The town of Wilkie is hoping to score big with this year’s Kraft Hockeyville challenge. The annual competition lets people vote for a community to win $250,000, and Wilkie has made the top four.
The small Sask. town is up against Renous in New Brunswick, Rich Valley, Alta. and Saint-Polycarpe, Que. Last time, the town made it to the top 10 in 2017 and received $25,000 for it. This year the town is going all in to improve their arena. The campaign is being spearheaded by Helen Urlacher, who says there’s also glory in being the first Saskatchewan town to win Kraft Hockeyville.
“There’s actually never been a Saskatchewan winner in the thirteen years that Kraft Hockeyville has been doing this competition. Here in Saskatchewan, we’re known for the thirteenth man for the Roughriders. Now, Wilkie, Saskatchewan wants to be the thirteenth man for Hockeyville,” says Urlacher.
In 2015, the town’s Saskcan Community Centre fell victim to a fire. While the rink received little damage, the arena’s lobby, food booth, kitchen and hall were destroyed. Money won from the town’s last go at Kraft Hockeyville allowed them to get into their rink for the 2017-2018 hockey season.
After getting back into the rink, the town noticed a number of things that weren’t worked on with the last renovations. Urlacher says the washrooms and dressing rooms may not have been touched since the rink was built in 1972. She says they also want to upgrade the seating area, and that some practices see the ice-surface glass shattering.
“That’s a real safety concern that we need to fix for next season. You know you find a lot of different stuff that you need, and what insurance didn’t cover. That’s why we decided to go for Hockeyville 2019.”
Urlacher says the town’s WSHL team, the Wilkie Outlaws, have a 104-year-old history with the town. After the fire, many surrounding communities offered their own rinks for the team to practice and play on for the season. While there was lots of support from the towns around them, Urlacher says the arena is the hub of the community.
Finalists in the top four have already won $25,000, and this year Kraft Hockeyville donated $10,000 to all finalists for minor hockey equipment. Urlacher says their minor hockey team is ecstatic and that the donation helps their future hockey players. She adds that the work on the arena will have a lasting impact on their small community.
“We want to ensure that the future generations are able to have this facility up and running so they can learn to skate or play hockey in the big leagues. This is what a small community in Saskatchewan is all about, is their rink and their children’s future.”
Voting for the winner of the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville challenge begins online at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 29. People can vote as many times as they like at krafthockeyville.ca before it closes at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 30. The winner will be announced two hours after the polls close during the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada.