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Kraft Hockeyville win goes beyond Sylvan Lake

by Aaron Vickers

SYLVAN LAKE, Alberta -- Sylvan Lake is the home of 2014 Kraft Hockeyville, but it took more than one town to bring it there.

When the roof of the Sylvan Lake Arena collapsed in the wee hours of a snowy January morning, it left a hockey community out in the cold. Their neighbors were quick to bring them in, though.

"With a community our size, our arenas were booked 100 percent and then to be down a whole arena, we had to have our neighbors come to our rescue and offer ice time," town mayor Sean McIntyre said. "And not just communities 10 or 20 kilometers away, communities 100 kilometers away are hosting Sylvan Lake home games, which is absolutely unheard of."

But that's not where the contributions stopped.

Communities like Innisfail, Rocky Mountain House and Eckville began rallying around Sylvan Lake in their push to host the event.

"Our teams had to scatter and other towns stepped up," said Graham Parsons, a member of the town council and organizing committee for Sylvan Lake's Hockeyville campaign. "When we had all this emotion, we got a banner made and we made it the mascot and took it around and everybody who helped us out, we'd have a scramble photo before the game from both teams and that goes those communities involved."

Sylvan Lake beat out 15 other Canadian communities to win the competition. Along with having the Stanley Cup on hand to kick off the celebration on Sunday, the town will host an NHL preseason contest on Wednesday between the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes as well as enjoy a plethora of events including youth clinics, official clinics and alumni celebrations leading up to the game.

The communities that helped host Sylvan Lake are the same that helped push them to be able to host Kraft Hockeyville, Parsons said.

"Every small town," Parsons said. "At least 20 of them helped us. They became engaged too."

With the story of Sylvan Lake growing in the Kraft Hockeyville competition, word quickly spread across the country.

Further support started to trickle in, and in some cases, even from communities Sylvan Lake was competing against.

"When it came to the voting in the Kraft Hockeyville competition, we had votes coming in from Salmon Arm and Castlegar, [British Columbia], all the way through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and even the Maritimes," McIntyre said. "As they were competing against us, we had people sending votes our way."

With that spirit, McIntyre wasn't shy to share the honor of being named Kraft Hockeyville.

"This award, when Sylvan Lake is called Kraft Hockeyville doesn't just belong to our community," he said. "It belongs to all of Canada and we are so honored to be representing that."

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