A highly anticipated hockey game between the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Merritt Centennials in Burns Lake has been postponed until next year.
The event, which was expected to take place at the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena on Aug. 31, 2018, was not held due to the wildfire emergency in the Burns Lake region.
“There were no hotels in town, everyone was booked,” explained Chantal Tom, general manager of the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation (BLNDC), one of the organizers of the event.
According to Tom, the event is now expected to be held in the spring of 2019.
Earlier this year Burns Lake council threw its support behind earlier-than-usual ice for the exhibition game. The hockey arena was turned on approximately three weeks earlier this year, just in time for the scheduled game.
This cost the village $2,400. But Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach says this investment did not go to waste.
“We have had users from Houston, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake using the ice,” he told Lakes District News. “There was also a full week of hockey camp.”
“This has been the busiest start-up month the arena has had in years,” he added. “Very positive results.”
During a presentation to village council earlier this year, organizers told Burns Lake council that opening the arena by the end of August — instead of late September — could not only help revive Burns Lake’s youth hockey, which has seen participation dwindling in the past few years, but also give local kids an extra incentive to stay healthy.
The idea of bringing the exhibition game to Burns Lake began when former Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam had an informal conversation with a Carrier Sekani Family Services employee, Allen Cummins, who had played hockey with the Spruce Kings’ general manager in the past.
“We were throwing ideas of how we could get the Spruce Kings out west,” Adam described. “So before Christmas [of 2017] we had a meeting with the [Spruce Kings’] general manager and head coach.”
The original plan was for the teams to arrive on Thursday, Aug. 30, around noon and have a meet and greet with the community. Following a community luncheon, both teams were going to provide on-ice and off-ice activities for youth, who would’ve also had another opportunity to participate the following day.
The cost of approximately $10,000 to host the event is expected to be covered by the organizations backing the event – Lake Babine Nation and BLNDC – and their sponsors.