New Brunswick is bracing for a fierce winter storm, but the people of Campbellton are preparing for a storm of another kind.
The northern city is playing host to the 2009 Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday, and already the community, hockey enthusiasts and business owners are busily preparing for the flood of hockey celebrities and players.
Sporting his Hockey Day in Canada hat and standing inside the local Tim Hortons coffee shop, Keith Steeves said he, like many in the community of 7,300 people, is eagerly awaiting the invasion of some of the sport's biggest names.
"It's the best thing ever. This will put Campbellton back on the map, considering all the work problems we've had up here," Steeves said.
Steeves has spent about 35 years as a hockey referee in the city. And as Saturday nears, he said the kids are even more anxious to see some of their heroes, such as Don Cherry, the co-host of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner.
"The kids are so excited, because the big NHL players will be here, guys like Wendel Clark," he said, referring to the retired former Toronto Maple Leaf captain.
Karen Gallant, the general manager of the local Tim Hortons, said this type of event invigorates a small community such as Campbellton.
"Everyone is really excited — it's a big, big event," Gallant said.
Many parts of New Brunswick, however, are girding for a major snow storm on Thursday. Already in Campbellton, winds are gusting, and the temperature is dropping.
N.B. bracing for winter blast
If the weather doesn't improve, that could make for some chilly hockey stars.
Part of the first three hours of the day-long hockey broadcast on Saturday will be from an outdoor rink that is set along the banks of the Restigouche River. CBC's Ron MacLean and Clark will play host to a series of clinics on the outdoor rink.
The festivities also include school visits by NHL stars and an auction with the proceeds going to the local minor hockey association. Hockey Day in Canada events will run over three days.
Campbellton has not been immune to the problems that have plagued many communities on the province's north shore.
Mills and other traditional sources of jobs have closed, and young people are leaving the north to work in southern cities, such as Moncton, Fredericton and Saint, or leaving the province.
Event bright spot for community
While many store windows are boarded up, even more are now flourishing with bright pictures of Cherry and MacLean plastered everywhere. Intersport, a local sports store, is one of the many businesses that are trumpeting the hockey event.
Gabby Bérubé, the store's owner, said the level of excitement is continuing to grow, especially among local kids who play and watch hockey.
Bérubé said he's had several friends come to him talking of Ron MacLean sightings around town.
While he's not sure if his store's business will see a big surge because of the event, Bérubé said he knows where the real profit will be.
"It's good for the sport, but most of all, it's for the kids," Bérubé said.