Woolwich residents have always known that around these parts hockey is much more than a game. And now that they’ve made the top 10 list for CBC’s Kraft Hockeyville, they can share their secret with the rest of the country.
“I’ve always felt we have something very special, and for that to be recognized is a real tribute to the people in our community,” said Woolwich Hockeyville committee member Graham Snyder.
On Wednesday, supporters behind Woolwich’s bid for the popular CBC program were glued to their TV sets, eagerly waiting to see if the community would make the shortlist.
All of the work so far paid off with the announcement of Woolwich’s name on the list of the 10 communities chosen from the 195 that applied. The effort stems from a profound love for the game that is a part of Woolwich’s cultural identity, something captured quite well on the CBC feature, said committee member LuAnn Snyder.
“The thing they (CBC producers) told us they liked about our community in Woolwich was our spirit and our passion for the sport of hockey, that it crossed all boundaries,” she said, noting that hockey is enjoyed by everyone – Old Order Mennonites, minor hockey players, and kids and adults playing on the farm or in their backyards.
“We are a very unique community, and hockey pulls it all together,” she said.
Larry Farr, former general manger of the Elmira Sugar Kings, a member of the Hockeyville committee and a longtime fundraiser with the Woolwich Recreation Facilities Foundation, watched Wednesday night’s Hockeyville segment at St. Louis Bar and Grill in Waterloo with a group of fellow Woolwich residents. He was pleased that the nation was able to see the culmination of a tireless effort on behalf of Woolwich hockey fans over the course of more than five years.
“Now they’ll see what it takes to raise $5.6 million – almost $300 per person. It shows the passion we have; hopefully, the rest of the country will see that,” he noted.
Earlier in the day, before the airing of the CBC segment, Woolwich minor hockey player Yi Wang echoed a similar sentiment.
“Everyone here is really into hockey – a lot more than in Kitchener,” said the 15-year-old, one of eight siblings who play minor hockey.
Having recently moved from Kitchener, where she found that hockey was just another sport, Yi said she and her siblings were pleasantly surprised when they moved to Elmira this summer and discovered that hockey is much more than just a pastime.
“It means everything – it’s like a second religion,” said her sister Maggie, 13.
Yi couldn’t agree more.
“We’re really obsessed with it,” said Yi with a chuckle.
Both sisters are goalies with Woolwich Minor hockey as well as with EDSS. Both will see their fair share of hockey this weekend when they will be joined by six siblings at Elmira Arena to take part in a round-the-clock hockey marathon meant to celebrate Woolwich’s top-10 finish, and support its bid to make the top five.
The Wangs are a perfect example of what hockey is all about in Woolwich, said Graham Snyder.
“It just kind of reminded me again of how much of a family affair it really is in this town – they’re an exception, but there are lots of big families around that have kids in hockey,” he said. “At all levels and all age groups it really embodies a big part of who we are.”
Organizers have planned a host of hockey activities at the Elmira Arena beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday and running for 26 hours, symbolic of the 26 miles in a marathon.
Players of all age groups and all skill levels will play throughout the day, indicative of the community’s support for the game. The mix will include Mennonite teams for the Mennonite hour (12:30-1:30 p.m.), local celebrities and minor hockey players.
Players and teams looking to take part in the marathon are asked to contact Val Martin at 669-2789. Organizing the Mennonite squads, Del Gingrich is at 669-1138. Graham Snyder, looking after the seniors’ hockey and the learn-to-play segment (the 5 a.m. time slot), can be reached at 669-1407.
Information about the Woolwich Hockeyville effort can be found online at www.woolwichhockeyville.ca.
The official Hockeyville entry can be seen at www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/hockeyville/communities/DanSnyderMemorialArena.html.