Getting hyped for Hometown Hockey
By Darren Lum
Published: Sept. 19, 2017
Don’t miss out on the unprecedented opportunity Rogers Hometown Hockey will provide the Highlands, Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey says.
When the travelling roadshow comes to town with hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Sloane on Oct. 14 and 15, Fearrey wants everyone to come out and show local spirit to the rest of Canada and the world.
“This is the biggest thing for tourism exposure that the Haliburton Highlands has ever had, bar none,” he said.
Fearrey said with the usual draw of the autumn leaves, he expects thousands of people to be in the area. This event needs to be seen as a unique opportunity for promotion, which could have residual benefits in the future.
“If this is done right and we all pull together on this and make it so [this event gets the] recognition it should ... this is way by far the biggest thing we’ve ever done in terms of promoting the Highlands. In fact, it may be the biggest thing we’ll ever do.”
Rogers Hometown Hockey is a family-friendly free event from Oct. 14 to 15. It will have live entertainment, local celebrities, NHL alumni and interactive games. MacLean and Sloane will host a show that tells the story of the Highlands, highlighting our culture, stories and hockey history in a pre-game, intermission and post-game show during the Sunday evening broadcast of the Boston Bruins/Las Vegas Golden Knights game.
Haliburton is the second stop of its 24-stop coast-to-coast tour in the show’s fourth season. There will be an open viewing party with the show’s hosts MacLean and Sloane on Sunday.
Fearrey couldn’t provide concrete specifics about the town’s plans to “to put our best foot forward.”
He said there should be banners on the street, and posted statements on public signs to recognize the event. Fearrey said the event will be at Head Lake Park with York Street closed from Thursday to Sunday. The interactive activities will be in front of Rails End Gallery.
Ideally, he wants residents and merchants to exhibit strong service, accommodation and hospitality.
“This is an opportunity to shine. It’s an opportunity for all of the county to get involved with events. I just think it’s such a great opportunity ... we could really blow this if we don’t pull together and do it right,” he said.
Volunteer co-ordinator Autumn Wilson said she needs 40 volunteers during the weekend between noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon and 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The list includes people to help with activities at the ball hockey rink, whether to referee, help children put equipment on, man the hardest shot and accuracy booths, or help serve beverages.
Volunteers don’t have to be older than 18, but are required to be 18 for serving hot chocolate, being a parking attendant and to be a runner (picking up people or items for the Rogers crew).
Contact Wilson at the Chamber of Commerce at 705-457-4700 ext. 24 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Clarke, who serves on the local organizing committee and was the chairperson for the Ontario Senior Games that brought 1,000 people to the Highlands, said he was reminded by Sportsnet president and former colleague Scott Moore, that Haliburton is the smallest community to be included in the history of the tour.
“It puts in some ways a little more pressure for Haliburton to perform because other small communities will be looking at this thinking: How can we get in?” he said.
Clarke, who worked as the head of CBC sports broadcasting (includes Hockey Night in Canada) from 1990 to 2000, said he believes there is an opportunity for the Highlands to be exposed to at least two million people during the Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs game when it will be highlighted as the Hometown Hockey location for the next day. He estimates at least another million people will tune into the Boston Bruins/Las Vegas Golden Knights game on Sunday.
This is publicity Haliburton could never afford on their own, he said.
Clarke said there are ongoing discussions for minor hockey games to be held in Minden, Haliburton and in Wilberforce to showcase the local talent in the Highlands.
Haliburton didn’t need much of his help or even the township to bring this tour here, he said.
“Television loves a story and Haliburton has a story to tell,” he said.
Clarke said our hockey story is rooted in the amazing odds of having five professional hockey players such as NHL alumni Ron Stackhouse and Bernie Nicholls, a possible future Hall of Famer and former Nashville Predator Cody Hodgson and current Colorado Avalanche centre Matt Duchene. Also, having former NHL referee-in-chief and hall of fame inductee for the builder category Scotty Morrison living here adds to it.
Clarke adds Jim Gregory, a past general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and executive for the NHL, is expected to come up for the event. Gregory (along with business partner and friend Wren Blair) not only helped with the start of the Pinestone Resort, but was also responsible for starting and running the popular summer hockey camp Hockey Haven.
“It’s all those things. It’s not just that we had the luck of the draw or something. There’s a story to be told here,” he said.