LUMBY, British Columbia -- The NHL is bringing the Stanley Cup, the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings here for Kraft Hockeyville 2016 in Canada this weekend, but the positive impact of winning the event already has been felt in this small town, about a five-hour drive northeast of Vancouver.
Registrations to play in the Lumby Minor Hockey Association increased significantly this season, jumping from 70 players to more than 100, and forcing organizers in a town of 1,731 to cut off signups for the first time association president Kevin Porteous can remember.
"For as long as I've been involved, we've never had that dilemma where we had too many kids," said Porteous, who was born and raised in Lumby but moved away before returning almost 20 years ago. "We're usually begging them until Christmas just so we have 10 skaters on a team."
This year, they had enough kids to potentially add second teams at some levels. Porteous believes winning Kraft Hockeyville on April 2 played a big role in those increases.
"The excitement of Hockeyville really spread throughout the community and stayed right through the summer, even after hockey season was over and the ice was out of the rink," Porteous said. "The result was we got more kids interested in playing hockey."
That buzz is back in a big way this weekend, with the Stanley Cup visiting a day-long community celebration on Saturday, and NHL players past and present taking part in activities on and off the ice.
NHL alumni such as Fernando Pisani, Jerred Smithson, Eric Godard and Aaron Volpatti will run clinics at Lumby's Pat Duke Memorial Arena, which will receive $100,000 for upgrades as part of winning Kraft Hockeyville. The Kings arrive Saturday afternoon, and a couple of players will take part in a question-and-answer session at the community center next door to the arena. Oilers players will do the same after arriving Sunday morning. The Kings and Oilers play a preseason game at Kal Tire Place in nearby Vernon on Sunday night.
"Our minor hockey kids are bursting at the seams waiting to get a glimpse of the players," Porteous said.
Graham Parsons remembers that same sense of excitement building when he was part of the organizing committee for Kraft Hockeyville 2014 in Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
"It was lightning in a bottle," said Parsons, who will join representatives from Terrace and North Saanich, the two previous winners from western Canada, in Lumby this weekend to celebrate 10 years of Kraft Hockeyville. "Hockeyville is a tremendous community-builder, especially for a small town."
In Sylvan Lake, it was also a rink builder. The roof of the Sylvan Lake Arena collapsed in January 2014, sparking the town's late push to win Kraft Hockeyville as a way to help rebuild it.
"We are 75-80 percent through the rebuild of the new complex, and really, without Hockeyville, it would have been a struggle," Parsons said. "We are probably three or four years ahead with the new rink because of Hockeyville, and it will be open in March or April."
In Lumby, the money will go toward renovating Pat Duke Memorial Arena, which was built in 1967 and is in need of new flooring, working heaters and better dressing rooms. The latter will be particularly helpful to the fast-growing number of female players in Lumby Minor Hockey.
"I started playing hockey 36 years ago and at that time I was one of only three girls in Lumby Minor Hockey," said Angie Clowry, who heads the local organizing committee. "Now 33 percent of the hockey players in Lumby Minor Hockey are female, and we still have a female change room that's really only an 8-by-10 storage locker with no water, no bathroom."
All-girl teams can use one of the four main locker rooms, but the number of co-ed teams in Lumby creates a problem for female players who need a separate place to change.
"There's not really even enough room for them to be comfortable," Clowry said. "Once they change, they stack their hockey bags on top of each other so the next girl can change."
A designated female dressing room is part of the plan for the money that comes with winning Kraft Hockeyville, but the legacy of the event already is being felt in minor hockey.
"We have struggled a lot to get enough kids playing hockey in the past, but I honestly think this will be the starting point of something bigger and better in Lumby forever," said Cole Young, who coaches three teams. "What it's done to Lumby already is amazing to see with all the people jumping on board and grasping this thing called Hockeyville. It's absolutely amazing."