Lisa is PEC’s Manager of Community Centres and Events Marketing, and she’s been trying for years to attract the attention of the NHL Alumni tour organizers. This year she did it, with an assist from another event organizer who was impressed with what he’d seen in The County. He put in a good word and Lisa got her chance to take a shot. Here’s Lisa.
“First things first. The NHL Alumni event is at the Wellington District Community Centre on Sunday, December 11. It’s an annual event, sponsored by Scotia Bank, that goes from community to community across Ontario to raise money for and support the Special Olympics and the Torch Run, and some of the all-time greats of Canadian hockey play in it. They play against local teams, usually local law enforcement officers, and that’s who will play them here. The PEC OPP is eager to be part of this, they’ve been practicing and they’re ready to lace up to play against all these guys we’ve seen on the TV.”
Lisa is excited that her small island community has been selected. The tour generally goes to places like Timmins and Ottawa and Waterloo. “We’re definitely one of the smaller places. Why did they select us? Largely because of our huge hockey community base, but also because the Wellington District Community Centre has an NHL ice surface and can hold more than 2,000 people. They were surprised bu our facilities.
“The Community Centre opened in December 2010 and there were some growing pains there, but since then we’ve had some pretty exciting events there. We had the Central Canada Cup in 2012 and in 2014 the Dudley Hewitt Cup, those are big time events! Last year we hosted the Royal Junior Exhibition Games and now the NHL Alumni tour is coming. We’re very fortunate to be able to bring exciting stuff every year for our hockey fans, and we’re also lucky to have this building that can be used for so many things, from holiday markets to sports to quilt shows, things that bring people out to have a day of fun.
HOW WE GOT IT – WHAT WAS THAT “ASSIST?”
“Belleville has been chosen for this region every year. I’ve put a bid in every single year since I started my position and at last we got it! Even better, Walter Gretzky is on the tour and he is going to about half of the games, and he’s coming to ours. That’s huge!
It just so happened the guy from the Rodeo that came to Picton this year is friends with the guy from the NHL, and we went out to lunch and he asked me what else I wanted to do. I told him how much we wanted this, but jokingly said I can’t get anyone to answer my calls. I guess he put a word in. The rep came down to check us out and couldn’t believe what he saw. He had seen the size of our population but I think he was in awe of the facility we had – and the programming for the size of our community. Our two junior hockey teams really shows what a strong hockey fan base we have here. He took a look at the Community Centre website and saw the capacity of the building, the fine furnishings, the task force lounge, the beautiful hall that holds 600. You have to have all of those aspects, and we also had some engaging partners. The Drake Devonshire came onboard right away to host the meet-and-greet afterwards. Really you have to have strong partners in the community for them to even consider you.
WHO’S COMING? – Well, this is a national campaign, so our game appears on the benefithockey.com website where you can buy tickets and people are also driving to The County to purchase tickets from the Wellington arena. A lot of people follow the circuit but because we have never had it here before I want to make sure EVERYBODY knows about it – because we don’t want local people to miss it.
OUR OWN SPECIAL OLYMPIAN – The OPP support the Special Olympics year round, but this is even more special to our local detachment, because we have a Special Olympic athlete working at the local station. Luke is a much admired, much loved employee, and he’s going to be dropping the puck. There was no problem filling the roster. The guys want to be part of the whole NHL thing, but they especially want to be there for Luke, some of them get emotional talking about it. They’re really into this.
BUYING TICKETS – You can buy tickets online at benefithockey.com, and at the arena or you can double up on who you’re supporting by buying from two of our local youth organizations. That’s another aspect of this event. The NHL Alumni give the community 400 tickets for local organizations to sell and keep some of the proceeds. County kids from the PEC Skating Club and the Belleville Bearcats Bantam A hockey team are selling our tickets. The Bearcats are a girls team and they get to spend an hour on the ice with the NHL alumni prior to the real game. That should be fun!
THE SHOW AND THE AFTERGLOW
So the Bearcats kids have their special hour on the ice from 12 noon. Then the doors open to the public at 1:00 pm. The game goes from 2:00 to 4:00pm, but it’s not just a full-on game. The first period is a game, but then there is a Skills Competition which can be a real nail-biter. An Adam Double B team comes out and scrimmages with the NHL team for a few minutes so there’s gags and mischief and a lot of fun. Our OPP officers have been told to come with a sense of humour! Because those NHL guys have tricks up their sleeve. The PEC Skating Club will do little bits throughout the game to showcase what their programs offer children. It’s going to be very entertaining.
Now afterwards, anybody who wants to get a little closer contact with an NHL alumni player can go to the Drake Devonshire where there will be times in the Glass Box when the players will filter through and be signing autographs. That is open to the public, you don’t need a reservation, and it is free of charge. BUT, if you want to be around those players while they’re having dinner, you need to call the Drake and book a dinner reservation!
COME AND CHEER THEM ON!
We want to let everybody know about this and invite hockey fans to purchase tickets and come out to support the Special Olympics and cheer on all those awesome NHL players and our guys too. Come out to support our local law enforcement officers. It’s good to see these guys in a different environment. We don’t always run into them in the best circumstances! And it’s a great way for parents to show their kids the police in a positive light. As for me, the whole reason I’ve tried so hard to get this kind of event is we have this great Wellington District Community Centre, and we have Dukes games and Pirates games and rep hockey and so forth. But a big event like this really shows how this place was built to entertain a large crowd at a very high level. This is like a reminder to ourselves what we have here and what we can do. And when we attract sports events, sports tourism, events like this it’s a boon to our economy. Of course we expect people will stick around Sunday afternoon, residents who’ve come out and all those people who will cross the bridges to come here. That will have ripples through our local businesses.
I’m excited and I want to share this with everybody. I’ve been to alumni games before and, you know what? These guys are phenomenal, although they’ve been retired for a number of years their skills are still amazing. They might be slower, but it’s astonishing how they can move on the ice, and their slapshots are unbelievable. It’s like they never lose that.
If you like hockey, you’re going to LOVE this.”