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Elliot Lake wins $250K for its arena in Kraft Hockeyville contest

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Elliot Lake, Ont. has won the designation of Kraft Hockeyville 2024.

Elliot Lake, Ont. has won the designation of Kraft Hockeyville 2024. (Supplied/National Hockey League)

“Canadians came together to cast their votes for Elliot Lake, recognizing the community for its dedication to creating a haven for the next generation of hockey players and fans,” said the National Hockey League (NHL), in a news release Saturday night.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the official announcement on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

Elliot Lake will receive $250,000 for upgrades to the closed Centennial Arena, the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game, and $10,000 worth of youth hockey equipment from the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA).

In order to host the NHL exhibition game the arena must meet all the requirements of the league and the players' association – neither the league nor the players' association has advised what those requirements are or when a decision will be made on whether those requirements are met.

CTV News has reached out to the NHL and NHLPA for more details on the requirements and when the official decision can be expected but has yet to receive a response.

An undated photo of the welcome sign for Elliot Lake, Ont. (File Photo/CTV News Northern Ontario)

The northern Ontario community beat out Cochrane, Alta., Enderby, B.C. and Wolseley, Sask. In the nationwide vote. The three other finalist communities will each receive $25,000 for arena upgrades along with $10,000 worth of youth hockey equipment.

“We would like to congratulate Elliot Lake, Ontario and all of this year’s finalists for their amazing commitment to their communities and making this year’s program a huge success yet again,” said Simon Laroche, President, Kraft Heinz Canada, in the news release.

“As a lifelong hockey fan, it has always been clear to me that Kraft Hockeyville has a tradition of championing Canada’s game.”

This was the 18th annual Kraft Hockeyville program.

“With millions of votes cast, it’s clear that the sport of hockey continues to thrive both locally and nationally,” said NHL officials.

Elliot Lake along with the other communities nominated across Canada have shown a commitment to the future of ‘Canada’s game,’ said league officials, and continuing the nation’s passion for hockey for generations to come.

“This year, the passion was clear with thousands of nominations, serving as a reminder that when we unite to make hockey more accessible and inclusive, anything is achievable,” said Laroche.

Elliot Lake is a resilient northern Ontario community where hockey has been a constant source of inspiration – despite many challenges, particularly the closure of mines in the area during the early 1990s, their community has redefined itself and the population continues to grow.

Elliot Lake's Centennial Arena has been closed since September 2023 because of structural problems. (File Photo/CTV News Northern Ontario)

Recent hardships have impacted both Elliot Lake’s recreational and competitive hockey leagues – including their NOJHL team, the Vikings – forcing them to relocate due to the closure of the Centennial Arena due to structural issues with its roof.

“This has not only impacted the city financially but has affected the mental health and well-being of the children in the community,” said NHL officials.

“Winning Kraft Hockeyville 2024 would provide the support needed to reopen Centennial Arena, offering their city the home arena they deserve and continuing to foster hockey’s hopeful spirit in Elliot Lake.”

Elliot Lake residents and the city's NOJHL team have been left in a lurch since September 2023 as the Centennial Arena was forced to close due to safety concerns with the building's roof. (File photo/CTV News Northern Ontario)

“Just amazing,” said Elliot Lake Mayor Andrew Wannan in an interview with CTV News on Sunday, describing the last 48 hours.

“Just pure elation – it’s kind of like our own ‘mini’ Stanley Cup.”

Wannan said some watch parties in the community had more than 500 people in attendance.

Before the winner was officially announced the City of Elliot Lake thanked everyone who had supported their Hockeyville bid.

“Thank you to everyone that helped Elliot Lake be nominated for Kraft Hockeyville, thank you to everyone that voted and helped spread the word to friends and family all over Canada and thank you to all of the volunteers and workers that put countless hours into organizing and running events,” said the city in a statement at about 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“Most of all, thank you to everyone in Elliot Lake that helped show all of Canada the sense of community that lives in the heart of every Elliot Laker.”

Amanda McKay is the president of the Elliot Lake Minor Hockey Association, she spoke with Sportsnet during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast following the announcement.

“I feel so grateful for this community,” said McKay during the interview.

“I am so proud to have grown up here in Elliot Lake – we really rally around each other when we are in need and this has been amazing.”

McKay also thanked everyone in northern Ontario and across the country for their support.

The Kraft Hockeyville program is a partnership between Kraft Heinz, the NHL and the NHLPA.

For complete program details, please visit krafthockeyville.ca.

The scene in Elliot Lake at their Hockeyville watch party on March 30, 2024 as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement the city had won. (Supplied/City of Elliot Lake)

– With files from NHL Public Relations

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