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Hockeyville competition ignites passion

You don’t have to be a hockey fan to be proud of what the Town of O’Leary and its Community Sports Centre achieved this year.

You don’t even have to be from O’Leary. In fact, judging from the number of people on the O’Leary Hockeyville Helpers Facebook page, you don’t even have to be from Prince Edward Island to appreciate the amount of dedication, thought and preparation that went into O’Leary’s winning campaign.

From the more than 3,000 arenas across the country that were nominated for the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville title, O’Leary, Prince Edward Island, Canada emerged as Kraft Hockeyville 2017. O’Hockeyville.

A tremendous amount of work was required to win; an even more incredible amount of work was needed to prepare for the delivery of the prize itself.

And all that work comes to a climax with the Winning Weekend celebration in O’Leary today and Sunday, and the NHL exhibition game between the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils Monday in Summerside.

Thousands of people helped O’Leary get to this point, but none of it would have been possible without the initiative and drive of the O’Leary Hockeyville committee, known as the Fab Five - Dean Getson, Bill MacKendrick, Tammy Rix, Della Sweet and Jo-anne Wallace.

They are the same committee that came close to scoring a victory for O’Leary in the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville competition 11 years ago. This committee’s got staying power, and this time they ignited the spark. They fuelled the passion and they won widespread support and admiration.

They probably didn’t realize what they were in for, but they haven’t stopped working towards the prize yet, a prize that the whole community gets to enjoy.

Sure, only a little more than 3,000 people (that’s equivalent to about 15 per cent of the people on the Hockeyville Helpers page) will be allowed into the game in Summerside, but no one’s putting a limit on the number of people who can attend the Winning Weekend celebration.

Yes, the game is the most topical part of the prize, but the $100,000 that O’Leary gets for arena repairs, and any other funds it realizes from official merchandise sales, and from traffic generated is certainly very noteworthy and rewarding.

At some point, likely within the next year, the money will be put towards arena upgrades, most likely used as leverage to obtain additional funding from other sources. Those upgrades will become the Hockeyville legacy.

As for the game, most people are just eager to go. The final score is secondary. This is, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and thousands of people are getting to experience it because a committee of five got the ball rolling...or the puck sliding.

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