Hockeyville win 'overwhelming' for small N.B. town
N.B. community will receive $250,000 in arena upgrades plus an NHL exhibition game
The small New Brunswick community of Renous has been named 2019's Kraft Hockeyville winner.
For Nancy Hallihan-Sturgeon, one of the organizers of the Renous bid, it's an "overwhelming" victory.
Saturday night, 1,200 people from the area got together for a viewing party to watch the results live — that's four times the population of the town.
The Renous Rec Centre was so full the party overflowed into the rink across the parking lot.
Hallihan-Sturgeon said the group had anticipated they would win, but there was always a lingering doubt.
That doubt was erased when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the official announcement during Hockey Night in Canada.
"The whole crowd cheered," said Hallihan-Sturgeon.
"We were prepared to cheer for the winner, whether Renous was [the winner] or not."
Rich Valley, Alta., Saint-Polycarpe, Que., and Wilkie, Sask. joined Renous as the final four in the competition.
Hallihan-Sturgeon said the community won not just because of Renous votes, but because of votes coming in from all over New Brunswick.
"It's like we've brought down invisible barriers within communities and connected the province," said Hallihan-Sturgeon
"I'm getting messages from places like out in B.C., Alberta and all of that."
Renous is the first New Brunswick community to win the yearly competition since its inception in 2006.
It's the third time an Atlantic Canadian community has won.
The prize for Renous is an opportunity to host an NHL exhibition game, as well as $250,000 for upgrades to the Tom Donovan Arena.
But Hallihan-Sturgeon said she hopes the win will do more than help repair the community rink.
She hopes it will inspire rural New Brunswickers to work together and make their communities better.
"We should be there for each other," said Hallihan-Sturgeon.
Memorial of sorts
The victory is bittersweet for the community about 40 kilometres southwest of Miramichi.
The community rallied around the movement after several deaths in the area in 2018. Those included the death of Thomas Dunn, a 14-year-old boy who played hockey in Renous.
Dunn died after his dirt bike collided with a car on the Canada Day long weekend.
Saturday, the day the winner was announced, would have been his 15th birthday.