Hockey is the heartbeat of Wilkie, Saskatchewan.
The town of 1,300 people is located around 160 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. Central to the community is the local rink, which has served as a meeting place for decades.
“It’s where everyone goes on a Friday night and just gets together as a community,” said resident Tammy Sittler.
But the arena is not what it once was. In October 2015, an electrical fire destroyed part of the building, which also houses a curling rink and dance hall.
While the ice is back in this year, there isn’t much else that’s returned to normal.
“The lobby and hall aren’t done yet and we have kind of a makeshift rink,” said Derek Keller, player-coach of the Wilkie Outlaws, a senior hockey team that has been in operation for over 100 years.
“We don’t have bathrooms, a booth – people deserve the hockey experience when they come to a game.”
Players and fans enter the rink through the back door, a local restaurant serves food out of a dressing room, while another is used as a washroom.
That’s why Sittler nominated Wilke for Kraft Hockeyville, an annual contest that awards one Canadian town the chance to host an NHL Pre-Season Game and receive $100,000 in arena upgrades.
The community has made it to the final 10 for the contest – which determines a winner by votes.
With the help of local resident Helen Urlacher, Sittler is going door-to-door to get the entire community involved.
“We have come up with ideas on how to get the community together and get the vote out,” Sittler said.
Wilkie is up against Ituna, west of Yorkton, as well as communities in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland.
Voting begins March 12 with the final two nominees narrowed down by March 18.
The winner will be picked April 1.