The Prince George Spruce Kings could face off against the Merritt Centennials at an exhibition game in Burns Lake later this year. A Spruce Kings defenceman is pictured here in pursuit of the puck. (Lakes District News file photo)

Hockey supporters want ice in August

BCHL teams would host youth workshops

Local organizers have asked Burns Lake village council to open the hockey rink early this year for an exhibition game between the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Merritt Centennials, both of whom would also hold a two-day series of hockey camps for kids.

Murphy Abraham and Chantal Tom told council recently that opening the ice by the end of August — instead of late September — could revive youth hockey in Burns Lake and encourage healthier lifestyles.

The $10,000 budgeted for travel and accommodations for the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) teams would be covered by the organizations backing the event, said Tom, general manager of the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation.

But the opportunity would hinge on having ice by August 30, something which normally doesn’t happen until the third week of September, said Sheryl Worthing, chief administrative officer for the village. 

Abraham, who is recreation coordinator for Lake Babine Nation, said that money raised at the exhibition match would go towards helping disadvantaged kids pay for skates and other hockey-related expenses.

He added that the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council has expressed a willingness to bring in additional hockey camps in September.

But beyond the exhibition game and workshops, the earlier ice time would help build a more vibrant hockey culture and encourage kids to stay healthy, said Abraham. “That will prevent them from falling into drugs and alcohol,” he said. He added that it would help fight obesity and bring the community together.

Burns Lake sets its ice later than other municipalities, making local hockey players less competitive and stymying the development of the sport here, the promoters said.

“It puts us way behind other small local associations,” Tom told council. “We have lost a lot of kids in minor hockey. By promoting this game, we can get that fire back.”

There was general support for the idea, and Mayor Chris Beach indicated that council would make a decision following a report by staff on costs and feasibility.

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