Hockey Day in Canada

The southern Manitoba city of Winkler has been selected as the host of the 2008 edition of CBC's Hockey Day in Canada, it was announced on Wednesday.

CBC Sports personalities Ron MacLean, Don Cherry, Cassie Campbell and Dick Irvin, along with several former NHL players, will be in Winkler for the daylong festivities, to be broadcast on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. CT.

Mayor Martin Harder told CBCSports.ca it's a great honour for Winkler, a city of nearly 10,000 where ice time is booked solid from August to late spring.

"It is absolutely tremendously exciting, and the reason it's exciting is the fact that hockey is a Winkler highlight," said Harder.

The town celebrated in July when hometown son Dustin Penner, fresh off a championship with the Anaheim Ducks, came back with the Stanley Cup. Penner has since been acquired to play a major role for the Edmonton Oilers.

Former Vezina and Calder Trophy winner Ed Belfour is another prominent NHLer with roots in the town, having played goal in the mid-1980s for the Winkler Flyers.

More recently, the Flyers won three Manitoba Junior Hockey League titles during the 1990s.

The Flyers will take on rival Selkirk Steelers on Feb. 9 at Winkler Arena. Harder said the building frequently draws crowds of more than 1,000 for games with their provincial rivals.

All six Canadian teams will be in action for games broadcast by CBC Sports.

Toronto hosts Detroit in the afternoon to kick off the slate of games, while Colorado is in Vancouver to end the night. In between, television viewers across Canada will see either Montreal at Ottawa or Penner and the Oilers visiting Calgary.

Games will be streamed at CBCSports.ca.

Between games, Hockey Day will focus on stories of how people's lives have been changed by the journey through the game of hockey.

"Winkler is a dynamic, hockey-passionate community and is the ideal backdrop for our eighth annual Hockey Day in Canada broadcast," CBC Sports director of production Joel Darling said.

"It has experienced tremendous growth and progression over the past few years, which fits perfectly with our theme of the journey. We are very excited about visiting this special community and presenting its intriguing stories with the rest of the country."

Winkler, which celebrated its centennial last year, has evolved from a settlement of Mennonites originating in Russia to a recently incorporated city that boasts residents from more than 40 different countries.

The city is located approximately 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg in the Pembina Valley region.

Winkler joins the geographically diverse list of Hockey Day hosts, which has included Nelson, B.C., Stephenville, Nfld., Shaunavon, Sask., Iqualuit, Nunavut, Windsor, N.S., Red Deer, Alta., and Toronto.

Hockey Day in Canada has been recognized with three Gemini Awards since its debut.