By Cecilia Nasmith
The Haldimand Memorial Arena has just been entered in the annual Kraft Hockeyville competition, and Alnwick-Haldimand Township parks-and-recreation manager Chris Curwin believes there is no more deserving ice surface.
And it's not just the honour. The winning facility will receive $250,000 in arena upgrades and the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game, with three runner-up prizes of $25,000 worth of upgrades each.
The competition is about the host community as well as the arena, and the case set out for both can be viewed at https://www.krafthockeyville.ca/#community/11E8F416EEB18A088ADD692DEA662A63
Part of the entry includes the history of the long-beloved facility, a place built and supported by the community that still draws people.
“The arena is the heartbeat of our community,” the entry declared the entry prepared by township chief administrative officer Robin Van de Moosdyk. In fact, it was community volunteers who came together in the 1970s to provide a massive upgrade to the facility.
As for Grafton, where the arena is located, Van de Moosdyk's entry argues that the village a classic example of small-town living at its best. There has been growth, it allowed, but “it still holds true to the small-town vibe. Ultimately, this is what has attracted new residents.”
In short, Grafton represents the basis of Canada, “a community coming together, a sports-loving town that embraces the game and promotes it, and ultimately welcomes anyone.
“It embraces hockey at all levels and strives to ensure that all feel welcome to play and can afford to play.”
This spirit can be seen on any given night during hockey season, he said, when the stands are packed with parents and spectators eager to cheer on the players.
And many of those grown-ups virtually grew up at the arena, as a players, officials, coaches and fans. The structure was the heartbeat of the community, the place where they met friends, played and enjoyed life.
And it goes beyond hockey, she said. The arena is a place to meet, a venue for ball tournaments that create decades-old traditions, and even the odd wedding.
“When people think of Grafton, the first thought most have is the arena,” the entry said.
“It is known throughout Ontario for its facilities and access. Minor hockey is growing, with our highest registration this year – this community loves its sports.”
In the event of a win, Curwin said, even greater days are ahead with a facility that can boast improved ice surface, expanded dressing rooms and enhanced accessibility for all.
“We like the 'quaintness' of it, but everyone recognizes that, despite the love and attention that has been show to it, as with any building, they need to be maintained and massive upgrades need to occur,” the entry said.
In order to cinch the competition, Curwin said, massive community support is needed.
“Eighty per cent of this final score is based on community pictures and stories, so the community really has to get involved now. We are really looking to get the word out. That's a huge part of it,” he stated.
“Anyone who has pictures, past or present, stories to tell – the more we can get the word out, the more we can get the community involved, the better chance we have of being successful with this.”
This is a good time for local residents to share their shots from old hockey and ball tournaments, figure-skating carnivals and special events held at the arena. He sees people drop into the arena to relive things like this, usually remarking that being there brings back so many memories.
Now's the time to share those memories, he said.
He urges supporters to go on-line to share – and to check out the bonus points available for sharing on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.
Voting will take place March 29 and 30, with the winner declared March 30.