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O’Leary, P.E.I. is a national finalist for Kraft Hockeyville 2017

The large crowd that gathered for a party in O'Leary Saturday night in hopes the community would make it through to the final round of Kraft Hockeyville erupts in a cheer when their hope becomes reality.
The large crowd that gathered for a party in O'Leary Saturday night in hopes the community would make it through to the final round of Kraft Hockeyville erupts in a cheer when their hope becomes reality.

O’LEARY – What a party it was at O’Leary’s Maple Leaf Curling Club Saturday night.

The newly crowned West Prince Senior Hockey League champions, the O’Leary Maroons, had joined the party in anticipation of the final two communities in the Kraft Hockeyville competition being announced, so the atmosphere was already electrified.

And then the announcement that everyone in attendance was waiting anxiously for was made: O’Leary is the Eastern Canada finalist for Hockeyville, going up against the Western Canada finalist, Ituna, Saskatchewan for 39 hours of voting to decide the overall champion.
Members of O'Leary's Hockeyville committee, from left, Dean Getson, Della Sweet, Jo-Anne Eallace, Tammy Rix and Bill MacKendrick congratulate each other upon hearing their nomination has advanced to the final round of voting. Voting resumes Sunday at 10 a.m. (Atlantic).

Online voting started at 10 a.m. (Atlantic) Sunday morning and runs 39 hours straight.

“Thank you, everybody, and let’s get going and bring this game to O’Leary for the kids,” expressed Della Sweet, a member of the O’Leary Hockeyville committee whose nomination helped convince Hockeyville judges to name O’Leary to the competition’s Top-10. It was a concerted effort by supporters all across P.E.I and Canada, though, that got O’Leary to the final face-off, Sweet acknowledged. 

The O'Leary Maroons returned to their home arena, the O'Leary Community Sports Centre, for a celebratory photo Saturday night after winning the West Prince Senior Hockey League championship. The excitement level ratcheted up a few more notches soon after when it was learned that O'Leary has advanced to the final round of voting in Kraft Hockeyville. The prize for making it this far is $100,000 in arena upgrades. Winning the next round of national voting would trigger an NHL exhibition game.

The game she wants to bring home is an NHL pre-season exhibition game this fall, but the only way it comes east is if O’Leary wins more votes than Ituna.

“We want the kids to have the memory of having the NHL here. That’s what it is all about now,” said Sweet.

Being the top community in eastern Canada in this year’s competition earns O’Leary $100,000 in arena upgrades. The Hockeyville title and the NHL exhibition is what’s up for grabs when voting resumes at 10 a.m.

The late Saturday night announcement activated several voting and awareness activities, including making sure hard-wired voting stations would be ready to go at Tignish Initiatives, Holland College in Alberton and at O’Leary’s Future Tech West.

O'Leary Hockeyville committee member, Dean Getson, left, and O'Leary Maroons team captain Darryl Donahue congratulate each other after the Maroons win the West Prince Senior Hockey League championship and O'Leary advances to the final round of Kraft Hockeyville.

Committee member Tammy Rix said most of the time slots for the 39 hours are filling up but the most openings at the three stations are probably for the Sunday morning, early afternoon shift.

Of course, people can also vote from home, and organizers are suggesting families and friends organize voting parties to add to the fun and excitement.

The digital highway road signs were going to get changed overnight so that motorists will be alerted to the need for votes.

 “I’m pretty happy about the Hockeyville, every bit as much as the championship,” O’Leary Maroons captain, Darryl Donahue commented. “They couldn’t have topped it off any better than this, It’s good for the community; all the communities together.”

Winburn Harris, a long-time Maroon player and even longer a Maroon fan, was thrilled to be part of the huge crowd at the curling club to hear the announcement, pleased about what it means for the arena and the community. He commended the organizing committee for their leadership in driving O’Leaery’s campaign forward.

“This is so special, to have all these people excited about it, and, right across the country, we know from social media. They’re already on there, congratulating us,” said committee member Jo-Anne Wallace.

Wallace took a call from Kraft Hockeyville coordinators during the lively party. “They said, what a great effort we had, what a great job we did. Pretty excited for us and said good luck for the next 39 hours,” she summarized.

“What a time,” she exclaimed.


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