Twillingate residents provide update on Kraft Hockeyville

Kraft Hockeyville 2020 champions look ahead to beginning arena upgrades and making preparations to host the NHL.

Dylan Murphy

Kraft Hockeyville
Residents of Twillingate pose in front of the George Hawkins Memorial Arena in the summer of 2020. The town saw tremendous online support during the virtual vote that resulted in them being declared the NHL’s Kraft Hockeyville 2020. Photo submitted by Jeff Blackler

Over six months after being declared the winner of the National Hockey League’s annual Kraft Hockeyville contest, the people of Twillingate are still buzzing with excitement.

“We still can’t believe how much support we received from our community members, province, and all across the country. It was truly an amazing experience,” said Jeff Blackler, a resident of the town and driving force behind the campaign.

The Kraft Hockeyville contest began in 2006, the brainchild of a group of CBC executives who originally pitched it as a reality tv show. That concept was abandoned after one season however and quickly transitioned into its present iteration as a simple segment featured on Hockey Night in Canada.

The town of Twillingate was declared Kraft Hockeyville 2020 in August of last year after a 48-hour online vote. They have been awarded $250,000 to pay for some long overdue upgrades to the George Hawkins Memorial Arena.

“The win was certainly big for the community and the region as it is a facility that is used by a  number of communities outside of Twillingate,” said Grant White, the town’s mayor.

Additionally, the town will host an NHL pre-season game when circumstances permit it. Also,  the local minor hockey association was awarded 20 full sets of hockey equipment by the NHL Player’s Association, which will be offered to any disadvantaged youth or families that could benefit from it.

“Winning was important for all kids that use the arena for recreation, especially kids involved in minor hockey,” said White, who also coaches a couple of minor hockey divisions.”

“Kids played an important role initially and were a big part of the community rally,” White said.

“The George”, as it is known by the residents, was originally constructed in 1968. According to Blackler, the main areas they hope to address and upgrade are the arena’s roof, which is deteriorating and leaking in several places; the ice plant (chillers and compressors) which is extremely aged and requires a major upgrade or complete replacement; and the Zamboni, which is also quite old and runs into frequent mechanical problems.

The prize money from the NHL was received by the town a couple of weeks after the announcement that they had won. It will cover a large portion of those expenses.

However, to cover costs of all of the necessary upgrades to the arena, the town has submitted a funding application to the provincial government and hopes to hear a decision by March so planning on the upgrades can begin.

Blackler gives credit to the NHL for keeping them in the loop as they look towards determining a date to host the Kraft Hockeyville celebrations.

“We are in constant contact with the partners from the NHL and Kraft-Heinz. They tell us that they are working hard to ensure we get the NHL game and all of the post-game events that go along with it. Still no dates or details on that yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have been an awesome crew to work with.”

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