C.B.S. is Hockeyville, but circumstances mean NHL exhibition contest will be played at Mile One
Conception Bay South Mayor Woodrow French says request for tickets to attend the Hockeyville game have been coming from all over the province, and even outside of it.- Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
Ever since April, when Conception Bay South was named Kraft Hockeyville and host of an NHL exhibition game this fall, mayor Woody French says inquiries about the town's plans for the event came in non-stop.
"When you talk to councillors, staff, and members of the (Kraft Hockeyville) committee, they'll tell you it's been constant," the mayor says about the flow of questions about where the NHL pre-season game will be held, how tickets would be dispersed and when said tickets would be available.
Following a press conference at Robert French Memorial Stadium Wednesday morning, an answer at least one of those queries can be provided.
The pre-season contest between the Ottawa Senators and the Winnipeg Jets - the parent team to the new AHL franchise in St. John's - will go ahead at Mile One Centre in St. John's on Sept. 26.
"If the game was held here at the (Robert French) Stadium, we could only hold about 600 people after all the game and television equipment was put in place," says the mayor.
"Nobody's going to let their child come to a hockey game unaccompanied, so it would have been difficult for us."
While the game will go ahead in the capital city, the rest of the celebrations scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25 will take place in Hockeyville proper at the Stadium.
"The game is only part of it, the rest of it has to work around how the kids are going to benefit from this," French says, referring to skill clinics being offered by NHL players and coaches, an alumni game, and a visit from the Stanley Cup.
Terry French, the provincial minister of recreation and the MHA for C.B.S., was on hand for Wednesday's announcement and says while he's disappointed the game won't be played in the town stadium named in his father's memory, it makes more sense to move the game to downtown St. John's.
"The reality is that the right place to have it as Mile One so we can accommodate all the kids involved who deserve to see the game."
Moving the game to Mile One allows event organizers to provide ten times the number of tickets.
It also allows the town to put the $100,000 prize money from Kraft Canada directly towards improving the stadium for the benefit of its primary users rather than being forced to spend it on upgrades necessary to host an NHL game.
Following the April 2 announcement that C.B.S. had won the nation-wide Hockeyville competition, the NHL sent a team of 17 experts to C.B.S. to assess the rink. Their findings: Before the rink would be approved for a preseason contest, the length of the ice surface would have to be extended by up to 10 feet, meaning walls would have to be knocked down
Instead, C.B.S. will use the prize money to purchase a new dehumidifier, install taller glass around the boards and build a new Kraft Hockeyville dressing room on to the side of the existing structure.
"The facilities we've got here now are 35-years-old so you can imagine the condition they're in," the mayor explains. "This one will be an up-to-date room that'll be used by our minor hockey people, our women's hockey league, the Renegades (all-star hockey teams), and figure skating."
As for tickets, organizers will unveil their distribution plan in conjunction with a more complete schedule of events later this summer.
The mayor says requests have been coming from all over, and not just here on the island.
"I sit on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and I've been to meetings and people have asked me, 'those tickets for Hockeyville, any chance of getting a couple?'"
But mayor French wants to assure the residents they'll be given priority when it comes to tickets because, after all, "C.B.S. is Hockeyville."