Palpable cheer, despite the blackened debris in the background, was evident among those gathered in the parking lot of the burned down Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre on Saturday morning.
And while many came dressed in their favourite hockey jerseys representing teams from across P.E.I., there was no division among the crowd.
“You can see all the support from the youth, surrounding communities, and I was in Charlottetown for a hockey tournament when the players decided to take the bus to Tyne Valley,” said Jarod Colwill, president of Tyne Valley Minor Hockey Association, who came on one of the four buses to rack up rally points.
“This event is fantastic because we have a great base of volunteers, a booming youth population and our minor hockey is full – even our ice time. We are scratching the surface for available space, so this fire was devastating."
It took 24-hours for Tyne Valley minor hockey players to find a new facility to play in after the fire destroyed the sports centre on Sunday, Dec. 29.
“We were able to place all 12 of our teams into full rinks in the middle of the hockey season. It took a lot of creativity from both ends, and I can’t thank people enough. We have teams in Alberton, O’Leary, Evangeline, Slemon Park and Summerside. Tignish has also been a huge help,” he said.
Even Kelly Tucker, Tatamagouche Minor Hockey Association president, reached out from Nova Scotia offering support.
“It’s been incredible. I know the community of Tyne Valley would show the same support for other rinks across P.E.I. and farther, so it’s just fantastic for this to come back our way. And I want to thank all the surrounding associations that have helped place our kids.”
Manager of the Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre, Adam MacLennan, said while the province may be the smallest in Canada, when it comes to disasters, Islanders band together as “an army” of support.
“We can’t thank everyone enough. Today you would have seen jerseys from Montague, all over down east, the central part of the Island, and there’s a lot of people down here from western P.E.I., including Tyne Valley,” said MacLennan.
“When we started organizing this rally last Sunday, we had no idea this would snowball into this size. It was Friday afternoon when we said, ‘Wow, this could be big’. The support has been unbelievable as we move to our next phase for our Kraft Hockeyville bid.”
The rally that attracted more than 1,000 people, will help raise awareness of its situation for Hockeyville.
“This round right now is all about nominations, so we need everyone to go online and nominate Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre to become Kraft Hockeyville. The more nominations, retweeting, likes and shares on social media, plus pictures, will mean, hopefully moving, into the top four of the contest.”
MacLennan said it was important for the Tyne Valley community to get into the top four.
"We feel we have done a good job so far, and if we do happen to win the grand prize of $250,000, it won’t cover all the costs for the new centre, but it’s a heck of a start.”
Nominations end Sunday, Feb. 9. The top four sport’s centres will be announced in March.
“We can’t thank everyone enough, minor hockey P.E.I. for arranging the four busses, and other organizations, and the Tyne Valley Fire Department. We appreciate all the support, but we still have to keep going,” said MacLennan.
To learn more and nominate Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre, visit krafthockeyville.ca.