Lafleche, SK. might not be known for much, but in a few weeks, that could all change.
The village of 400 people in southwest Saskatchewan became one of four finalists for Kraft Hockeyville during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.
The journey started in January when Gillian de Grauuw, and her team of organizers behind the Hockeyville bid, began submitting stories and rallying the town around the cause.
A little more than two months later, the tiny community is poised for some big changes to its most-used winter venue.
People crammed into the Lafleche Community Centre on Saturday to see if they had become finalists.
“We were unbelievably thrilled, it was sort of a dream come true,” de Grauuw said of hearing the news. “It’s very hard in a small community sometimes to think that you measure up to other places so you can have those opportunities.”
“To even be a finalist was beyond our wildest dreams.”
The winner of Kraft Hockeyville will be awarded an NHL pre-season game and $250,000 in arena upgrades.
Organizers plan to overhaul the ice plant in the arena with the winnings.
“(Our ice plant) is literally held together by haywire,” de Graauw said. “It’s all pieced together to last one more season, one more week.”
There is also a dire need for more dressing rooms to accommodate the high number of female hockey players in the area.
Even if they don’t win, the people of Lafleche will benefit from the competition. Runners up in the contest will receive $25,000 in arena upgrades, in addition to $10,000 in new hockey equipment for their minor hockey programs, courtesy of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.
“We’re so small and we’re so used to working so hard for anything and to have our town noticed in this way is unbelievable. It hasn’t sank in yet that we were able to do this.”
High River, Alta., Lucan, Ont. and Huntingdon, Que. are the other three finalists in the competition.
Being the lone Saskatchewan town to make the finals, de Graauw hopes the province can rally behind her community.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the growth across the province and for people just getting to know for who we are and where we are,” she said. “To be able to show our community spirit and volunteerism to the rest of country is an incredible opportunity.”
Online voting opens March 30 at 10 a.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. MT on March 31.