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Excitement builds in new Kraft Hockeyville

by Brian Compton
Forty-eight hours after helping to create a historic moment for the town of Dundas, Ontario, co-chairman Barry Forth remains in a state of shock.

"It's been a whirlwind couple of days," Forth told on Monday, two days after Dundas was crowned Kraft Hockeyville 2010. "It hasn't fully sunk in yet. Obviously on Saturday night, everybody was going crazy. Some of the big sports radio stations in Toronto are calling me. It really is a big deal here. The people in our town are going crazy. It's awesome."

By winning the event, J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena will receive $100,000 from Kraft that will go towards upgrading the 60-year-old facility -- one that will host a preseason game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres on Sept. 28. 

Indeed, a dream that was first kicked around by local resident Leslie Watson six months ago is now a reality for the people of Dundas and southern Ontario.

"She's got a six-year-old and I've got a three-year old who play hockey in the street all the time," Forth explained. "One day in November, she told me she had nominated Dundas and put us into the competition. She asked me if I'd like to help, so I started putting it out to the people I knew in the media. It just snowballed. It really took on a life of its own. Everybody got on board with it pretty quick."

As did everyone in the other competing communities, which is what made it a bit difficult for Forth to know whether Dundas had a legitimate chance to follow Terrace, British Columbia as Kraft Hockeyville. Nonetheless, all the hard work paid off.

"It's tough to tell because it comes down to votes," Forth said. "You never know if people are getting behind you. Everyone is telling you they're voting, but you don't really know if they are and how many times they're voting. When we got announced into the Top 12, I knew we had a good shot then. We're only an hour from Toronto and southern Ontario is the biggest market in Canada. I tried to gather the support of all of southern Ontario. But it was a crazy couple of weeks."

Incredibly, J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena will host an NHL game shortly after threats of being closed for good. Long before the citizens of Dundas worked together to win the Kraft Hockeyville competition, they rallied as a community to see to it that their rink remained open.

"There's 22 arenas within the city of Hamilton," Forth said. "The J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena is the oldest and most-used arena within the city of Hamilton. A study said it should be shut down due to what it was going to take to put money back into it to keep it going. That report went public and there was a backlash. It's 60 years old, so it's certainly seen its share of local hockey. There was a petition to keep it alive. I think this will kind of seal the deal to make sure that it's never going to close down."

Come Sept. 28, however, they may not all have the same goal in mind. Because of Dundas' location -- it's roughly right in between Toronto and Buffalo -- not everyone will be rooting for the same team.

Indeed, it's a different situation from years past, when everyone rooted for the Vancouver Canucks in 2009 in Terrace. In 2008, the town of Roberval, Quebec, cheered wildly for the Montreal Canadiens when they faced the Sabres.

""It's been a whirlwind couple of days. It hasn't fully sunk in yet. Obviously on Saturday night, everybody was going crazy. Some of the big sports radio stations in Toronto are calling me. It really is a big deal here. The people in our town are going crazy. It's awesome." -- Barry Forth

"I think it will be split," Forth said. "We're just over an hour from Buffalo. I split with a friend of mine on season tickets for the Sabres. There's a lot of Buffalo fans. A lot of people go to Sabres games because you can't buy tickets to a Leafs game. You just can't get tickets. But I think there's going to be a lot that root for the Canadian team. I've got a good feeling it'll be a split in the crowd."

It will be a tremendous feeling for those fortunate enough to land tickets to the exhibition game, a process that has yet to get under way in Dundas. But that hasn't prevented many residents to ask Forth for seats.

"The requests are coming in like crazy," Forth said. "I had to change my Facebook status to, 'We don't know yet, so we will let you know when we determine it. Until that point, please don't request tickets.'"

Obviously, there aren't enough tickets to get everyone in Dundas -- a town of about 25,000 people -- through the doors at J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena for the game, but there will be enough going on in the days leading to the event to keep everyone entertained.

"The festivities and everything that goes around it will just be crazy," Forth said. "We're looking forward to getting things rolling."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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