Lawrencetown for Hockeyville 2010

All photos taken from the "Lawrencetown for Hockeyville 2010" Facebook group

In the heart of the Annapolis Valley there is a tiny town with a population of about 660 (when the community college students are in school).  There is an elementary school, a church, a post office and a pharmacy, the Exhibition grounds, the College of Geographic Sciences, the Agriculture Office 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 go up along 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 secondhand fixer-upper that, again, was restored by volunteers.

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 5-cent piece of bubblegum that had a comic strip inside the wrapper and listen to Laurie’s jokes.

What’s the one food that you throw away the outside, eat the middle and then throw away the inside?

An ear of corn.

I remember learning to skate in that rink when I was five years old.  I remember taking my first strides and slowly growing into glides and jumps and twirls.  I remember my Dad and Tim Webster 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 one year for our ice show and proceeding to crawl the rest of the way to the blue dot in the middle.  I remember the bumps, the cold, the frustration and the thrill as the song you’ve been listening to for weeks and weeks in preparation for your routine propels you across the ice in your final show.  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 by Kraft and CBC, Kraft Hockeyville scours the country each year for the top communities they think best represent hockey.  This year, there will be a top 12 named (tonight on CBC at 9pm!) and then voting from across the country begins.  The top five rinks who don’t quite have what it takes will be awarded with $25,000 dedicated to rink improvements and a visit to the area from Hockey Night in Canada.  The winner of Kraft Hockeyville 2010 will receive $100,000 for facility upgrades, a NHL pre-season game hosted in the area and a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast from the area.

When I went home for Spring Break a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked by the number of signs and the general outpouring of support, not just from the people of Lawrencetown, but from the surrounding areas, as well.  “Lawrencetown Welcomes CBC Kraft Hockeyville” and “We Support Lawrencetown in Their Bid for Hockeyville 2010” jumped out at me from the high schools, the elementary schools, the garages and even house windows.  It was clear that a far-off dream of $100,000 had become a very likely reality for Lawrencetown.

More than that, though, this little community that has nearly been erased from the map has found something to fight for, something to give it hope and a sense of pride.

Lawrencetown is my hometown, no matter where I may roam, and part of my roots are in that old rink.  I’m not home tonight to join the crowd that will fill the Volunteer Fire Hall, but you can bet I’ll be voting for them as many times as I’m allowed.

It would mean a lot to all of us if you would, too.

Published in: on March 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for your awesome page!
    Lawrencetown needs all the votes we can get! 🙂

  2. What a great page! Thank you for your efforts. Keep voting, everyone! We can make this happen!

  3. Ashley,
    Thank you for such a wonderful, personal, heartful story. It gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

  4. A wonderful piece – it made me smile. The excitement is infectious – that’s for sure!

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