Elliot Lake gears up for Kraft Hockeyville voting later this month

By Kris Svela / Elliot Lake Today

ELLIOT LAKE – A wholesale effort is underway to garner the largest number of votes to support Elliot Lake’s bid to win the Kraft Hockeyville contest’s $250,000 first prize purse with the aim of fixing and reopening the community’s prized Centennial Arena.

The other three finalist communities vying for the top prize are Enderby, British Columbia, Wolseley, Saskatchewan and Cochrane, Alberta.


Signs have been going up around the city from businesses urging people to vote online near the end of the month.

Those votes can be cast between 9 a.m. on Friday, March 29 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 30. The winning community will announced on that Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, who in addition to the prize money, will get to host to an NHL preseason game. Each of the three runners up will receive $25,000 for arena upgrades.

Council member Charles Flintoff spoke in a nomination video played on Hockey Night in Canada — where he was tagged as the city’s deputy mayor — about Elliot Lake’s long history of hockey support and the need to reopen the arena, which has been closed since last September due to structural concerns.

Flintoff said the voting is a community event and the city is rallying support in numerous ways.

A Hockeyville committee has been working with various groups to plan for the upcoming vote.

For example, Retirement Living will open voting stations at its apartment buildings on Washington and Warsaw on March 29 and March 30, with the city providing laptops for internet access.

“We’ll have the Collins Hall open for both days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Saturday, and then stay open for a rally until the announcement following,” Flintoff said, referring to the final announcement on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday evening.

“The Collins Hall will be the main rallying centre for two days,” he said of the planning in progress.

Becoming a Hockeyville finalist was possible through stories submitted earlier in the competition during the nomination phase. Among them was one posted by local hockey and community supporter, real estate agent Christine Brunet, who topped the group of nomination submissions for Elliot Lake.
Trillium Talk

“Elliot Lake is a resilient community where hockey has been a constant source of inspiration. Despite many challenges, particularly after the closure of mines in the early 1990s, their community has redefined itself and the population continues to grow. However, recent hardships have impacted their recreational and competitive hockey leagues, including their junior hockey team, forcing them to relocate due to the closure of the Centennial Arena following significant structural issues with their roof. This has not only impacted the city financially but has affected the mental health and well-being of the children in the community. 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,” she wrote.

Brunet will appear on this Monday (March 18) morning’s Breakfast Television show to promote the city and its bid to rehabilitate the arena and get it reopened by the upcoming hockey season.

Last fall’s arena closure came only a week after the start of the season for the newly renamed Elliot Lake Vikings. The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League team harking back to its original name when the team was first established in 1965.

The hometown season opener at the Centennial Arena attracted a full house, as was often the case in the junior hockey team’s history. However, the remainder of the team’s home games and practices had to be held at arenas in Massey and Blind River.

The closure has also impacted minor hockey, figure skating and recreational users, requiring families to readjust their work and dinner schedules to meet the travel times outside of Elliot Lake.

Brunet has long been a supporter of hockey in Elliot Lake, having a son who played from an early age and also served on the board of the former Wildcats junior team before the renaming to the Vikings.

As a real estate agent, she said the community needs to have a many different venues to available to all ages and families in Elliot Lake.

Brunet was surprised by her nomination entry being the top entry.

“I think we are the best community to win this,” she said in her urging to get as many people to vote for Elliot Lake as possible

What both Brunet and Flintoff stress is the need for residents to pre-register on the Kraft Hockeyville site to make it easier to place votes.

The online voting can be done through an individual’s email and is unlimited within the 32-hour timeframe.

Visit the Kraft Hockeyville website for full contest rules and regulations.

Kraft Hockeyville has established a longstanding commitment to building strong and inclusive communities across the country through the love of the game of hockey. The program has awarded over $4.8 million to 97 communities over the past 18 years in support of revitalizing Canada’s aging sports and recreation infrastructure. This year’s community finalists are one step closer to cementing their place within the program’s legacy, alongside most recent winners West Lorne, Ontario (2023); Sydney, Nova Scotia (2022); and Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick (2021).

“The excitement hockey fans have for this program never ceases to amaze me – their dedication fosters inclusivity and accessibility on the ice, ensuring that the joy of the sport can be experienced by every Canadian,” said Simon Laroche, President, Kraft Heinz Canada. “We’re thrilled to announce this year’s Top 4 finalists and are incredibly proud of the continued dedication Kraft Hockeyville showcases to further highlight the way hockey unites the nation.”

The Kraft Hockeyville 2024 grand prize winner will have an opportunity to host an NHL® pre-season game and receive $250,000 to be used towards arena upgrades, as well as the title of Kraft Hockeyville 2024. This year’s winner, and each of the three runner-up communities, will also receive $10,000 in brand new sets of hockey equipment to help deserving youth play the sport, courtesy of the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund.

Mark the March 29 and March 30 voting dates on your calendar.

“People have got to rally and vote,” Brunet urged.

CLICK THE LINK to hear Elliot Lake Vikings president/GM Jef Jarmovitch chat with Denis J. Puska, of Puska Media Services and NOJHL play-by-play voice of the Hearst Lumberjacks, on the community’s Kraft Hockeyville bid, as well as the burden of spending nearly all of their season playing on the road, due to the closure of Centennial Arena.