HALIFAX — A minor hockey organization in Nova Scotia has withdrawn its entry from a national competition for funding, saying it is throwing its support behind a small P.E.I. town that lost its rink to a fire a few days after Christmas.
Jamie Munroe, a hockey dad with the Sackville Flyers Minor Hockey Association, said when he learned last week that the Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre had been destroyed Dec. 29, he decided to take action.
"I was thinking about how they don't even have a rink now," he said in an interview Tuesday. "We have two rinks in Lower Sackville. Yes, they need upgrades, but our kids can still play there."
The winner of the annual Kraft Hockeyville contest, which focuses on building community spirit, will receive $250,000 for arena upgrades and an NHL pre-season hockey game.
Competing communities are awarded points for stories, photos and videos shared on social media. Nominations opened Jan. 1.
Munroe, who works at a sporting goods store in Lower Sackville, said he was at a tournament in Prince Edward Island last weekend with his nine-year-old son Cooper when a man at the rink told him about the fire in Tyne Valley. The man — another hockey dad — told Munroe he was also a volunteer firefighter.
"He sat there and watched his rink burn to the ground," Munroe said.
Munroe pulled Sackville's bid this past Sunday, a day after hundreds of people gathered outside the gutted Tyne Valley arena to show their support for the community's Hockeyville bid.
Munroe posted a video on Facebook showing the boisterous rally in the snow-covered parking lot.
"You can see their rink behind them," he said in a Facebook post. "They have nominated themselves to become Hockeyville, too. I know a lot of you have been doing a lot to help Sackville become Hockeyville, but ... I think the Sackville community should band together with them and help them fix their rink!"
A member of Tyne Valley's fundraising committee saw Munroe's post and shared it.
"Next thing I know, it's blown up," said Munroe. "It's blossomed into this awesome thing."
Munroe said he would like to see communities across Canada get behind Tyne Valley's bid, and he's organizing a rally at the Sackville Arena for this Saturday.
"We're going to do everything we can to help Tyne Valley get a new rink," he said.
The former manager of the Tyne Valley arena, Adam MacLennan, said it was a busy place, with ice time booked at around 75 hours per week.
MacLennan, a volunteer firefighter, said the fire was intense.
"It was gut-wrenching," he said, noting that people from the community showed up to watch the complex burn. "It sank everyone's hearts .... It was like a funeral or going to a wake."
As the newly appointed chairman of the fundraising committee, MacLennan said Munroe's actions have energized the community.
"It started getting traction on Facebook that night," he said. "It's amazing how hockey can bring people together in a time of need."
Munroe said the experience has reminded him how the hockey and lacrosse communities in the Halifax region helped him cope after his 23-year-old son Connor took his own life on Christmas Day in 2018.
"They all rallied around me and my family and helped us get through it," he said. "The Sackville Arena is to us — it's like our church."
That's what initially prompted him to have Sackville entered in the Hockeyville competition.
"I wanted everyone else in Canada to know how much community spirit we have," he said. "I wanted to give back to my community."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2020.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press