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Hockeyville contest a bonding experience for Beardy’s
What is known is that the Beardy’s Memorial Arena in Saskatchewan will be undergoing some upgrades soon. But residents of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation are now anxiously awaiting March 31 to find out whether their rink will also host a National Hockey League pre-season game later this year.
The Aboriginal community made the Top 5 list in the annual Kraft Hockeyville contest. By cracking the Top 5 list, the community will receive $25,000 to upgrade its rink, which was built exactly two decades ago in 1992.
The winning community will be announced on CBC during a Hockey Night In Canada broadcast. That community will receive $100,000 in arena upgrades and will have the honor of hosting a NHL exhibition contest.
This marks the sixth year of the Kraft Hockeyville contest, which was developed by CBC Sports and is sponsored by Kraft Foods, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.
†”We are the only First Nation in the history of Hockeyville to advance to this level,” said Kevin Seesequasis, the spokesperson for the Beardy’s bid. “That’s something interesting in itself.”
Newfoundland’s Conception Bay won the 2011 contest. The Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets participated in a pre-season contest in that community this past September.
A total of 227 communities entered the Hockeyville contest this year. By early March this group was whittled down to 15. And then on March 17 the Top 5 finalists were announced.
Kurt Seesequasis, who is a local councillor and Kevin’s cousin, is the one who submitted the Beardy’s bid.
After that local residents were invited to submit videos or photos to show their passion for hockey as well as to explain why their community should win the contest.
Once the Top 15 communities were announced people were able to vote as many times as they wanted, either online or by phone, for the location they wanted to move on.
And when those votes were tabulated and the Top 5 were announced during a Hockey Night in Canada telecast, another four-day voting period followed.
Though voting closed on March 20, the results will not be announced until the end of the month.
The other four communities that made the Top 5 list are West Kelowna, B.C., Ontario’s Stirling-Rawdon, Amos, Que., and Yarmouth, N.S.
Kevin Seeseequasis said this contest has proved to be quite the bonding experience for those in his community.
“This has brought all 3,000 of us together,” he said.
During the voting periods, many from the Aboriginal community staged voting parties, staying up with others until the wee hours of the morning to vote as many times as possible.
People were trying to spread the word about their community’s bid any way they could, including word of mouth, Facebook and Twitter.
“We’ve been getting people across the country and North America to help us,” Seeseequasis said.
Support for the Beardy’s bid from local residents took off on Jan. 21. That’s when a Hockey Day in Beardy’s was staged at the local rink.
Seeseequasis said local residents were especially pumped after that day once they realized what they could win in this contest. Many uploaded videos and pictures to the contest Web site after that day to boost the Beardy’s submission.
“We were really excited then,” Seeseequasis said. “We had a lot of momentum moving forward.”
And no doubt residents are ecstatic they were able to make it onto the Top 5 list, securing $25,000 in arena upgrades.
But there’s no point in speculating how those funds will be used. Especially since local residents are still hoping to win the grand prize of the contest.
“Those decisions would have to wait,” Seeseequasis said of any possible upgrades.
The Beardy’s Memorial Arena has a capacity of about 1,600. There are no individual seats, just rows of benches. About 1,000 people can sit on the benches and the rink can accommodate about 600 standees.
These days the rink is primarily used for minor hockey contests.
The facility though was home for the Beardy’s Rage, a Junior A squad that competed in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League during the 1997-98 campaign. That franchise moved to Saskatoon and eventually folded.
UPDATE: On March 31 CBC announced that Stirling-Rawdon has won the coveted title of Kraft Hockeyville 2012!
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