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Wolseley, Sask., faces off in final 4 of Kraft Hockeyville competition

Wolseley, Sask., is one of four finalists in the Kraft Hockeyville 2024 competition. (Submitted by Gerald Hill - image credit)
Wolseley, Sask., is one of four finalists in the Kraft Hockeyville 2024 competition. (Submitted by Gerald Hill - image credit)

A small town in southeast Saskatchewan is one of four finalists vying for the title of Kraft Hockeyville 2024 and $250,000, which it would use to repair its aging arena.

Wolseley — a town of around 850 people about 100 kilometres east of Regina — is competing against three larger communities for this year's prize: Cochrane, Alta., Enderby, B.C., and Elliot Lake, Ont.

In addition to the money, the winner will also have the chance to host an NHL pre-season game later this year, according to Kraft.

"Getting through the cold winters here in Saskatchewan, having a place to gather as a community, it's so important. It just means so much to the kids. They love it," said Vance Weber, a Wolseley Minor Hockey Association board member, in the town's entry video for the contest.

"Hockey drives a lot of the spirit in this town."

Children play at Wolseley Sportsplex, which the town is hoping to revitalize using prize money from the Kraft Hockeyville 2024 competition. Wolseley is now in the top four vying for the title.
Children play at Wolseley Sportsplex, which the town is hoping to revitalize using prize money from the Kraft Hockeyville 2024 competition. Wolseley is now in the top four vying for the title.

Children play at Wolseley Sportsplex, which the town is hoping to revitalize using prize money from the Kraft Hockeyville 2024 competition. (Kraft Heinz Canada)

The town's Hockeyville committee will be rallying support this weekend at the Wolseley Mustangs kids' hockey tournament. The prize money would be a big boost for much-needed repairs to the Wolseley Sportsplex's 44-year-old ice plant.

The vital equipment often breaks down and is only still running because of a team of dedicated volunteers, according to the town's entry to the Canada-wide competition.

"It's the last of its kind," said Weber. "We need to keep this arena alive and thriving."

Wolseley's Hockeyville committee and food bank volunteer team are also organizing a donation drive during the tournament to help the town's struggling food bank.

The initiative is trying "to bring awareness to the issue that we have as far as the food insecurity within the community," Mayor Gerald Hill said Thursday, "and not only just our community, but other communities around the province."

The food bank's shelves are nearly bare, Hill told CBC on Thursday, as a food banks across the province are seeing record demand.

"I'm hoping that we can go from a cupboard that's pretty much empty to a room full of food by the end of the weekend," he said.

The Town of Wolseley is pleading for donations for its food bank, which is 'pretty much empty' due to unprecedented need by several families in the community, says Mayor Gerald Hill.
The Town of Wolseley is pleading for donations for its food bank, which is 'pretty much empty' due to unprecedented need by several families in the community, says Mayor Gerald Hill.

The Town of Wolseley's food bank was 'pretty much empty' Thursday morning due to unprecedented need by several families in the community, says mayor Gerald Hill. (Submitted by Gerald Hill)

The Hockeyville competition, organized by Kraft Heinz Canada in partnership with the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association, aims to build "strong and inclusive communities across the country through the love of the game of hockey," according to a news release from Kraft.

Each of the four finalists will receive $10,000 to buy hockey equipment for youth in need, and the three runners-up will get $25,000 to repair their arenas, according to Kraft.

The 18-year-old Hockeyville program has distributed more than $4.8 million to 97 communities to revitalize aging sports infrastructure and facilities, according to the release.

Online voting for the winner starts at 8 a.m. CST on March 29 and ends at 4 p.m. CST on March 30. The winner will be announced that evening on Hockey Night in Canada.