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'West Elgin Arena only holds 377 people': Kraft Hockeyville pre-season NHL game most likely to be played in St. Thomas, Ont.


The small community West Lorne, Ont. is officially Kraft Hockeyville.

“The roar that came through the building was unbelievable,” says Kevin Summers, president of West Lorne Minor Hockey Association.

On Saturday, April 1, 2023 – the birthday of late mayor Duncan McPhail — they won the nation-wide contest in partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL).

Representatives from the NHL and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) arrived in the Municipality of West Elgin Monday to start site planning and determining the next steps in the process.

“Obviously, the NHL preseason game is something that is top of mind,” says Jessica Small, co-organizer of West Lorne’s campaign.

“Then planning what a big community celebration is going to look like.”

West Elgin Arena (180’x80’) is not NHL size (200’x85’) and only has capacity of 377 total fans.

West Elgin Arena only holds 377 people, and the ice surface isn’t NHL size, so hosting an preseason game in that venue is impossible (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London).

While it is up to the NHL to make the final call, they will not host the exhibition game.

“They are going to go through all the options in the area, then figure out what arena is most appropriate,” says Small.

Those venues include Western Fair Sports Centre (WFSC) in London, Ont. and the Joe Thornton Community Centre (JTCC) in St. Thomas, Ont.

WFSC seats 1,500 fans, while the JTCC can seat 2,200 with an additional 300 standing room. The JTCC is also the only suitable venue in Elgin County so CTV News has learned that is the preferred site.

“We’d have a lot of upset and sad people if we hosted in West Lorne with 377 people,” says Small.

In addition to preseason game, they received $250,000 in arena upgrades, $10,000 worth of youth hockey equipment from the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund.

The Municipality of West Elgin has stepped up to add an additional $150,000.

“We felt like we wanted to continue to contribute and help move this project forward,” says West Elgin Coun. Bill Denning.

“We decided to contribute a little extra. It’s been so exciting, no just the money but the camaraderie that has been created throughout these last few weeks,” Denning says.

That money will go to good use in the 55-year old West Elgin Arena.

“We’ve got a huge growing centre with cross-ice hockey,” says Summers.

“Dressing Rooms is our biggest challenge, so if we can get the kids a little bit more room, that will be our biggest focus. Beyond that, we have some ice quality issues and rearranging the front doors to get an initial blast of warm air away off the ice surface would be ideal”.

A sign out front of West Elgin Arena congratulates the community on the Kraft Hockeyville victory, and includes a hashtag in honour of late mayor Duncan McPhail (Joel Merritt/CTV News London)

When Lucan, Ont. when they won the contest in 2018, they spent their winnings to upgrade the boards and glass, scoreboards and sound system to NHL standards in order to host the exhibition game.

“We also did fundraising, received a municipal contribution and got a $5.5 million grant from the federal government,” says, Cathy Burghardt-Jesson, mayor of Lucan.

“A month from now we’ll be unveiling our renovated and revitalized addition and dressing rooms.”

Lucan would have loved if Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks could have been picked to play the preseason game as Couture grew up playing minor hockey there.

The NHL chose Toronto and Ottawa.

This time, organizers and the entire community are hoping the New York Islanders are the team as Bo Horvat played his minor hockey in West Lorne.

If the game is played in St. Thomas, Horvat’s Islanders and Couture’s Sharks would be a fitting matchup as both played for the St. Thomas Jr. B stars.

“You are not the first person to say that would be perfect,” says Small, who adds the ticket requests are already coming in.

“People keep wanting dibs for tickets, and are asking when they’ll become available. I don’t know how that’s going to work, but we’ll keep everyone updated on our Facebook page as we go through this journey.” Top Stories

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