North Saanich’s Kraft Hockeyville game headed to The Q Centre

From North Saanich to Colwood, Kraft Hockeyville is proving a moveable feast across the region.

The nationally televised NHL pre-season game featuring the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks will be played Sept. 21 in The Q Centre at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

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The Panorama Recreation Centre in North Saanich is the facility which had won the rights to the game in nationwide voting this spring, and the $100,000 in arena improvements that goes with it. However, there was no guarantee the game would be played at Panorama.

Tickets to the NHL exhibition game are free. Distribution will be through a lottery process, with details to be released in the coming weeks. All fans will be able to fill out ticket lottery ballots, as will different groups that have been integral in making this event happen. Organizers say to keep checking the Panorama Recreation website (crd.bc.ca/panorama) and Panorama Recreation Facebook page for updates about the lottery process.

“We wanted to get the most people possible exposed to the game, so it was not quite as simple as saying Panorama won the national voting,” said Jason Fletcher, the Peninsula Minor Hockey Association coach and parent, who spearheaded the Panorama bid.

“There are certain realities with the Panorama Rec Centre, mainly that we could probably only get about 500 people in there to watch the game. That was the big driver [to look for somewhere else in the region].”

Fletcher said about 2,400 fans can watch the game in The Q Centre, the home of the Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League. That, however, begs the question: Why was the game not put into the 7,006-seat Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, the home of the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League?

“That is certainly the question du jour,” said Fletcher.

“It were myriad of different things. Nothing specific. It was a decision made by Kraft and the NHL. They felt The Q Centre best met their needs.”

Officials from the NHL, NHL Players’ Association and Kraft Hockeyville toured four rinks — Panorama, The Q Centre, the adjacent Juan de Fuca Arena, and Memorial Centre on Blanshard Street — in April.

The Kraft Hockeyville vibe is about celebrating the culture of hockey in all its different settings and manifestations across the country, so utilizing the largest rink on the Island was clearly not a motivating factor for organizers.

It is as much a festival of hockey than merely an NHL exhibition game, explained Fletcher. The day will feature two nodes — The Q Centre and Panorama.

The various activities around The Q Centre will include an outdoor viewing party with the game shown on a big screen outside the rink.

“Last year at Sylvan Lake [in Alberta], 4,000 people came out to the Kraft Hockeyville viewing party and associated activities outside the rink,” added Fletcher.

The Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in overtime in last year’s game.

This year’s Canucks’ and Sharks’ morning pre-game skates will be open to the public. Tickets for those will also be free and by lottery.

It won’t be forgotten that North Saanich is the community that got this all started. The Stanley Cup will be on display at Panorama among the various Hockeyville activities at Panorama that day.

Panorama out-balloted Chatham-Kent, Ont., 1.1 million votes to 670,000 in the final round of 2015 Kraft Hockeyville voting, with the result announced on Hockey Night in Canada from New York by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Both finalists — Panorama and the Chatham Memorial Arena — won $100,000 in arena upgrades, which Fletcher said will go toward improving meeting rooms and adding storage and locker space.

But the one thing Chatham didn’t get was the NHL pre-season game. That went to Panorama. Sorry, make that Colwood.

It’s all good, said Fletcher.

“We’re comfortable with the decision.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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