United for a common goal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a Canadian and I don’t love hockey.

So why am I writing about Hockeyville for a second time? My only explanation is this: community spirit is contagious.

Believe me, if it wasn’t, I’d be writing about something else entirely. I’d be writing about a topic that any North American could identify with since my column publishes beyond my hometown and I don’t want to bore my readers with articles they can’t relate to.

But who hasn’t at some time been caught up in the frenzy surrounding a special event in their own city, whether it be a festival, a parade or a sporting event? And who hasn’t known someone who’s miserable about all of it in the face of other people’s joy?

As thousands of my fellow residents have banded together in the last five months, writing letters and logging countless hours in an effort to win the bid for Kraft Hockeyville, there are a few who spend almost as much energy complaining about the whole idea.

If you’ve never heard of Hockeyville, it’s a contest sponsored by Kraft that gives smaller communities across Canada a chance to win $100,000 in arena upgrades, gain national exposure and receive the exciting opportunity to host an NHL game at their very own rink.

At this final stage of the contest, my hometown of West Kelowna is one of the five finalists and the frenzy here has hit impressive heights. And while it might appear that it’s because of the prizes being offered, I believe it’s because of the strong camaraderie being felt in a community that once felt very divided.

In my mind it’s proof that positive energy and working for the greater good can affect people in powerful ways. But not everyone.

“I think it’s stupid,” a grumpy gal told me one day. “It’s a huge waste of time. People need to get a life.” Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

For fun I went out and conducted interviews with people and public officials channeling her grouchy attitude. While I wouldn’t want to live my real life that way, she was a fun character to play for a few hours.

Being negative is tough. I know this because I get that way from time to time and it’s physically and emotionally draining. Switching gears to a more positive attitude isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

And the effort so many people have put into winning this contest has been worth it too. One of the things that divided our our new municipality a few short years ago was deciding on our name. That resolved, there’s now an overwhelming majority of us excitedly united and hoping to be called Hockeyville. Win or lose, that wonderful solidarity is an amazing prize that’s already ours.

To watch the video of me being a grumpy grump reporter, please visit LoriWelbourne.com

Community Spirit Scores Goals

Canadians are known for their love of hockey, and if my family is any example, that perception is bang-on. It’s a little less so with the black sheep of our family, namely the one whose words you’re reading right now.

I could never quite understand the immense appeal hockey held for my parents and my brother and just about everyone else in my world. But I could bandwagon with the best of them and became almost obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks when they were playing for the Stanley Cup back in 1994. And I was lucky enough to attend every home game they played during that series.

Now living in the much smaller town of West Kelowna, going to an NHL game isn’t as easy for me as it used to be.  But I can still hop on the bandwagon – and Hockeyville has me jumping on with both feet.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t even know what Hockeyville was until last week. But once I found out I was hooked, and the reason had little to do with hockey and much to do with community spirit.

It’s the coming together of people and the mutual excitement they feel about something positive that draws me in and makes me want to contribute.

For those of you wondering what Hockeyville is, please, allow me to enlighten you. Actually called Kraft Hockeyville (since Kraft is its sponsor),  it’s a nationally-televised contest on CBC that encourages small towns across Canada to compete for a terrific grand prize: $100,000 in upgrades to the local arena, a broadcast spot on Hockey Night in Canada and the honour of hosting a pre-season game between two NHL teams in their arena.

Just last week it was announced that West Kelowna was bidding to become Hockeyville 2012, and already the community is getting involved.

But it’s going to take a lot to capture the attention of the judges who will undoubtedly be inundated with stories from hockey lovers across the country, all hoping to win the coveted prize for their own hometown. Even those individuals who aren’t overly interested in the sport itself, should support West Kelowna’s bid, especially for the national attention and resulting economic boon it has brought past winners.

“The deadline for submitting stories, videos and pictures describing West Kelowna’s love of hockey and why we should be chosen is January 31, 2012,” said Andrew Deans, the director of operations for the Westside Warriors. “Our goal is to break the existing record and have 2000 submissions before that date. That would make them take notice of the amazing community spirit we have here.”

To show your support, register and submit content to KraftHockeyville.cbc.ca

If someone like me, who isn’t a hockey enthusiast, can get swept up in an event like this, I can just imagine how much influence true fans could have in bringing Hockeyville to the Okanagan. It’s all about community spirit – and we have that in spades … or should I say, blades?

To hear what other think about this, please watch my video at LoriWelbourne.com