It was a show of community spirit at its finest on Wednesday night, as Elk Valley residents came out in droves to support Fernie in winning the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
Parents, user groups, hockey teams and more came holding signs and wearing jerseys to rally support for the contest.
Right now, communities across Canada are vying for the $250,000 Hockeyville prize, which for Fernie, would go towards a new ice-making plant, something that would cost between $700,000 to $1 million.
Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano pointed out that a new all-season rink is sorely needed. Even during the rally, residents couldn’t skate on the outdoor rink because of weather conditions.
User groups like the Fernie Ghostriders, the Fernie Figure Skating team, Fernie Minor Hockey and more have been displaced from their hometown arena since October’s ammonia leak tragedy.
“It’s a bit emotional,” said Fernie local, Sarah Ingram, standing with a group of parents outside the Fernie Aquatic Centre. “I’m not surprised by how many people are here.”
Fernie Ghostriders head coach Craig Mohr brought his Junior B team out to the rally. The team has been playing home games in Sparwood since the arena closure.
“It’s awesome that all the user groups are out here,” said Mohr, adding that there was a number of faces out at the rally that he used to see on a daily basis at the Fernie Memorial Arena. “It’s nice to catch up with some of them.”
Many groups have organized ice time at the arena in Sparwood, however, some have had to travel as far as the Crowsnest Pass in order to play or practice.
Minor Hockey association president Tracey Kelly, alongside Fernie Ghostriders president Barb Anderson decided to organize the rally after touring downtown Fernie with Helen Urlacher and Mary Giuliano.
Urlacher is from Wilkie, Saskatchwan, a small town that also lost their arena, and placed in the top ten during the 2017 Hockeyville competition. Urlacher drove out to Fernie in January, in support of the city winning the contest.
“We wanted to do a rally to start ramping up nominations,” said Anderson, “to get as many votes as possible and win Kraft Hockeyville.”
“It’s been really tough on all of our user groups to not have an arena,” said Kelly. “We have a vested interest in having our arena open.”
Individuals can nominate Fernie by posting a note, story or photo of what hockey means to them and why the town is deserving a new arena at krafthockeyville.ca.
The final four nominated communities in Canada will be announced by Kraft on February 11, and if Fernie makes it to this stage, voting will begin. Stay tuned.