“We were already winners before tonight,” say Kingston's Hockeyville supporters

John DeCoste, Kings County News
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KINGSTON - Kingston may have narrowly lost out in the voting for Kraft Hockeyville 2014, but the village, and the arena, are still winners, say the hundreds of supporters that crammed the Credit Union Centre on Saturday.

Just moments before the results were announced, Kingston’s Hockeyville supporters were waving flags and cheering. Kingston missed out on winning the title by just over 108,000 votes.

When all the votes had been tallied, Sylvan Lake, AB edged out Kingston by a margin of just 108,164 votes. Over five million votes had been cast in total over a 48-hour period, with Kingston receiving over 2.4 million.

“I was brought up here,” said Kingston resident Dave Acker. “I’ve never seen this kind of community spirit in Kingston in all the time I’ve lived here….the Hockeyville title is one thing, but what’s happened here tonight is going to transcend Kraft Hockeyville.”

Kingston, it was pointed out, has a population of around less than 5,000, compared to Sylvan Lake’s 15,000.

“We’re a small community, but look at the people here tonight and through the day today: in the parade, watching the parade – and in terrible weather,” Acker said. “We’ve gone well beyond Kraft Hockeyville. An NHL game would be here and gone. What’s happened here will last a whole lot longer.”

After a brief few seconds of disappointment when the final announcement was made, Credit Union Centre president Wayne Fowler soon regained the composure and never-say-die attitude that helped Kingston reach the Hockeyville finals and earn $100,000 for the arena.

“We are winners here, 100 per cent,” he said. “As I said earlier today, I look at it as an ice cream sundae. Winning tonight would have been the cherry for the top, but we still have the sundae.”

Fowler commended the community for their efforts.

“You can’t take a thing away from this community. Nobody here should be hanging their heads. They worked their tails off for this. The crowd here today and tonight is proof of that,” he said.

“The community spirit generated from this will never die.”

Brad Beardsley of T&S Office Supplies, one of the biggest corporate supporters of the Hockeyville campaign, also grew up in Kingston. He said he’s never seen excitement like this in the community before.

“There’s never been anything that’s brought the community together like this. It’s done so much for Kingston, both now and into the future,” he added.

The crowd that eagerly awaited the final announcement included a good cross-section of Kingston’s youth, who were almost of one voice when it came to praising the effort. “It’s been great for community spirit,” said Jocelyn Tobin. “It’s really brought the village together.”

Isaac Abriel liked the way even their school got into the act.

“They let us vote at school,” he said. “When we were in the top-eight, they opened the computer lab all day Sunday for students and other people to vote.”

Another day, he added, students were dismissed early to attend a pep rally.

“We’ve already won,” said student Carson Rafuse before the announcement. “It’s just the game and the bragging rights now.”

The organizers put together a full day of activities, including a community breakfast, a parade that went ahead despite a cold and steady rain and an afternoon worth of hockey games, ranging from minor hockey to old-timers.

“It’s unbelievable, like a dream,” said Credit Union Centre vice-president Jack Rafuse. “We’ve been fundraising here for three or four years, hounding the same 15 businesses over and over. I can’t wait to get our project done and start showing this place off. Win or lose, we’ve already won – though it would be cool to win the whole thing.”

Bailey George was on hand for the midget AA girls’ South Conference championship between her team, the Valley Wild, and the Halifax Hawks.

“If this arena wasn’t here, we wouldn’t have a place to practice,” she said. “Our team has players from throughout the Valley, and this is a good central location. We’re all pretty excited. It’s an opportunity to grow and expand, and hopefully get more girls playing hockey.”

Retired teacher Don Hyslop, a member of the Kingston is Hockeyville committee, was in charge of the parade.

“The community spirit this has generated has been phenomenal,” he said. “The parade, and the community breakfast, attended by around 1,000 people, are good examples of that.”

The arena has become the focus of the community again, like it used to be, he said.

“We now have the money to do all our needed repairs and renovations. If we win, it’ll be that much better, but even if we don’t, it’s still been a success, a marvelous thing that has gained support from the whole Valley.”

Organizations: Credit Union Centre, NHL, TS Office Supplies Hockeyville committee

Geographic location: Kingston, Sylvan Lake

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