Given a three-week strike by CBC technicians was only resolved earlier this week, local organizers haven’t had much time to plan for this Saturday’s “Hockey Day in Canada” broadcast that will feature Fort Frances.
But no one seems to mind.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Dave Egan, a board member with the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association who’s helping spearhead local participation. “There’s a lot of last-minute stuff to come together, though.”
“Hockey Day in Canada” is a national broadcast that explores the cultural significance of hockey in Canada.
The third-annual show, to be based in Windsor, N.S. with host Ron MacLean, will switch between nine communities, including Fort Frances, before featuring a triple-header involving all six Canadian-based NHL teams.
“This is a chance to show the nation a little bit of the energy, talent, and enthusiasm we have for the game,” said Egan.
The FFMHA is organizing a “jamboree” at the Ice for Kids Arena on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Local teams will play short 20-minute games with each other until about 4 p.m.
Egan expects almost 300 players—from five-year-olds to high school athletes—to take part.
“I think with the different age groups, I hope the entire arena is full,” he remarked.
The “jamboree” will be shown in two three-minute segments during one hour of the broadcast and another couple of segments in another hour. But Egan said residents shouldn’t be discouraged by the relatively short amount of airtime.
“A lot can be shown in that time period,” he noted, adding spectators who bring along colourful signs might entice producers to feature Fort Frances longer.
Allen Abel, who also has prepared a special feature profiling Buffalo Sabres scout Rudy Migay, entitled “The Man in Section 8,” will be the local host for the 15.5-hour show.
Along with spotlighting local athletes, CBC also has donated merchandise to be raffled off Saturday by the FFMHA to support local hockey programs.
CBC also will bring merchandise to give away as prizes for spectators.
“From what I’ve seen, everyone who shows up is going home with some sort of souvenir,” Egan said.
Other communities being featured during the three-hour “Celebrating the Game” segment of “Hockey Day in Canada” include St. John’s, Nfld., Montreal, PQ, Kingston, Ont., The Pas, Man., Saskatoon, Sask., Lac La Biche, Alta., Whitehorse, Yukon, and Kamloops, B.C.
At 2 p.m. (CST), a special one-hour edition of the pre-game show, Labatt Saturday Night, will feature Don Cherry answering questions coming in from various “Hockey Day” locations across the country.
The NHL games that follow are Ottawa at Toronto at 3 p.m. (CST), Montreal at Calgary at 6 p.m., and then Vancouver at Edmonton at 9 p.m.
At midnight (CST), Scott Russell and Kelly Hrudey will host “After Hours,” which sums up the evening’s action, featuring scores and highlights.
Finally at 12:30 a.m., the final instalment of Hockey Night in Canada Classics, hosted by Dick Irvin, features the final game of the 1984 Stanley Cup between the N.Y. Islanders and Edmonton Oilers.
While local organizers have known since mid-October that Fort Frances would be included in the program, a strike by CBC technicians put the broadcast in jeopardy.
But even when 75 percent of the 1,600 members of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union voted to accept a tentative deal Sunday afternoon, CBC producers still weren’t sure if they could host the cross-country event with less than a week’s preparation.
Egan said they weren’t sure Fort Frances would be included in “Hockey Day in Canada” until an announcement was made Monday.
“It’s absolutely going ahead in Fort Frances as planned,” a CBC spokesperson had told the Daily Bulletin. “They’ve been talking about it since a tentative agreement was signed, [but] they couldn’t make a final agreement until the deal was ratified.”
While excited, Egan and his group of volunteers have been working overtime since then trying to get everything ready for this Saturday.
“It’s really not that difficult. Fort Frances stands out for their tremendous volunteers,” he noted. “The same holds true for this event.”
Egan said participating in “Hockey Day in Canada” is a great boost not only for local hockey players but the entire community.
“It’s a free promotion for the community of Fort Frances, which has had a very strong hockey program in the past, present, and the future,” he remarked.