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Stratford to play host for Hockey Day In Canada

by Mike G. Morreale
In anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver next month, picturesque Stratford, Ontario, will look to fulfill the immediate need of those hockey-crazed fans as the host community for Tim Horton's Hockey Day In Canada next week.

"Stratford will provide a beautiful backdrop for our 10th edition of Tim Horton's Hockey Day In Canada," said Joel Darling, director of production for CBC Sports. "Stratford's history of hockey and their vibrant community will help celebrate what has become a Canadian tradition over the past decade."

The 10th CBC broadcast of HDIC will be hosted by Ron MacLean from inside Stratford's historic Allman Arena beginning at noon (ET) on Jan. 30. He'll be joined by his usual CBC partner and renowned Hockey Night In Canada analyst Don Cherry.

"This day shows our love of hockey in Canada," Cherry said. "I don't think there's any other place in the world that can do this with any other sport. You people are just going to love me when I do Shakespeare (impersonation) during the broadcast. I'm going to be dressed like Henry VIII -- I look dynamite.

"The thing I enjoy most is seeing the look on kids' faces; it's like Christmas -- that's the biggest thing for me."

Festivities in Stratford commence Jan. 26 with a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Later that night, fans will be treated to an NHL Alumni Game, including Detroit alumni Joe Kocur, Darren McCarty, Bob Probert and Mike Krushelnyski facing off against NHL alums such as Rick Vaive and Lou Franceschetti. There will also be various hockey clinics for 1,556 eager skaters throughout the week, school visits from NHL stars and a Hockey Hall of Fame trophy exhibit.

"We're a small, rural community in the county of Perth and I think, when you couple that with the cosmopolitan nature of having the largest theatre in the country -- the Stratford Festival -- with our great hockey history, we embody all elements of what the Canadian psyche is about," Stratford Mayor and event co-chair Dan Mathieson said. "We have 6,000 kids that attend both the public school systems and private schools and each one of those kids will be given a 40-minute presentation by NHL alumni and TV personnel on the effects of what teamwork does for them later on in life, making healthy, wise choices and being good citizens."

MacLean and Cherry will be on hand for the 13 1/2-hour CBC telecast on Jan. 30 from the 2,800-seat Allman Arena -- the 86-year-old home to the junior B Stratford Cullitons.

The Cullitons have produced more than 30 NHL players, including San Jose's Rob Blake, Philadelphia's Chris Pronger, two-time Stanley Cup winner Tim Taylor, and defenseman Greg de Vries. Taylor, a native of Stratford, is co-chairman of the organizing committee for HDIC.

The Cullitons will also play to a sold-out Allman Arena at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30 when they face the St. Mary's Lincolns. Tickets for the game, according to Mathieson, sold out in 56 minutes.

"Tim (Taylor) would be first to tell you that this event is a great celebration of his childhood," Mathieson said. "William Allman would allow Tim to skate at his arena in Stratford before and after school for free when he was younger -- allowing him to practice his trade. To this day, Tim says that if it wasn't for Allman, he would never have made it to the NHL."

The day will also be marked by an NHL triple-header featuring Canada's six teams -- Montreal at Ottawa at 2 p.m. (ET), Vancouver at Toronto at 7 p.m. and Edmonton at Calgary at 10 p.m. Cherry's ever-popular 'Coach's Corner' segment will be broadcast live from Allman Arena during the first intermission of the Canucks-Maple Leafs contest on CBC.

The biggest difference this year from previous HDIC weekends is the fact CBC is headed to a city with a population of 30,000 -- where before communities consisted of 10,000 or less.

MacLean is looking forward to hosting the event as it's become a day set aside for families.

"Stratford will provide a beautiful backdrop for our 10th edition of Tim Horton's Hockey Day In Canada. Stratford's history of hockey and their vibrant community will help celebrate what has become a Canadian tradition over the past decade." -- Joel Darling, director of production for CBC Sports

"You really notice around the country that people are setting aside these 13 1/2 hours to celebrate the day and that's one of the features we love," MacLean said. "And to think, we were fearful at the get-go that we would gag ourselves with syrup when we came up with this idea (10 years ago), but it's proven to be just the opposite. We love the game and it shows through HDIC. The smiles will be nationwide. We didn't believe we could do it, but it's just gotten better."

Darling admitted Stratford was one of three finalists to host HDIC during a selection process held last February and announced during the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We contacted eight cities last January to February, asked them all to submit a proposal and we narrowed it down to three," Darling said. "We visited each city and then made the decision on how we felt the city could benefit and take advantage of celebrating hockey within their community."

In addition to Stratford, CBC will also be televising HDIC special events taking place in Newfoundland, Ottawa, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Victoria, B.C.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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