Preparations are underway, weather permitting, to create an outdoor rink for the upcoming Rogers Hometown Hockey event taking place in Williams Lake in January. Tara Sprickerhoff photo

Puck stops here for Rogers Hometown Tour

Williams Lake is pulling together to celebrate the Rogers Hometown hockey festival

The community is rallying in full force to host the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour when it stops in Williams Lake in January 2018.

“What stands out for me is how involved every non-profit group and organization is and how it has connected Williams Lake together to bring this event to town,” City Coun. Laurie Walters said Thursday. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Under the leadership of Deb Radolla, the city’s former manager of active living who was hired to co-ordinate the project, everyone has been working very hard, Walters said.

“When we first got together and were asking questions, everyone had answers and knew who could help with what.”

The years of history and experience of people on the committee is a real asset, Walters added.

“It’s so impressive. It is great.”

The Rogers tour will start arriving in the lakecity on Jan. 1 to prepare for the main event which is slated to begin on Thursday, Jan. 4 and run through until Sunday, Jan. 7.

On Sunday afternoon of the festival, there will be an outdoor viewing party of the live broadcast of the NHL Vancouver versus Montreal game, beginning at 4 p.m. local time on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW with hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone.

Saturday, Jan. 6 the Stampeders will play an exhibition game against the Kelowna Rockets at 8:30 p.m., where Hometown Hank and Slone will do the official puck drop to start the game.

There will be a second exhibition game on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 1:30 p.m.

During the festival, the Stampeders will also showcase Stampeders hockey history in a booth on Oliver Street and the Williams Lake Hockey History Mural created by local artist Dwayne Davies will be on display.

Joining in the fun, the Williams Lake Stampede Association will bring its historic open wagon to the festival site and will be on hand to talk about the Stampede’s history.

A family event is scheduled for the morning of Friday, Jan. 5 in the Gibraltar Room, the Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a colouring contest and Paradise Cinemas is planning an afternoon matinee, with details to be announced at a later date.

Walters said the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association is very involved and will host ball hockey games, a barbecue, all-stars program, and a parade that will include WLMHA teams as well as the Williams Lake Figure Skating Club and other complex sports.

Keeping with the them of “Painting the Town Red,” the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Improvement Association are encouraging everyone to participate.

The chamber is running a seven-week hockey trivia contest and said to watch for drop boxes placed at theA Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, City Hall and the Tourism Discovery Centre.

The Williams Lake Indian Band is working on the opening ceremony for the event on Saturday, Jan. 6 at noon, while the Tsilhqot’in National Government, Denisiqi, the Boys and Girls Club and Changing Directions will have booths set up on the main street. As a member of the committee Walters has represented city council and been responsible for keeping everyone informed as the planning unfolds.

Praising the folks at Rogers Hometown Hockey, Walters said “they are a well-oiled machine.”

“They’ve got it down pat,” she explained. “There are restrictions and they want to know exactly what we are going to do and in turn are letting us know what they are doing when they bring the tour to town.”

She likened the event to planning for a BC Winter Games .

City workers are also very involved, she explained.

“It’s a big undertaking to plan this out. Things from shutting down a few streets to the site preparation takes organizing. There is so much involved.”

Rogers Hometown Hockey began the tour Sunday, Oct. 8 in Niagra Falls.

Williams Lake learned at the beginning of September it had been selected as one of the places to host the tour.

Transit buses will be running the whole weekend to ensure everyone can attend.

Anyone wanting to volunteer is encouraged to contact Radolla at City Hall for more information at 250-392-2311.

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