This week I was pleased to write a story honouring our volunteers and how so many enthusiastic people of all ages working together can perform community miracles. In the 50 plus years that I was so fortunate to spend in and around Ponoka, we were able to enjoy and take part in countless family events and activities, large or small, that never would have happened without dedicated and strong leadership, the keen support of hundreds of volunteers, and our avid ongoing community spirit of fun and participation.
Gala annual events such as the Ponoka Stampede, County Fair, Trade Show, Ice Carnival, and on and on, have now become an exciting tradition because of so many fine people from town and county who have teamed together to make their dreams come true, while attracting thousands of faithful fans from far and wide to compliment and ensure their ongoing successes. Please be proud of what we have accomplished each and every year to make town and county of Ponoka a great place to live, to work, to play, and to raise a family, as well as being the perfect hosts for so many spectacular events for the pleasure of all age groups. Here are a couple of exciting examples in central Alberta of how a community pulling together can achieve outstanding success.
Sylvan Lake is our 2014 hockey hero
I am sure that so many of us have been following, cheering, and voting for the overwhelming and hearty efforts of the Town of Sylvan Lake to be crowned as the newest champions of the annual Kraft Hockeyville Canadian competition. Going into this weekend Sylvan had reached the top two in the nation along with Kingston, Nova Scotia, with both winning $100,000.00 to go towards the recreation facilities and programs in their very active communities.
The ‘Hockeyville’ spirit has been growing very strong from the opening day of the Kraft cross-Canada competition, with Sylvan Lake and fans from far and near casting their votes for their favourite, as well as hosting a number of family events that have sent the community into a complete fever pitch for a great cause. The whole affair got even hotter this winter when the roof of the town’s longstanding and very busy arena collapsed under the heavy snow, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage and shutting down the popular facility.
*For those who were watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night, April 5th it was announced that Sylvan Lake, Alberta is Kraft Hockeyville Canada 2014, and for receiving the honour will host a National Hockey League exhibition game on September 24th. Congratulations from all of us for an outstanding community effort.
The little town with a big hockey heart
Bentley, Alberta is a vibrant little town of just over 1000 people nestled among the rolling hills just a few miles west of Gull Lake. The town and surrounding districts have always been very well known as keen supporters for countless year-round family activities and events in and around their community, with the exciting sport of hockey right at the top of the winter wish list.
In 1999 the Bentley Generals Senior Hockey Club was formed by a group of five local individuals who had some big dreams but a very small budget. The community would respond immediately to the new team, including a large and dedicated contingent of volunteers, sponsors, and full houses of rambunctious fans every time they played at the small local arena. In their first two seasons, the Generals attracted a motley crew of 12 dedicated players, managing only four and seven win seasons through the 24 game schedules.
With more quality players joining the Generals, the Chinook Hockey League team won their first provincial senior ‘A’ hockey title during the 2001-2002 season, then the following season made the major decision of becoming a Triple AAA club in order to take a run at the coveted Allan Cup. Steadily growing in power and popularity and moving quickly up the league standings, they won five provincial championships along the way, finally qualifying for their first Allan Cup Tournament during the 2006-2007 season. After several trips to the big show, the Generals captured their first Allan Cup at the end of the 2008-2009 season, repeated again as the hosts in Red Deer in 2012-2013, and will be making the trip again this month to Dundas, Ontario after defeating Powell River three straight in the B.C./Alberta McKenzie Cup.
Many Ponoka and district fans are staunch followers of the talented Generals, enjoying the thrilling hard-hitting hockey action, and pleased to see that former Minor Hockey product Kyle Bailey is a member of the Bentley team. By the way, our Ponoka Stampeder Senior team played several seasons during the 1990’s in the Chinook Hockey League, which is the longest running senior hockey league in Alberta and the second oldest in Canada. Several generations of avid fans of all ages have followed the colorful Bentley team, and will be pulling for them to bring another Allan Cup home again this time around. Please proudly carry on your great community spirit, and have a great week, all of you.