West Kelowna is officially in the race to become CBC Kraft Hockeyville in 2012.
A community initiative was launched Wednesday in West Kelowna as hundreds of people gathered to support the bid to become Hockeyville, a popular contest now in its seventh year.
“As soon as I heard about this my feeling was this is perfect for us,” said campaign co-chair Adam Less.
“I think we are Kraft Hockeyville. We are the embodiment of what they stand for.”
West Kelowna will embark on a four-month process to try and become Kraft Hockeyville, culminating with the announcement live on Hockey Night in Canada on March 31, 2012.
Less says the hockeyville movement is perfect for West Kelowna.
“We have a brand new community, we are just starting to create our own identity and we’ve been through a lot in the last three or four years,” he said.
“Hockeyville really embodies the whole idea of the spirit and soul of a community and for us there is nothing I can think of that will bring our community together better than Kraft Hockeyville.”
Community members are being asked to write stories about hockey and post them to the West Kelowna hockeyville website, www.hockeyvillewestkelowna.com.
A shortlist of three entries from every province will eventually be selected before the final community is chosen.
The winning community will receive $100,000 in arena upgrades and will host an NHL exhibition game.
Last year, Conception Bay South, Nfld., was named Hockeyville.
The only B.C. community to have won the contest is Terrace, in 2009.
A member of the Terrace organizing committee was Andrew Deans, now the Westside Warriors’ marketing director and a co-chair on the West Kelowna Kraft Hockeyville committee.
Deans says being named Kraft Hockeyville is something special for a community.
“It’s like winning the Stanley Cup,” Deans said.
“This is the community’s chance to win the Stanley Cup. It’s something that is incredible.
“The best part about it is no one is a stranger when this is over.
“The biggest reason I’m doing this is getting rid of people being strangers and putting community back where it belongs: That is knowing your neighbours and supporting each other.”
West Kelowna’s Kraft Hockeyville bid was announced by former NHL player Todd Simpson, a West Kelowna native who said he sees the true spirit of hockey alive and well in West Kelowna.
“I’m down at the rink everyday with my kids and I’ve seen it around town,” said Simpson.
“Hockey is the fabric of West Kelowna. It means so much to everybody.”
Members of the Westside Warriors were also at the announcement as well as other young hockey players from the district.
Warriors owner Mark Cheyne says it’s time for the community to get together and become united, citing Hockeyville as the perfect tonic.
“This is a real chance for the community to come together,” said Cheyne. “It’s still split. You see the bumper stickers and you hear it on the radio. This is a great chance for our community to become one which it needs to be. It’s that time as far as I’m concerned. If we can help be the catalyst then great.”
As for Less, he says hockey is the great equalizer that brings people together and having a West Kelowna push to win the contest is something that will be good for the community.
“Hockey is the one thing that brings people together in this country that nothing else seems to be able to do. It’s in our DNA,” he said.
“I know everybody here loves hockey. We are passionate about it. If there is another community as passionate across this country as we are, I’d like to see it.”