Voting got under across Canada Sunday at 10 a.m. (Atlantic) to choose between O’Leary, P.E.I. and Ituna Saskatchewan for the national title.
The two finalists were confirmed around midnight Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, and the O’Leary committee was already well-primed to get back to work.
Besides voting going on in homes across the province and the nation, the O’Leary committee had already arranged for voting stations at the Tignish Cultural Centre, Alberton Holland College and O’Leary’s Future Tech West.
Voting turn-out last Sunday and Monday was big enough to give O’Leary first place in the East, but now O’Leary is up against just the top team in the West and their volunteers are committed.
“I think we are going to have a stronger turn-out (this time),” said committee member Della Sweet. “I think people can taste it and they’re going for it.”
Ronnie Gaudet recently crowned as Tignish’s biggest Leafs fan, was at the Tignish Cultural Centre Sunday doing his part to help O’Leary.
“It’s nice to be part of this and to help out the community of O’Leary and, hopefully, they go all the way to be number one,” said Gaudet who suggested provincial and regional pride is on the line.
While he’d love to see Toronto versus Montreal or Boston, he admitted bringing any NHL exhibition game to West Prince would be a thrill. And if Toronto played? It wouldn’t matter who their opponent was, Gaudet said, “as long as Toronto won.”
“I think West Prince would grow a foot,” Gaudet said of the prospect of O’Leary P.E.I winning Hockeyville.
The host committee certainly was hoping
they had the support to see them through to the final round and organized a
party Saturday night at the Maple Leaf Curling Club, just in case.
The atmosphere was electrified long before the announcement was made, because the O’Leary Maroons joined the party after winning the West Prince Senior Hockey championship in Alberton.
Being named a national finalist just sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“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.
She 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.
Getting to this point assures O’Leary, P.E.I. and Ituna, Sask. $100,000 each for arena upgrades. Still to be decided is who gets the national title of Kraft Hockeyville 2017 and the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game.
Online voting, that ends at 1 a.m. (Atlantic) Tuesday will decide that outcome.