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Jamie Munroe understands the value rinks carry in small communities.
Munroe was heading up the 2020 Kraft Hockeyville bid for the Sackville Community Arena in Nova Scotia. After a chance meeting with a Tyne Valley father at a tournament game in Belfast, P.E.I., in January, and learning the West Prince village’s Community Sports Centre was destroyed by fire on Dec. 29, 2019, he withdrew his town's bid.
He then promptly rallied the Nova Scotia community to throw its support behind Tyne Valley’s pursuit of the grand prize of $250,000 for arena upgrades and the opportunity to host a National Hockey League pre-season game.
“It really hit me hard,” Munroe told The Guardian in a phone interview earlier this week. “When we were driving home I was sitting there thinking about Tyne Valley and could not get (it) out of my head.
“Here in Lower Sackville, we have two rinks and they are both operational, but the old arena could definitely use some upgrades. I thought, ‘What if my kids did not have anywhere to play hockey?’
“It tore at my heartstrings.”
Unlimited voting for Kraft Hockeyville opens at krafthockeyville.ca today at 10 a.m., Atlantic Time, and continues until Saturday at 7 p.m. The winner will be announced during Saturday night’s NHL playoff coverage on CBC and Sportsnet. Also in the running for Kraft Hockeyville are the Pense Memorial Rink in Pense, Sask.; the Recreation Centre Marianne St-Gelais in Saint-Félicien, Que., and the George Hawkins Memorial Arena in Twillingate, N.L.
“To people who do not know hockey, they think a rink is just a rink, but it’s not,” said Munroe. “It’s a place where people go to gather and we have had memorial services at our arena.
“It’s not just a place to play hockey or lacrosse. It’s a place for the community to come together, grieve together, celebrate together and all that kind of stuff.”
“It really hit me hard. When we were driving home I was sitting there thinking about Tyne Valley and could not get Tyne Valley out of my head. Here in Lower Sackville, we have two rinks and they are both operational, but the old arena could definitely use some upgrades. I thought, ‘What if my kids did not have anywhere to play hockey?’ It tore at my heartstrings.”
- Jamie Munroe
Munroe personally experienced the full impact a community rink and its people can have when he and his family dealt with the death of his 23-year-old son, Connor Moore. Moore did not play hockey but he played lacrosse at the Sackville Community Arena and Munroe coached him through the program.
“We lost our building during the Christmas break, which was a tragedy for our community, but Jamie lost one of his children a few years ago over the Christmas break,” said Adam MacLennan, a member of the Tyne Valley Hockeyville committee. “It was the hockey community, he said, that helped his family get through that difficult time.
“The moral of his story is the hockey community got them through a difficult time and he wanted to do all he could to convince his community of Sackville, N.S., to get behind our pressing times here and support us in our bid.”
Munroe said he cannot enter the Sackville Community Arena without thinking of the countless times he and Moore walked through the doors for lacrosse.
“I have fond memories of my son in that barn and I have two younger sons now, one of them is 13 and one of them is 10, and they both play Sackville Minor Hockey,” said Munroe.
Sackville did not hesitate to jump on the Tyne Valley bandwagon and has since hosted two rallies. One in January, Munroe noted, attracted between 800 and 1,000 participants, including a number from Tyne Valley, and one on Tuesday drew 44 – they were allowed 50 due to restrictions for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“That's a memory I will never forget, people, cheering for people in a community that they don’t even know,” said MacLennan, reflecting on the January rally. “That’s the power of sport and hockey.”
Rachel Noye, chair of the fundraising committee for the new Tyne Valley Events Centre, said the January rally provided a special opportunity for young minor hockey players and figure skaters from both communities.
“It’s making memories for them, giving them experiences they never would have had,” said Noye. “It’s kind of like rising from the ashes as corny as that may sound.”
Regardless of what happens with the Hockeyville voting, Tyne Valley and Sackville teams will always be welcomed in each other’s communities. That is not to mention a lot of new friendships.
“It was a negative thing with the rink burning down obviously,” said Munroe. “But a lot of positive things have come from it, including a lot of new friendships.”
- Tyne Valley looking for support in Kraft Hockeyville voting this week
- Tyne Valley's Rally for the Valley spreads to Nova Scotia
- Support spreading for Tyne Valley’s Hockeyville entry in wake of devastating fire
- UPDATE/VIDEO: Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre on P.E.I. a 'total loss' following Dec. 29 fire