It’s a long shot, from centre ice at least, but islands hockey fans are cheering a bid to make Masset the next Kraft Hockeyville.
Top prize in the Hockeyville contest is $100,000 for arena upgrades, plus a pre-season NHL game.
When Terrace won in 2009, it received $100,000 toward a new rink and a game between the Vancouver Canucks and theNew York Islanders.
The Islanders may sound like a good fit for Haida Gwaii, but there are a couple of issues — Masset’s John Lalonde RollerRink is not regulation size, and it has no ice.
“I know it’s far-fetched,” says Derick Chutter, who entered Masset in the contest.
But Chutter, who grew up playing street and roller hockey in Masset, and now plays off-island ice hockey with the Haida Gwaii Islanders, said Masset is a hockey town even if it rarely has ice.
Chutter plays with the roller hockey club twice a week in winter, once a week in summer, and the newly renamed Haida Gwaii Islanders are getting set for an old-timers tourney in Kitimat this February.
For the first time in years, both Pure Lake and Mayer Lake froze thick enough to skate on this Christmas — something many can remember doing more often on the Delkatla Slough between Old Massett and Masset in the 1960s and 1970s.
Watching islands kids learn to skate with just a week or two of ice, including his own two-and-a-half year-old, Chutter saidhe knows a Masset ice rink would be a hit.
“The main goal here is it gives young people an opportunity to play the game of hockey, even just get involved in skating lessons,” he said.
“It would be run by volunteers, and I think you could find the volunteers to run a rink.”
The John Lalonde Roller Rink is uninsulated and has a concrete floor, so converting it to ice, even seasonally, is a bigchallenge.
The Village of Masset is actually looking to upgrade the existing building to prevent the winter condensation that often makes the rink floor slippery for roller hockey and the Masset Roller Girls.
Chutter was among the group of roller hockey players, roller skaters, and tennis players who cleaned up the rink a number of years ago and installed new lights, boards, and a change room.
Even so, the thought of winning Hockeyville’s top prize had he and his friends chuckling — they were imagining NHL stars playing three-on-three games on roller blades.
But under the Kraft Hockeyville rules, if the winning town doesn’t have an ice rink ready, the NHL game will be played in the next town over.
There is also a second-place prize of a $100,000 upgrade without the NHL game, and eight chances to win $25,000. Apanel of judges will choose the top 10 bids on March 5, and then online voters decide who gets what prize.
Whatever happens, Chutter is grateful to John Lalonde, who helped get the roller rink built in 1994, and to everyone who has worked to keep it up since.
“Basically, I thought ‘What have we got to lose?’” he said.
“I think anything’s possible if you get a community together and put the work in.”