For 14 years, the Kraft Hockeyville contest has been a source of funding to help Canadian towns and cities improve their arenas.
This year, the Prince George-based Northern Capitals female under-18 hockey team is launching a bid that, if successful, will bring $250,000 worth of improvements to Ernie Sam Memorial Arena in Fort St. James and the right for the region to host an NHL preseason game.
Kraft Hockeyville organizers encouraged the Northern Capitals to enter in the contest, based on the team’s involvement in last year’s BC Winter Classic. A year ago, Jan. 19-21, 2020, the Capitals hosted the Greater Vancouver Comets, the top team in the B.C. Female Triple-A U-18 Hockey League, in a three-game regular-season series that included indoor games at Vanderhoof Arena and Fort Forum in Fort St. James and an outdoor game under the open-air roof of Ernie Sam Memorial Arena.
The Capitals lost all three games to the powerful Comets but the three-day event was highly successful in promoting female hockey in the traditional territory of the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation.
“Last year during the Winter Classic we were actually hashtagging Kraft Hockeyville in some of our posts to try to get some promotion and have somebody reach out and it actually worked,” said Cariboo Hockey spokesperson Caleb Wilson. “They said we should put in a submission and we’ve been working on that the last few days.
“This is an incredible opportunity to showcase female hockey in the north, to help further develop the hockey culture in our communities, which is something we strive for within Cariboo Hockey.”
The Winter Classic is believed to be the first-ever outdoor game for a female triple-A U-18 team in Canada and Wilson said that makes the Northern Capitals entry in the contest unique and he hopes that will help sway the judges.
The Ernie Sam rink has become a focal point for the town of Fort St. James and it last received a facelift two years ago in preparation for the Cariboo Cougars-Vancouver Northeast Chiefs major midget outdoor game, played on a chilly afternoon Jan. 20, 2019. Since then, Fort St. James has continued to improve the facility, building dressing rooms, a Zamboni garage and a concession but the roof needs upgrades to its drainage system and the rink could use better lighting and a media box.
Cariboo Hockey, the local organization that oversees the region’s six U-15, U-16 and U-18 triple-A rep team programs, will finalize the bid for submission within the next two days and is asking for community support to solidify the Northern Capitals’ bid. That show of support can be posted on the Hockeyville website once the Capitals’ bid has been filed.
“The Northern Capitals is the hub of women’s hockey in the north,” said Wilson. “We’ve got players from Fort St. John and Dawson Creek all the way to the west coast and Williams Lake to the south and our homegrown talent.
‘Our goal is to build that hockey culture within women’s hockey. There’s a lot of talent coming out of this team and out of the north in general. So we’re excited to hopefully bring together all the communities that are involved with the Northern Capitals and really make a push for this to be something not just for Prince George and the Cariboo hockey program but for women’s hockey in the north.”
The potential site of the NHL preseason game, if the Northern Capitals bid wins, has yet to be determined.
The entry deadline is Feb. 14. Five other cities – Port Alberni, Richmond, Dinsmore, Sask., Woodstock, Ont., and Petiticodiac, N.B. – have entered.
B.C. last won the contest in 2016 when Lumby was picked. North Saanich (2015) and Terrace (2009) are also on the list of previous winners.
Once all bids have been submitted, judges will have until March 19 to determine the top four bids. Those will be announced on March 20. Open voting will happen April 9-10 and the winner will be announced on April 10.
More information about the contest is at krafthockeyville.ca.