Gull Lake hosts big cel­e­bra­tion of hockey

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepos­

The com­mu­nity of Gull Lake has pre­pared a week-long feast of ac­tiv­i­ties to cel­e­brate Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an.

Gull Lake is the host com­mu­nity for the 2019 Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an week­end on Jan. 1820, but there will be ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the week to cel­e­brate the game and the im­por­tance of the Gull Lake Recre­ational Com­plex in the town.

Gull Lake and Area Recre­ation Di­rec­tor Sara Kuntz is the co-chair of the lo­cal host com­mit­tee. She said there is a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion in the com­mu­nity for the event.

“We're so ex­cited,” she told the Prairie Post. “Hockey fans are ex­cited, the peo­ple that are more out for the ac­tiv­i­ties are ex­cited, peo­ple are look­ing for­ward to the ban­quet. I think it will just be a great week for every­body.”

It took a lot of work by many vol­un­teers to put the whole event to­gether, but they were able to cre­ate a line-up of in­ter­est­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for the en­tire fam­ily.

“It's been quite a process, but we have a re­ally good group,” she said. “Our com­mit­tee is re­ally good and we had so many vol­un­teers come for­ward for any task that we've asked for. So it made it re­ally easy on us.”

The Saskatchew­an Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion (SHA) started the an­nual Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an cel­e­bra­tion in 2008 to give com­mu­ni­ties a chance to cel­e­brate their rinks and to pre­serve this im­por­tant com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity, be­cause the funds raised dur­ing each event can be used for arena ren­o­va­tions and im­prove­ments.

Each of­fi­cial Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an takes place in a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity and Gull Lake is the sec­ond host lo­ca­tion in the SHA's south­west re­gion.

“We send in a video ex­plain­ing how im­por­tant our rink is to our com­mu­nity and how much it would mean to us to have the hon­our of host­ing Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an,” she said. “They liked our video and they must have thought we're do­ing an OK job, so they chose us.”

The event will pro­vide Gull Lake an op­por­tu­nity to show­case the com­mu­nity and there will be var­i­ous other ben­e­fits.

“It's such a nice way to high­light our amaz­ing fa­cil­ity and our ath­letes that we have in town,” she said. “It's a way to bring peo­ple to­gether in the win­ter when it's not al­ways easy to do so and it will raise some funds for our rink, and we all know that small-town fa­cil­i­ties can al­ways use some money. So that's just kind of the ic­ing on the cake.”

The Gull Lake Recre­ational Com­plex is not only an im­por­tant part of com­mu­nity life in the town.

It is also used by res­i­dents of seven nearby com­mu­ni­ties and sur­round­ing ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“We have hockey teams from five year old to se­nior hockey, we have our fig­ure skaters, our phys ed classes use it,” she said. “Even if you don't play hockey or skate, peo­ple go there some­times just for sup­per, they go to cheer on our lo­cal hockey teams. It's just, not to sound cliché, but it's the hub of our com­mu­nity in the win­ter.”

Once the plan­ning for the event started, it soon evolved from a week­end of ac­tiv­i­ties into a week-long cel­e­bra­tion from Jan. 14-20.

“Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an is ac­tu­ally the week­end por­tion, but we de­cided we wanted to ex­tend our event for an en­tire week,” she noted.

“So we just packed the whole week full of stuff and then we were ac­tu­ally ap­proached by SWT about be­ing a spon­sor for the week por­tion of it. So we're host­ing SWT Hockey Week in Gull Lake and SHA Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an.”

The host com­mit­tee's big­gest chal­lenge was to fig­ure out where ac­tiv­i­ties would fit the best in the sched­ule to reach as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. An­other win­ter tra­di­tion in the town, the an­nual Gull Lake Win­ter­fest, also be­came part of the event.

“When we put the bid in, we ap­proached the Win­ter­fest com­mit­tee and asked them if they would like to col­lab­o­rate with us on this and every­body was very will­ing,” she said. “That means that Satur­day is full of fam­ily friendly events too. So it's not just hockey games. It could be any­thing out­side. We have an ice sculp­tor, we have a big art project go­ing on, we'll have sleigh rides, we have face painters, there's a ma­gi­cian. So part­ner­ing with Win­ter­fest just al­lowed us to make this event big­ger than it prob­a­bly would have been with­out them.”

The week's ac­tiv­i­ties will start at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 with the mi­nor hockey 3-on-3 tour­na­ment. The SWT open­ing cer­e­mony will take place on the ice sur­face at 7:45 p.m. and the men's rec game will start at 8 p.m.

