The eyes of the nation will be focused on the Cowichan Valley this weekend.
Rogers Hometown Hockey is coming to the Valley, bringing a two-day festival that culminates with a national broadcast on Sunday afternoon, centered around the Vancouver Canucks’ game against the Winnipeg Jets.
With it comes a huge opportunity for the Valley to highlight what makes it great, as well as a lot of fun for residents.
“Having the Cowichan Valley named as a stop on the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour is an incredible honour,” said Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “And we are thrilled to share our stories with the nation.”
Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce President Julie Scurr agrees.
“It’s great for the Valley, great for businesses, great for the residents,” she said.
Scurr watched the Hometown Hockey broadcast from Kamloops last Sunday, and can’t wait to see what Rogers can do to show off the Cowichan Valley to potential visitors or people thinking about moving to the area.
“It shows you the attractions and interesting things in the area,” she said. “It reinforces that positive message.”
The national broadcast is hosted by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone, both of whom are excited to be coming to the Valley.
“They’ve been touched by the personal touches our community has put forward,” North Cowichan Parks and Recreation director Ernie Mansueti said.
MacLean is flying to Vancouver Island from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where Hockey Day in Canada is being headquartered this Saturday. He will be picked up at the airport by Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest — just one of the “personal touches” he has told organizers he is looking forward to.
Slone has already visited to film a segment with Chemainus product and former longtime NHL defenceman Doug Bodger, which will air as part of Sunday’s production.
“Every week on the show, we do a segment called ‘My Hometown Must,’ where I experience something in the community; an activity that’s not necessarily hockey-related, but that gives the viewer a good sense of what the area or town is known for,” she related to Arbutus magazine. “We wanted to capture the beauty of the Cowichan Valley and kayaking seemed like a natural fit. We invited Doug to come along and after our tour we headed out to the Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus to hear a little bit about Doug’s experience growing up and playing hockey in the area. I can’t wait to get back.”
Slone has taken a personal interest in the Cowichan Valley, as she has with many of the communities she has visited with Hometown Hockey.
“She’s proud of her role and what she’s been able to do in communities like ours,” Mansueti related.
Slone will be on hand for several events throughout the weekend, including dropping the puck at the start of Saturday’s Cowichan Valley Capitals junior hockey game (7 p.m. at the Island Savings Centre), after which she will head to a pub night fundraiser for Kidsport Cowichan at the Craig Street Brew Pub featuring music by Lance Lapointe and Tal Bachman.
Slone and MacLean aren’t the only members of the Rogers crew who are looking forward to their weekend in the Valley. A team of crew members is entered in the annual Old Timers ALS benefit tournament on Friday evening, and Rogers has made “a sizable donation” to the tournament as well.
The broadcast on Sunday will include music from Canadian legends 54•40, who will also perform a full concert prior to the game. Cowichan Valley products who went on to the NHL like Greg Adams and Robin Bawa will also be part of the broadcast, and current minor hockey stars Brooklyn Paisley of the Vancouver Island Seals and Rhys Mazurenko of the midget Cowichan Valley Capitals will announce the game’s three stars on air.
The two-day festival in the Island Savings Centre parking lot will also feature appearances by Brendan Morrison, who centered the Canucks’ legendary West Coast Express line with Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, and ball hockey tournaments featuring teams from local schools as well as Cowichan Valley atom and Timbits teams, among many, many other events.
Lake Cowichan is also getting on board with Paint the Town Red, which coincides with the town’s annual minor hockey jamboree, which will be attended by former pros Brian Lundberg and Steve Lingren.
Because of the many benefits to the community, the Cowichan Valley “really went after” the opportunity to host Hometown Hockey, Mansueti said.
“Free family events like this don’t come around very often,” he said. “It’s really a big deal.”
An entire team has come together to make it happen, Mansueti added, and they’ve already impressed the Hometown Hockey staff, who may not have known quite what to expect when they committed to the Valley.
“What we’ve proved is that smaller communities can do personal things that mean a lot to the crew and the staff,” he said.
Like Lefebure and Scurr, Mansueti is excited to see the Cowichan Valley featured on the national broadcast.
“It highlights our community,” he said. “Not only hockey, but all the good things we have.”