A Nova Scotia town makes the Top 5 in CBC Kraft Hockeyville
In the heart of the Annapolis Valley there is a tiny town with a population of about 690 people. There is an elementary school, a church, a post office and a pharmacy, the exhibition grounds and the infamous Lawrencetown restaurant.
A few other privately owned businesses are scattered along Main Street, but that sums up the hub of the downtown.
There is also an old, grey barn with a proud, peeling sign that proclaims “Lawrencetown Exhibition Youth Arena.”
Time hasn’t treated Lawrencetown well.
The population continues to dwindle, the high school closed in 1993 and businesses struggle to survive. But the rink stands firm and, thanks to the volunteers who keep the tiny town running, it opens every year.
The rink was built in the 1970’s by a group of those volunteers. The ice plant was secondhand then, and is still there today. The ice surface is made with a series of pipes and layers of sand. It’s not a regulation size surface, and the old wooden boards bear the black marks of slapshots through the ages.
Giant poles line the edges of the rink, which makes finding a good seat on the old bleachers an art form. The tractor-pulled Zamboni was a hallmark until recently, when it was replaced by the rink’s first real Zamboni, a fixer-upper found in the woods that, again, was restored by volunteers and driven proudly down Main Street to its new home.
Laurie and Wilma Illsley have been in the office waiting to greet patrons since before many can remember.
Often, on cold winter nights while waiting for my parents to pick me up after figure skating, I would chaw on a five-cent piece of bubblegum and listen to Laurie’s jokes.
For which food do you throw away the outside, eat the middle, and then throw away the inside?
An ear of corn.
I remember learning to skate on that rink. I remember taking my first strides and slowly growing into glides and jumps and twirls. I remember my dad taking over the coaching of the shinny hockey teams and continuing the growth of the program. I remember teaching my first class and I remember my last routine to a Beatles’ song. I remember falling on my face as I skated to centre ice for our ice show and proceeding to crawl the rest of the way to the blue dot in the middle.
No, I was never a superstar. But on that little ice surface in front of a town of family and friends, it sure was easy to pretend.
Now, the old rink is becoming more than those dedicated volunteers can handle without some financial help. It would be a shame to see another important part of Lawrencetown fold and close the door on so many memories created by nearly everyone in the community.
And this is where Kraft Hockeyville comes into the picture.
Presented in part by the CBC, Hockeyville scours the country each year for the top communities they think best represent hockey. On Saturday, March 27, Lawrencetown was named as one of the Top 5 communities in the country, guaranteeing at least $25,000 in upgrades for the rink.
Voting will now continue until 11:59 p.m. on March 31 to determine the winning community.
The winner will get $100,000 to put towards arena maintenance, an NHL pre-season game hosted in the area, and a broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada from the town.
When I was home for spring break, I was shocked by the number of signs and the outpouring of support, not just from the people of Lawrencetown, but from the surrounding areas, as well.
It was clear that a far-off dream of $100,000 had become a near reality for the smallest community in the race. More than that, though, this little village that has nearly been erased from the map has found something to fight for, something to give it hope and a sense of pride.
Anybody coming from a small town knows how important that is.
Lawrencetown is my home, no matter where I may roam, and part of my roots are in that old rink. I won’t be home on March 31 when a crowd fills the volunteer fire hall to hear the final results, but you can bet I’ll be voting for them as many times as I’m allowed to between now and then.
It would mean a lot to all of us if you would, too.
Voting information can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/hockeyville/about/en/.