Burns Lake village council has thrown its support behind earlier-than-usual ice for a proposed exhibition game between the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Merritt Centennials.
The B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) players would also hold two days of workshops for young hockey players if the plans go ahead.
The decision means that arena staff at the Lakeside Multiplex will install the ice in August. It also means increased spending, with the village committing an additional $2,400 for hydro costs.
Village council gave the project its thumbs-up at its April 10 meeting.
The earlier ice time is great news for Burns Lake, said Murphy Abraham, recreation coordinator for Lake Babine Nation.
“It’s an awesome opportunity that they just opened up for the community,” said Abraham, one of the organizers who proposed the idea to council last month, along with Chantal Tom, general manager of the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation (BLNDC).
“It’s something that will bring in revenue and something that will inspire the kids,” he said, adding that he hopes it will help promote a healthier lifestyle among the youth.
“There’s a lot of kids in our community that are inactive,” said Abraham, who runs after-school sports programs and cultural activities for youth from Lake Babine Nation. Abraham hopes the early ice will breath new life into the Burns Lake Minor Hockey Association (BLMHA) and that it will help bring people together in the community.
During a presentation to council last month, Abraham and Tom said that money raised through ticket sales for the exhibition game would go towards hockey-related expenses for disadvantaged youth, and that BCHL players would hold a two-day series of workshops.
The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council — a group dedicated to improving the health and well-being of indigenous people through physical activity — has also expressed interest in holding additional workshops in September, Abraham said.
The events still have to be confirmed, and the organizations backing the event — Lake Babine Nation and the BLNDC — are seeking financial support from local businesses to help cover accommodation and travel expenses for the BCHL teams.
At the April 10 council meeting, village staff presented a report stating that $2,200 in weekly wages for arena attendants is already covered in the budget, but that $800 per week in additional funding would be required for hydro costs.
The report also states that the BLMHA is interested in starting the hockey season in early September. “This will be an excellent opportunity to promote hockey in the community,” the report states.
But summer weather could be a wild card for the early installation of the ice. The report notes that while it usually takes three weeks, arena staff say “there is a risk that if the weather is very hot, timelines may be tight” to meet the proposed early schedule.