Gull Lake hosts big celebration of hockey
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.gulllakesk.ca and click on the Hockey Week in Gull Lake and Winterfest 2019 links.