The mi­nor hockey scav­enger hunt also starts on the first day and will con­clude on Jan. 18. The mi­nor hockey teams have to com­plete close to 100 tasks dur­ing the week. They need to take a photo as proof that a task was com­pleted and the team with the most points will be the win­ner of the scav­enger hunt.

“It's var­i­ous things around town” she said. “Some of them are sim­ple and some of them are re­ally tricky. So it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how those teams in­ter­pret those and com­plete the tasks.”

There will be dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties every day of the week, in­clud­ing an op­por­tu­nity to skate with Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos play­ers from 4-5 p.m. on Jan. 16. Af­ter­wards there will be a meet and greet with the play­ers in the lobby. The mi­nor hockey 3-on-3 fi­nals and a crib­bage tour­na­ments will also take place on this day.

Mem­bers of the Gull Lake Skat­ing Club will present a show­case per­for­mance from 5-6 p.m. on Jan. 17 and there will be two hockey games the same evening, in­clud­ing a Gull Lake alumni game.

There will be a school and com­mu­nity skate from 1-3:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 as well as a sledge hockey game from 4-6 p.m.

“It's ac­tu­ally the Ice Break­ers from Swift Cur­rent and they're go­ing to play an in­ter­squad game,” she said. “A lot of peo­ple in town here haven't re­ally been ex­posed to sledge hockey be­fore. So it will be re­ally in­ter­est­ing to have the Ice Break­ers play in Gull Lake.”

A cer­tain high­light of the week will be Fri­day night's sports ban­quet and auc­tion with cabaret in the com­mu­nity hall. For­mer NHL player Den­nis Hull will be the guest speaker and the mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment will be pro­vided by Mitch Larock and the 4:54 Band.

There will be five dif­fer­ent hockey games on Jan. 19, start­ing with ini­ti­a­tion and novice games in the morn­ing. The Swift Cur­rent Wild­cats and Bat­tle­ford Sharks from the Saskatchew­an Fe­male Midget AAA Hockey League will play at 1 p.m., while the Swift Cur­rent AAA Le­gion­naires will take on the Tis­dale AAA Tro­jans at 4 p.m.

The fi­nal game at 7:30 p.m. will fea­ture the Saskatchew­an Ju­nior Hockey League's Bat­tle­ford North Stars against the Notre Dame Hounds.

A mul­ti­tude of Win­ter­fest re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties will oc­cur dur­ing Satur­day, start­ing with a pan­cake break­fast at 8:30 a.m. The in­door and out­door events at var­i­ous times dur­ing the day in­clude a trade show, tombola ta­ble, crafts, mini-golf, pie-eat­ing con­test, a chil­dren's ma­gi­cian, cro­ki­curl, and sleigh rides.

Gull Lake School will be the venue for some new ac­tiv­i­ties. Hockey Ninja War­rior and Top Cor­ner Hockey are in­flat­able hockey themed in­ter­ac­tive games. Ar­ta­palooza will be an op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one to par­tic­i­pate in an in­ter­ac­tive art project that will leave a last­ing legacy of Hockey Day in Saskatchew­an.

This art project takes place in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Con­nie Phillips from the Art House in Maple Creek. She has cre­ated an out­line of the art de­sign on a piece of ply­wood and on Jan. 19 any­one can come to the school to help paint.

“So even if you're not artis­tic, you can still go and paint in a lit­tle por­tion of it and every­body can con­trib­ute to it,” Kuntz ex­plained. “Then she might do a cou­ple of touch ups after, but it will be quite large by the time it's fin­ished and then it will be per­ma­nently mounted in the rink.”

The Satur­day ac­tiv­i­ties will con­clude with an out­door fire­works dis­play at 10 p.m. The cel­e­bra­tion of hockey will con­tinue on Jan. 20 with five games dur­ing the day, and the fi­nal event of the week will be an in­ter­de­nom­i­na­tional prayer ser­vice at 7 p.m. at St. Anne's Catholic Church.

The host com­mit­tee is hop­ing the va­ri­ety of events dur­ing the week will draw peo­ple from the wider south­west area to Gull Lake.

“Even if you can't make it out for the whole thing, come out and check out a hockey game and ex­pe­ri­ence the buzz of the week,” she said. “So we're hop­ing that peo­ple from all cor­ners of the south­west make it out for some­thing. We'd love to see all vis­i­tors.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about events, go to the SWT Hockey Week in Gull Lake 2019 Face­book page (@hock­ey­daygl19), or visit the Town of Gull Lake web­site at www.gul­l­ and click on the Hockey Week in Gull Lake and Win­ter­fest 2019 links.

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