The puck will drop Saturday for NHL exhibition action in familiar NHL cities Calgary, Edmonton and … Belleville?
Yes, Yardmen Arena, the 3,257-seat home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls, is hosting a NHL pre-season contest featuring Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals versus Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets at 7 p.m. ET (CBC, CBCSports.ca).
The township of Stirling-Rawdon has waited a year for an NHL game after it beat out West Kelowna, B.C., Amos, Que., Yarmouth, N.S., and Duck Lake, Sask., to win Kraft Hockeyville. But it was cancelled prior to the start of the 113-day NHL lockout.
Fans in Stirling-Rawdon were to celebrate their victory last September with a Stanley Cup parade and visit from NHL alumni to go along with a game. In addition, the community was awarded a $100,000 cheque from Kraft Canada for renovations to Stirling District Recreation Centre.
Upgrading the facility was a mission started by rink manager Barry Wilson, who died suddenly in the spring of 2011.
A new entrance to the arena along with new dressing rooms, a girl’s dressing room and training area were among the planned upgrades.
Saturday’s festivities will begin at 9 a.m. with the arrival of the Jets, followed by the Capitals at 10:30. Players will exit a bus and enter Yardmen Arena red carpet-style, allowing for some informal fan interaction.
Olympic-sized ice surface
Fans can enter Yardmen Arena, which boasts and Olympic-sized ice surface, starting at 10 a.m. for a practice session. Winnipeg is scheduled to practice from 10:30-11:15, followed by Washington (11:30-12:15 p.m.).
Meanwhile, at the Stirling District Recreation Centre, the Stanley Cup will make an appearance at 11 a.m.
At 1:30, an NHL player question and answer session will take place, hosted by Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Doors for the Capitals-Jets game at Yardmen Arena will open at 6 p.m., with puck drop scheduled for 7:15 after pre-game ceremonies.
In the first intermission, Hockey Night host Ron MacLean and Don Cherry will host a segment on the ice.
After the game, there will be a commemorative jersey exchange.
Saturday’s event will mark Winnipeg’s second appearance in the Kraft Hockeyville game. The Jets defeated Ottawa 3-1 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s in 2011.
Stirling-Rawdon, with a population of 1,500, is the birthplace of retired NHL tough guy Rob Ray, who played a combined 15 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and Senators.