Two years after a Maskwacis arena advanced to the Top 10 of a national contest, another rink from the central Alberta community is hoping to win the top prize.
The Four Nations Arena, located on the Samson Cree Nation, has submitted an entry into the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville contest.
The winning entry will be awarded $250,000 in rink upgrades for its local arena. Each year the community that captures the top prize is also awarded the priceless opportunity of hosting a National Hockey League pre-season contest.
Back in 2017 it was the Neyaskwheahk Arena on the Ermineskin Cree Nation that was one of the 10 finalists for the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
In the end it was the Prince Edward Island community of O’Leary that ended up winning the grand prize. By being one of the finalists in 2017, however, contest organizers awarded $25,000 to the Ermineskin Cree Nation for renovations to its rink.
As for this year, organizers have changed the contest rules somewhat. Members of communities across Canada had between Jan. 1 and Feb. 10 to submit an entry on why they felt their rink should be chosen as the winner for 2019.
Hundreds of entries were submitted.
A judging period is currently ongoing now. Contest organizers are reading the stories of all bids submitted. These stories will count for 80 per cent of a community’s final score.
The other 20 per cent will be judged on the amount of social media created by each community during the current rallying period, which continues until March 15.
The top four finalists will be announced on March 16. And then a two-day voting period will be staged on March 29 and March30. The grand prize winner will be revealed on March 30.
Myrna Buffalo, the manager of the Four Nations Arena, is spearheading the Maskwacis bid.
Buffalo said the facility, which is 45 years old, has only been able to afford small renovations since its opening.
Buffalo said the rink could use some major work now.
“I would do the plumbing in the building and the heating in the arena,” Buffalo said. “Plus I would get rubber floors in the dressing room. And our Zamboni is 24 year olds. We need a new one.”
Maskwacis is comprised of four First Nations in central Alberta. They are Samson, Ermineskin, Louis Bull and Montana.
Debra Buffalo, also part of the group who helped submit the Maskwacis entry, said hockey is a huge deal in Maskwacis.
“Hockey is the hub in our community,” she said. “Everybody loves hockey. They all come out and support it.”
Debra said when Maskwacis’ travel teams play at home, it’s not just the family members of the players who attend the matches.
“The Elders come out and all the chiefs and members of council come out too,” she said.
Myrna Buffalo said winning this contest would be one of the greatest moments in Maskwacis history.
“It would do a lot for our hockey program and for the whole community,” she said. “Our community is such a hockey community. It means the world to the kids and to the Elders as well.”
The Maskwacis minor hockey program has 270 players registered during the 2018-19 campaign.
During the contest’s current rallying period, Maskwacis representatives are doing their best to drum up letters of support from past and current Indigenous hockey stars. Those who have been approached for their support include Jordin Tootoo, Ethan Bear and Brigette Lacquette.
Tootoo, who is now retired from pro hockey, was the first Inuk to play in the NHL. Bear, a defenceman and property of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is toiling for their American Hockey League affiliate Bakersfield Condors. And Lacquette, a member of the Canadian women’s squad, was the first First Nations female hockey player to suit up at an Olympics.
But Myrna Buffalo stresses it’s important for the Maskwacis entry to receive far and wide help during its social media blitz.
“We do have a lot of support from the communities north and south of us,” she said. “But we need support from all of the Aboriginal communities from all across Canada.”
More information about the Maskwacis entry is available online at https://www.krafthockeyville.ca/#community/11E8F416F15D21D68ADD692DEA66…
This site will allow those interested to share the Maskwacis via Facebook and Twitter. Those sharing via Twitter are asked to include the hashtags #FourNationsArena and #krafthockeyville.