Stephenville, N.L., awarded Hockey Day in Canada

The town of Stephenville, N.L., will host CBC's sixth-annual Hockey Day in Canada on Jan. 7, 2006.

"Hello Canada and hockey fans from the United States and Newfoundland." The late Foster Hewitt's famous phrase will come to life on Jan. 7, 2006, when the town of Stephenville, N.L., plays host to CBC's Hockey Day in Canada.

Stephenville, a town of 8,000 people on the west coast of Newfoundland, has been chosen as the official host location for CBC's sixth-annual event.

Ron MacLean and Don Cherry will be in Stephenville for all the festivities, which begin at noon ET, while CBC personalities will be on location at various sites around the country, providing a snapshot of Canada's arenas on any given Saturday.

Hockey Day has become somewhat of an unofficial holiday for Canadian hockey fans.

The 13.5-hour broadcast will take viewers on a journey across Canada to commemorate hockey's special place in all parts of the country.

There is also the traditional NHL all-Canadian tripleheader starting with Ottawa at Montreal at 2 p.m. ET, followed by Toronto at Edmonton at 7 p.m. ET and Calgary at Vancouver at 10 p.m. ET.

Stephenville was chosen for its long history with minor, high school, junior B and senior league hockey. Because of its location on the west coast of Newfoundland, Stephenville has natural hockey rivals in the neighbouring communities of Deer Lake, Corner Brook and Port-aux-Basques.

"Stephenville epitomizes what Hockey Day in Canada is all about," said Joel Darling, executive producer of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

"[It] is a proud community that is truly united by hockey – and we want to share its story with Canadians from coast to coast to coast."

Newfoundland has produced some of the NHL's top, up-and-coming stars such as Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens (St. John's), Jason King of the Vancouver Canucks (Corner Brook), Dan Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings (Carbonear), Brad Brown of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Baie Verte) and Darren Langdon of the New Jersey Devils (Deer Lake).

The voice of Hockey Night in Canada, Bob Cole, is from Topsail, NL.

"We are absolutely delighted that Hockey Day in Canada is coming to Stephenville," said Stephenville's mayor Tom O'Brien.

"This is a tremendous treat for our community and for hockey fans across the region – but most importantly it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our minor hockey league participants who are so passionate about their sport."

The announcement about Hockey Day brings some positive news to Stephenville, which has experienced some tough times in recent months.

In late September, the town declared a state of emergency when heavy rains caused two rivers to spill over their banks, forcing hundreds of residents from their homes. A total of 151 millimetres of rain fell over two days.

More than 150 families were left homeless by the Sept. 28 floods. Insurance companies are not covering claims and the provincial emergency measures organization has limits on the financial aid it can provide.

This summer, the Abitibi-Consolidated paper mill, which employs 300 people shocked its Stephenville workforce when it announced it would close the mill in the fall.

On Oct. 26, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced it was offering to spend at least $10 million per year – for as many as 15 years – to keep the paper mill running.

Premier Danny Williams announced a framework of an agreement with the papermaking giant just hours after Abitibi-Consolidated announced it would idle, and not permanently close, the Stephenville mill.

Previous host locations for Hockey Day in Canada include Shaunavon, Sask. (2004); Iqaluit, Nunavut (2003); Windsor, N.S. (2002); Red Deer, Alta. (2001); and Toronto (2000).