January 27, 2016 Events
On a bitterly cold January day a convoy of trucks converged on the parking lot of Revolution Place, home to the Grande Prairie Storm Junior Hockey team. Like an army of ants employees of the NHL Hometown Hockey Program swarmed the parking lot. Overnight the parking lot took on the appearance of a midwinter circus replete with tents, an outdoor rink, live music and Hometown Hank the clown. It was the NHL’s Hometown Hockey program featuring Grande Prairie’s minor hockey program.
During a televised NHL game between Chicago and Montreal Ron McLean turned his attention to Grande Prairie. For two days there were minor hockey games in Revolution Place, pick up hockey on the outdoor ice surface on the parking lot and there was entertainment in the tents. One tent featured a Hot Stove League chaired by Tara Sloan, Canadian rock vocalist and television personality. Interviewed by Ron McLean in the same tent were retired NHL hockey players Marty McSorley, Georges Laraque and former NHL goal tender and GP Hockey legend Clint Malarchuk. The celebration of minor hockey consisted of a breakfast and a game of shinny at Muskoseepi Park acknowledging the first well organized minor hockey program at Two Rinks on the Bear Creek Flats: a program that began more than half a century ago. Bear Creek Flats Hockey produced a number of professional players but more importantly it was a major source of recreation for hundreds of young people over the years. Earlier a coach’s appreciation event was conducted in the Legends Lounge with Clint Malarchuk as guest speaker.
Local sports heroes that were recognized included Clint Malarchuk, Darren McAusland, Pete Wright, Johnny MacMillan, Vicky Sunohara, Doug Rigler, Willy deWit and Kelly Sutherland. The program was made possible by a dedicated committee of local volunteers. Kirsten Maher and Cam Nichol provided leadership. They worked tirelessly for months coordinating the efforts of ten neighbourhood associations who supported the event. Not unlike countless communities throughout Canada, Grande Prairie has a rich and extensive hockey history. These programs are the fountainhead and backbone of the NHL. It is therefore fitting that minor league hockey programs throughout Canada staffed largely by volunteers are recognized by the NHL.