Work just beginning for O'Leary, P.E.I. after Kraft Hockeyville win

O’Leary, P.E.I., the new Kraft Hockeyville champion, is moving forward with plans to upgrade its arena and other preparations needed to host an NHL pre-season game in September.

Community will get help from event planning agency to host NHL pre-season game

The work is just beginning for O'Leary after being named Kraft Hockeyville champions for 2017. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Now that the votes have been tallied and O'Leary, P.E.I., is crowned the new Kraft Hockeyville champion, the process involved in facilitating arena upgrades and putting on the event get underway this week.

Event experts

Linda Ferrandini, senior marketing manager with Kraft Hockeyville and Kraft Heinz, said the company works with SDI Marketing to make sure the event goes smoothly. 

"They're our event experts," she said  Sunday.

O'Leary and Ituna, Sask. were the remaining two finalists in the competition. When O'Leary was announced as the winner Saturday night on CBC and Sportsnet, its arena packed with community members erupted into cheers.

Ferrandini said SDI representatives have been in contact with O'Leary's Hockeyville Committee since the community was named a finalist. 

She added that representatives from the event agency are scheduled to be on P.E.I. to meet with the community about the process moving forward.

Arena upgrades

SDI is also involved in facilitating the transfer of the $100,000 prize for arena upgrades to management at the O'Leary Community Sports Centre. Arena management is responsible for using the money to make the improvements, she said.

Asked what happens if the community doesn't use the entire $100,000, Ferrandini said that hasn't been an issue before.

"Most, if not all, of the communities have been able to absorb that $100,000 — if not needed more to do a lot of the work that's required," she said.

 "As we know, arena upgrades tend to be very costly. Should that be the case, the prize is the prize and, hopefully, the arena can use it toward upgrades as they go through."

Sept. 25 pre-season NHL game

In terms of hosting the NHL pre-season game Sept. 25 between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils, the community will get lots of help.

SDI, as well as the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association, will be involved in decisions such as determining what resources are available and what is needed. Security and accommodations will have to be worked out. 

But ultimately, Ferrandini noted the event belongs to the community.

"It's for the community to own," she said. "It's their event. We just want to be here to help. So, take a bit of the work off their plate and make it fun along the way if we can."

Della Sweet, O'Leary committee member and former arena manager, said she is proud of the community for supporting the bid and voting. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Della Sweet, a member of the bid committee and former arena manager, is expected to be part of the meeting with the representatives this week.

She previously said the arena needs a lot of repairs and the canteen and washrooms need major renovations. As well, she said the entrance to the arena needs to become more accessible for people with mobility issues. Other work could involve opening up the lobby to make the area more family oriented.

On Sunday, she said she doesn't know what her role will be as the process moves ahead.

A surreal experience 

Even so, Sweet was revelling in the experience on Sunday after a late night of celebrations. She was part of the community's 2006 bid which saw O'Leary reach the top 10 in the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville contest, but fail to win the prize.

Sweet said she is proud of the committee for its work and proud of the community for voting and supporting the bid.

It was a surreal experience to hear O'Leary had won, Sweet said 

"It was like watching a movie," she said. "It felt like I was just watching everybody else — watching their excitement. It overwhelmed me."

But not only was Sweet involved in the celebrations, she was also interviewed on national TV.

"To be on national TV, it never struck me until I watched it later on at night — that I was actually on Sportsnet. It was a pretty neat experience."