We should all be glad that Kingston is on the verge of achieving its goal of being crowned Kraft Hockeyville 2014. Every bit of positive publicity the village garners is, by extension, good news for all of Kings County.
Make no mistake: whether they managed to claim the final prize, Kingston and the Credit Union Centre are already winners.
The Kingston for Kraft Hockeyville committee has done a great job, both of putting the village and its arena on the map and of maintaining positive momentum throughout a long and often stressful process.
The movement to make Kingston Kraft Hockeyville 2014 began two years ago when the ice-making equipment at the then-Western Kings Arena failed.
Temporary measures allowed the 40-year-old facility to re-open, thanks to determined local fundraising and a big boost from Kings County, but everyone was aware a long-term fix was needed.
Kingston organized a bid for Kraft Hockeyville after the equipment failure, but it fell victim to the NHL lockout. When the initiative was announced again, Kingston was ready.
Meanwhile, arena board president Wayne Fowler and his team were working behind the scenes – and wherever possible, as publicly as possible – to publicize, and hopefully alleviate, the arena’s troubles. Among other things, the board offered branding rights for the arena in return for forgiving the mortgage they were carrying. Valley Credit Union came through, and the facility officially became the Credit Union Centre.
As the Credit Union Centre, it entered the Kraft Hockeyville competition, and to the surprise of no one among the arena’s ever-increasing list of supporters, managed to qualify for the final 16. That meant $25,000 was theirs, win or lose, to put toward arena improvements.
With Fowler and his team putting on a push to get supporters to vote early and vote often, while at the same time blitzing social media and calling in support from politicians at all levels, the Credit Union Centre successfully made the top-four, worth $50,000, and then the top-two, upping the stakes to $100,000.
To make it to the finals, Kingston garnered an incredible 1,472,836 votes, beating Central Bedeque, P.E.I., which finished with 1,403,259.
With one more hurdle to clear this past weekend, Kingston was in the running for a number of additional perks, including an NHL pre-season game and a visit from Hockey Night in Canada.
While it would be nice to gain the added publicity of an NHL game, by making the top-two, Kingston has achieved what it wanted from the competition.
“We know we’re Kraft Hockeyville,” Fowler said recently. “All we’re lacking now is the title.”
The $100,000, he pointed out, “has put us over the top,” and will allow all needed improvements at the arena to be completed.
This is a great example of ‘the little village that could’. With all the positive publicity, we agree with Fowler - “there’s likely isn’t anyone now who doesn’t know about Kingston and the Credit Union Centre.”
As he points out, his group now has $100,000 they didn’t have two months ago, and at least that much again in positive publicity.
And as for the community spirit this process has generated, as Fowler says, “it’s impossible to put a price on that.”