The hockey-loving community of Lumsden, tucked away in the Qu’Appelle Valley on the south end of Highway 20, is one of the four finalists in Kraft Hockeyville. Lumsden is looking to become the first Saskatchewan community to take the honour, based on the number of votes received. The winning community takes a grand prize of $250,000 for its ice facility and will play host to an NHL hockey game.
Like many Saskatchewan communities, the Lumsden Arena is in need of upgrades and improvements, but its ability to generate funds through its traditional methods has been hit hard. The well-established Duck Derby, a lotto/race where hundreds of plastic ducks float down the Qu’Appelle River was cancelled due to the pandemic. That meant that fundraisers had to turn their attention to different means, says Jamie Lees with the Lumsden Hockeyville Organizing Committee.
“That’s kind of where this all stemmed from is that we were hurting from the loss of the Duck Derby. Without that fundraiser, we were trying to figure out ways to make it work. So, we decided, let’s give Hockeyville a try and see if we can make it.”
The most immediate needs for the complex itself are its ice plant and a roof that needs repairs after many winters of staving off the elements. However, as important are the changes the community wants to make to the building to support its burgeoning female hockey program.
“We are really focused on our female hockey program and trying to expand that,” explains Lees, “By putting more change rooms in and empowering them to show them that we have a space for you, and we want to make you feel as welcome as everybody else.”
The Lumsden Bethune Minor Hockey Association is putting its weight behind the female hockey initiative. The surrounding communities and their young female hockey players recognize the importance of the program’s development, and with that comes the necessary accommodations at the rink.
The pandemic curtailed the town-wide gathering that might otherwise have occurred, but as Lumsden and the area tuned into Saturday night’s NHL broadcast and found out the top 4 news, the excitement quickly spread in spite of the distance, says Lees.
“We gathered as much as we could with COVID regulations and found out that we had made it. We found out at the same time as the rest of the country, so it was pretty exciting to hear that announcement.”
The community support during the application process and in the ensuing days has been huge. Surrounding communities are sharing in the excitement, and now, Lees and the town are beginning to get the sense that the entire province is behind them.
“It’s the same with all of Saskatchewan. The province has never won before, so we are really feeling the love and support from everyone,”
Now Lumsden is working to foster that love and support as it heads toward the all-important voting window coming up in April. With some close finishes in the past, including Humboldt and last year’s run by nearby Pense, Lees and the Lumsden contingent are rallying the call across the province.
The 32-hour voting window opens on April 9 at 9:00 am and goes until 5:00 pm on April 10. People can vote as many times as possible at krafthockeyville.ca.
The other three contenders in the 2021 edition are Bobcaygeon, ON; Elsipogtog First Nation, NB; and St. Adolphe, MB.