one season in 1927.
Tanner Glass, who wasn’t born in Lumsden but graduated from Lumsden Highschool, and Josh Archibald, who grew up and played minor hockey there, are the most recent local celebrities. Glass was drafted in the ninth round by the Florida Panthers in 2003 and ended up playing 527 games in the NHL before retiring in 2018, and Archibald was drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011 and is currently playing for the Edmonton Oilers.
Both Glass and Archibald frequently visit Lumsden and have been avid supporters of the Kraft Hockeyville bid. In fact, they have used their celebrity status to bring more eyes to the town and in turn, more support for their pursuit to become the winners of the whole thing.
He [Glass] was more than willing to help us out with promoting. The biggest thing is getting the word out, so these people who have those connections and the ability to get the word beyond our small little town have been great. And Tanner recognizes that he grew up here and he knows the support that he felt when he was participating in the programs, so he was more than ready to jump aboard.
Talking to Josh Archibald, they’re super humble guys too. They’re just hockey players, they’re not out to be the celebrities, they’re small town too. They get that these little guys are looking up to them, so that’s huge.
Both Archibald and Glass became hard-working utility players in the NHL, so it’s a testament to the culture and values that Lumsden instilled in them. If you work hard, you will make it in whatever you do.
Every Kraft Hockeyville Finalist is a Winner
Despite this being a competition, every community represented here are winners already. The spotlight has been cast on them, and now everyone knows their story. It’s hard to root against any of them because they all deserve to win the $250,000.
The competitive side in me is all in, but you know what, everybody deserves it. Regardless of whether it’s us or any of the other ones, everybody needs that money and everybody is going to use it in a good way. It’s all going towards developing young athletes, so there are no losers whatsoever.
Voting opens at 9 am ET on Apr 9 and closes at 5 pm ET on Apr 10. For complete contest rules and program details and to explore all the finalists and their stories go to krafthockeyville.ca
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. In addition to writing, I host the Canucks & Pucks podcast as well. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.