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NHL alumni rally around Kraft Hockeyville

by Aaron Vickers

SYLVAN LAKE, Alberta -- Calgary Flames alumnus Rhett Warrener didn't need to be from Sylvan Lake to realize the devastation that a collapsed roof of a small town rink can cause.

Warrener, hailing from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, understands completely.

"I've heard of the boards going over but never the roof coming down," he said. "It does put a big damper in the winter. That's the place for everyone to go together and gather and have fun. That's where the memories start to me.

"To have that happen in your hometown would be pretty devastating. It's good they're getting it put back together."

Warrener was on hand for the kickoff of the 2014 Kraft Hockeyville celebration in Sylvan Lake on Sunday, signing autographs and swapping stories with those in attendance.

The 38-year-old veteran of 714 NHL games understands the importance of not only the event itself, but the significance it holds to small-town Canadian communities too.

"It's pushed by the NHL and they do a great job of that," Warrener said. "They want every small town in Canada to know how important they are to hockey and the NHL because there's kids from everywhere, right? They've done a great job of putting this all together. We show up and smile and nod and pretend we're important, but there are people that do a lot of work and put in a lot of hours to put all this together. Everyone that comes here seems to have fun.

"You've got to think that the Sylvan Lake community did a lot to put it together and make it so special. It should be fun and obviously it's here to help out the rink here. It's fun."

Sylvan Lake beat out 15 other Canadian communities to win the Kraft Hockeyville competition.

Along with an NHL preseason game featuring the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, there will be youth clinics, officials clinics and alumni from both franchises taking part in the festivities. Warrener, alongside former Coyotes defenseman Nick Boynton, will be among those helping out with the youth clinic for players ranging from dynamite, novice, atom and peewee levels.

Like Warrener, Boynton couldn't imagine his hometown community of Nobleton, Ontario, having to rally from a roofless rink.

"If something like that happened to our rink, there would be big problems," said Boynton, whose aunt, uncle and cousins currently reside in Sylvan Lake. "That's where everyone went. As a kid, that's where you spent all your time and our parents were there helping us out. Anytime that happens, it's a center of the communities for these small town Canadian communities."

That's what makes Sylvan Lake's response all that more impressive to the 35-year-old.

"It's unfortunate it happened, but it's nice to see everybody out here and the community showing up and supporting," Boynton said. "It seems like a good event and a good way to get some money back into the community and help them out."

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