So when Ituna, the Western Canada finalist in the national competition, lost out to O’Leary, P.E.I. for the top prize, Ituna mayor Doug Scully and his family just knew they had to include a trip to O’Leary in their travel itinerary.
O’Leary mayor Eric Gavin and members of the town’s Hockeyville committee greeted the family at the O’Leary Town Office Thursday, the day after they arrived in the province.
There were congratulations on O’Leary’s win and acknowledgement of Ituna’s solid run for the title. The mayors exchanged pins and town shirts, and the O’Leary Hockeyville committee presented gifts and took the family on a tour of O’Leary’s Canadian Potato Museum.
Noting the co-op and credit union as he drove through, Scully said the two towns seem similar.
“We were well-matched,” Bill MacKendrick from the O’Leary committee said, speculating the vote count was likely close.
Both towns receive $100,000 for upgrades to their arenas and both are holding onto that money for now while planning out their projects and hoping to leverage it to obtain additional funds.
Renovations to the canteen and entrance area of the O’Leary Community Sports Centre are planned and Mayor Scully said Ituna is working to replace its natural ice arena with an artificial ice facility.
Besides the $100,000, O’Leary also gets the Kraft Hockeyville Cup and the opportunity to host an NHL exhibition game. Although O’Leary will host the game, it will be played in Summerside. It will be between the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 25. Hockeyville celebrations will be held in O’Leary on Sept. 23 and 24. Preparations for the celebration and the game are still underway, Tammy Rix indicated.
Had Ituna won, Mayor Scully said the game would have had to be played in a town about a half an hour away.
This is the second time O’Leary entered the Kraft Hockeyville competition. The same committee took it on both times, coming close in the inaugural competition.
This was Ituna’s first time entering. “To get to the top 10, we were pretty happy,” Mayor Scully said. They then advanced as western finalist in a head-to-head 39-hour battle with O’Leary for online votes. The victor was announced during a Hockey Night in Canada telecast on April 1 but the individual vote counts have not been released.
The O’Leary committee has been preparing for the delivery of their grand prize ever since.