Many local hockey rinks across the United States need repairs or upgrades and the NHL and Kraft are once again doing their part to help.
Now in its fifth year, Kraft Hockeyville USA is seeking America's most spirited and enthusiastic hockey communities for a chance to compete for the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game and receive up to $150,000 in rink upgrades from Kraft Heinz.
"Kraft tries to find these small towns and communities that are the most passionate and I think to create a competition around it, to go out and try to find the country's most passionate hockey community is a great way to get people excited and show how much they love the game of hockey and to create excitement within their town to help the arena," NBC analyst and former NHL player Jeremy Roenick said. "It brings some attention and some excitement to small towns that normally wouldn't have it."
[RELATED: Nominations open for Kraft Hockeyville USA]
Roenick, who is from Boston, and is one of the highest-scoring United States-born players in NHL history with 1,216 points (513 goals, 703 assists) in 20 seasons, has been to all four of the previous Kraft Hockeyville USA winners, including Clinton, New York, in 2018.
"There's a lot of reasons why I love Kraft Hockeyville and what they represent," Roenick said. "It's a great way to use a sport to bring a community together, to have one common goal. There's a lot of arenas in this country that need drastic help and some big-time upgrades.
"Kids love the game, they love going to their local rinks and playing on their local teams. Sometimes when the facilities aren't up to par, it hampers ice time, it hampers the amount of ice that is available and the quality of the way that the kids can play."
Local communities can visit www.KraftHockeyville.com until March 2 to submit a story on why their rink deserves to win. The top four finalist communities will be announced on March 24 with a nationwide vote taking place on March 30; the winner will be announced March 31.
The winning community will host an NHL preseason game and receive $150,000 in rink upgrades. The runner-up will receive $30,000, and the other two rinks which make the final four will receive $10,000. Each of the four finalists will also receive $10,000 worth of new hockey equipment from the NHLPA Goals & Dreams program.
"I think every city that we've been to so far in the States, all four have gone extremely smooth with a lot of excitement in every community and have been able to raise money," Roenick said.
"This is just one way of giving back to the small communities of the country that sometimes are the forgotten ones."
This year Kraft is giving away a trip for two to a Stanley Cup Final game. Each vote cast equals one entry into the sweepstakes, and you can vote up to 40 times.
"To watch how a community can bond and rally around a competition that will create new friendships and new business opportunities that will add excitement and happiness to a town that may not have that otherwise, is one of my favorite parts of Kraft Hockeyville USA," Roenick said.
Since launching in Canada in 2006, Kraft Hockeyville has positively impacted more than 100 communities with more than $4.4 million in rink upgrades across Canada and the U.S.
"Kraft Hockeyville has been a tremendous success not only in America but in Canada since 2006 and there has an been overwhelming participation around North America," Roenick said. "I think it's growing larger and people are getting more excited to nominate their local arenas and their communities."
Fans can show support for Kraft Hockeyville USA on social media on Facebook (KraftHockeyvilleUSA), Twitter (@HockeyvilleUSA and Instagram (@KraftHockeyvilleUSA) and can join the conversation using #HockeyvilleUSA.
"Because of Kraft, NBC and the NHL, people are seeing these games being broadcasted in these small U.S. towns and seeing the kids' faces and the NHL players signing autographs standing in the rain, taking pictures and playing games in these small arenas and it's great for the communities," Roenick said.