Hometown Hockey spotlight shines on Haliburton
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | October 19, 2017
Haliburton didn’t disappoint as hundreds turned up for the live broadcast of Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sunday evening in Head Lake Park.
Periods of rain and heavy wind gusts didn’t deter hockey fans from watching Cassidy Glecoff and her band Northbourne perform before the main event with sportscaster Ron MacLean and Tara Slone.
A parade of Highland Storm players led by retired NHLers Walt McKechnie and Ron Stackhouse made its way through the park over to Sportsnet’s mobile studio. Children’s eyes lit up when they saw a camera zoom by, each vying for a chance to be seen by a nationwide audience.
It was the culmination of a full weekend of festivities, which included interactive games, activities, live performances and autograph signings with retired NHL players from the Haliburton Highlands.
Visitors from near and far came to experience the large-scale event, which shut down York Street for four days.
“I think it’s a good way to bring the town together, and to celebrate the hockey culture and its players,” said Norm McLeod, a local cottager and Pickering resident.
McLeod called the setup “great.”
“It’s the first time I’ve been to [Hometown Hockey] and it’s quite impressive.”
Tyler Peters travelled from Bancroft with his kids, Jack and Olivia, both players for the Bancroft Jets minor hockey team. He said it was worth the 45-minute drive.
“Everyone has been really warm and inviting,” said Peters. “It’s been great.”
Joann Sloan, a cottager-turned-resident, volunteered at the event. She served hot chocolate and helped run kids’ ball hockey.
“I love hockey and doing charity work,” said Sloan, adding that everyone seemed enthusiastic.
Fellow volunteer Colette Smith said she enjoyed making new friends and seeing lots of smiles.
Stackhouse was thoroughly impressed with what he saw.
“They seem to have something set up for everyone,” said Stackhouse, who signed autographs along with Cody Hodgson and Bernie Nicholls. “This is really amazing for a small community like this to have these people come here.”
Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Devolin in an interview on Monday. “We dodged weather and the community made me proud as I expected they would.”
The County of Haliburton invested money into signage and staff time. Devolin estimates the final figure will be more than $20,000 but less than $50,000.
But he says it was worthwhile.
“I think it was pennies on the dollar for what it’s done for us,” he said, pointing out that the average broadcast gets half a million viewers. “I think the long-term benefits will be felt for many, many years.”
Dysart and Highlands East also contributed staff to the event. Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey said he’s received nothing but positive feedback from the community.
To see the features that were shown during the broadcast, visit sportsnet.ca/blogs/hometown-hockey/.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.