The national spotlight will light up Victoria in deepest winter next year.
Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada 2024 on Jan. 20 was confirmed for the capital when Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean made the official announcement from Las Vegas during Monday’s broadcast on Sportsnet of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.
The Victoria Hockey Legacy Society, the local organizing committee chaired by John Wilson, followed up with a news conference Tuesday at Ship Point with details of the annual, day-long Sportsnet-televised festival of hockey, which will be wrapped around broadcasts of all seven NHL teams in action that day and also a Victoria Royals versus Kamloops Blazers WHL junior game.
The Stanley Cup will be rowed across the Inner Harbour by members of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations. Victoria hockey society organizers quipped they will try to get Geoff Courtnall some help in carrying the Cup around Victoria after the nations hand it over. By tradition, only players who have won the Stanley Cup, such as Geoff Courtnall, are allowed to touch it. Brother Russ Courtnall, who also played more than 1,000 games in the NHL, is not allowed to lay a hand on it. Stanley Cup-champions Andrew Ference, who lives in Victoria, and Lanny McDonald will help lug the coveted Cup around the region for the event.
“Kids in this country grow up dreaming about playing in the NHL and playing for the Stanley Cup,” said Geoff Courtnall.
The day will be important for the family with the Courtnall Society For Mental Health named the official charity for the event. Dad Archie Courtnall committed suicide when the brothers were young. The Archie Courtnall Centre at Royal Jubilee Hospital was established as an emergency facility designed to provide psychiatric assessment, stabilization, and short-term crisis intervention.
“It’s helped a lot of people and made a difference in the community,” said Geoff Courtnall, who was on hand for the local announcement with brother Bruce Courtnall.
MacLean will host the Hockey Day in Canada broadcast from the Inner Harbour and said it brought back memories of doing the same as co-host with Brian Williams for CBC’s coverage of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games.
“These are the connections we will make and the stories we will tell,” MacLean said in a video statement from Las Vegas that was played during the media conference.
Among the topics to be featured will be the legendary Patrick family dynasty and the 1925 Stanley Cup-champion Victoria Cougars.
Since outdoor skating in the capital is a rare occurrence, a feature of the festivities will be the $100,000, 24x12-metre synthetic skating rink with boards that will be brought to Ship Point and will host youth hockey games during the week. The rink will remain with the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society, which envisions use such as on future Canada Days. The synthetic skating surface has an expected lifespan of 30 years, 15 years on one side and another 15 on the flipside.
“This rink is not a one-time asset. It is an investment,” said the event’s operations manager, Clint Flood of Victoria, who has worked in operations on three Olympics and six Commonwealth Games.
“A lot of NHL players use this surface to train on.”
Joel Darling, executive producer of special events for the NHL, was on hand Tuesday and said Victoria’s mild-by-Canadian-standards winter will make next year’s Hockey Day in Canada distinctive: “It will be unique in the country.”
The Victoria Hockey Legacy Society said hanging flower baskets will encircle Ship Point to really rub it in to the rest of the country.
The budget to host the event is $850,000, says the society. The province and Destination Greater Victoria are contributing $100,000 each. The City of Victoria is giving $100,000 in cash and another $100,000 in in-kind services such as bleachers and stages for the concerts that are planned as part of the festivities. The rest will come from corporate sponsorships.
“This is sports as a vehicle to bring people together,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto, noting the council vote was unanimous.
“The City is thrilled to be part of this. It is going to be spectacular.”
Also at the announcement with Alto was Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sports.
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