Haliburton rallies for Hockeyville title
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 19, 2015
Haliburton has earned its spot in the top 10 communities in this year's Kraft Hockeyville contest.
The good news went viral shortly after the finalists were announced by George Stroumboulopoulos on Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday night.
Securing a spot in the top 10 means that the municipality is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $25,000 for arena upgrades. Both the first and second place finishers will receive $100,000 in arena upgrades, but the grand prize winner will get an added perk – the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game.
"I think it's justice," said Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey. "I mean, look at our history. Hockey has been a hub in Haliburton and for that matter, in the Haliburton Highlands."
Fearrey reflected on the town's rich hockey history, which is decorated with several NHL stars past and present, championship-winning minor hockey teams, and the well-known Haliburton Hockey Haven.
"I think it's justified where we are and now we just take the next step and involve everyone we can to get us the votes," he said.
Nominations had to provide information about the community's "passion and spirit for hockey,"
highlight how the money would be used, and indicate why the community should win the title of Kraft Hockeyville.
Last year, the municipality entered the contest just days before the deadline but didn't make it past the nomination round.
Fearrey gave full credit to Dysart's CAO Tamara Wilbee and other staff for their work on this year's application.
Minden Hills also entered the contest but didn't advance to the top 10. A panel of judges selected each finalist based on the criteria outlined in the official competition rules.
A couple of local residents expressed their disappointment on The Highlander's Facebook page.
"Disappointed they didn't pick Minden arena instead," wrote Bonnie Hoenow.
"It's a competition and this year we came out on top," said Fearrey in response to the reaction. "I hope the people in Minden support our application now."
If Minden were to enter and advance next year, he would hope to see the residents of Haliburton do the same.
"That's the way we should behave as county people," he said, adding "it's all about recognizing hockey in the Haliburton Highlands."
Haliburton's own Matt Duchene gave a special shout-out to his hometown on Twitter the following day.
"Big congrats to my hometown of Haliburton on being named a top 10 finalist for @hockeyville!" he tweeted.
The Colorado Avalanche centre currently has 226,000 followers.
Haliburton joins Chatham as the only other Ontario town to advance to the finals.
Voting runs from March 21-23 at khv2015.ca.
The two communities (one from the east and the other from the west) that receive the most votes will advance to the final voting period, which goes from March 28-30.
Wilbee confirmed that should Haliburton win, the NHL pre-season game would have to be held in Peterborough to accommodate the players and large number of spectators. The ice surface also needs to be the proper size.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.