Wilkie’s Kraft Hockeyville Journey

I’d like to take you back to Jan. 1, 2017, 6 a.m. local time, Wilkie, sipping coffee in my kitchen. The laptop was opened, I typed in Kraft Hockeyville 2017. The chance to win $100,000 to upgrade the Wilkie Saskcan Arena and host an NHL game was on the line. A deep breath and away my fingers raced around the keyboard to fill out the “Essay” for the Nomination for Wilkie. I had a poster of the Outlaws winning league and provincials that year at the rink in Unity, I added that to my nomination and hit send.

Two hours, checking Kraft Hockeyville, I saw a nomination from Kathy Heilman, called her and off we went with the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville campaign and 257 nominations. We made it into the Top 10 that year but didn’t make it the top four. Ituna made it, so we added our support to them. The town won $25,000 for arena upgrades, which helped get the community center and arena up and running after the fire of October 2015.

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Kathy and I discussed Kraft Hockeyville 2018 in the first few days of January and after we saw nominations from Fernie and what had happened there, we decided to help them anyway possible to make it to the Top Four, “Let’s not enter this year. Let’s swing support to Fernie, B.C. as a ‘Pay it Forward’ because Sylvan Lake, Alta., had helped us in 2017. #BeccaToldMeTo,” and although they didn’t win, we made lifelong friends.

Jan. 1, 2019, 10 a.m. in Wilkie, having coffee and nominating Wilkie for what would be another Kraft Hockeyville 2019 season. We had support from the community but there were some who questioned us about a run for Kraft Hockeyville 2019. There was doubt, but that wasn’t going to stop the efforts to make it to the final four. Kraft Hockeyville had changed the way they ran the competition and tweaked a few of the rules since Wilkie was in Kraft Hockeyville 2017. A few people were surprised that we could even re-enter as being a prior finalist. We always had hope and somewhere and somehow Wilkie also started to have hope, too! The town office had a call from Kraft Hockeyville 2019 days after nominations were closed on Feb. 10, 2019, asking the town to fill out a survey and get back to them as soon as possible. A week or so later the town office was notified that a film crew, hired by Kraft Hockeyville would be coming to Wilkie for two days, to create a video of Wilkie. They took footage of Wilkie, with drones and high-tech cameras, and inside and outside the arena. Interviews were set up with Mayor David Ziegler, minor hockey players, coaches and parents, with the Wilkie Outlaws prior to their game with the Unity Miners and the hockey fans in the arena! There was no assurance that we were going to make it, but there was always hope.

March 16, a very important day for Wilkie, as it was revealed that we had made the Top 4 for Kraft Hockeyville 2019 along with Rich Valley, Alta, Saint-Poloycarpe, Que., and Renous, N.B. Kraft Hockeyville picks one nomination from each community and for Wilkie, it was Helena Long, editor of the Press Herald. We had a Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter with people across the province and the country, offering us support. It come for the west coast to the east coast, including minor, junior hockey teams in Saskatchewan, NHL players Colby Cave and our Ambassador Mark Scheifele, Premier Moe, sports announcers and sports teams across the country, and so many others. We had interviews with radio and television. The days were whirling by fast, then came the voting days.

March 29, the voting began and continued for 32 and half hours. We voted, voted and voted again, playing the game “I am not a robot!” Voting stations were set up Country Ford, Wilkie Delta Co-Op, the town office and McLurg High School. We had hope that we could do it this year!

“Winners never quit, quitters never win”- author unknown.

March 30, 9 p.m., and the announcement was live across Canada as the four communities cheered and yelled, but it wasn’t going to be our year as Renous, N.B., took the top prize. There were tears and hugs, but as Mayor David Ziegler had said all along, “We are already winners, because our community came together with the help of friends to show Canada what a great community we have!”

As the crowd headed back into the arena for the Outlaws game against Carduff for the senior B title, I received a tweet from former North Battleford resident and a dragon on Dragon’s Den, Brett Wilson. “Since #Wilkie didn’t win -& it’s VERY close to my hometown of #NorthBattlefordSK- I will add $25K to the kitty for #wilkiearenaupgrades. Encourage others to share!”

I showed it to Kathy and so the word spread in the arena fast. We were winners! Bravo Brett Wilson, what a stand up and unexpected generous thing to do, and thank you so very much. The Outlaws went on to win the Senior B title for the 11th time in one of the most exciting games that has been seen in our arena.

We would like to thank everyone who worked so hard and believed Wilkie could do it again! Keep watching for the presentation of the winning cheques scheduled for later this year!

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