Kinistino to play host to Hockey Day in Saskatchewan starting Tuesday

Photo from the Hockey Day in Saskatchewan Facebook page. Members of the Prince Albert Mintos and Prince Albert Northern Bears pose with youth hockey players from Kinisto and Hockey Day in Saskatchewan organizers during the announcement event on Oct. 7. Hockey Day in Saskatchewan will be held on Saturday, Jan. 20, but events run all week starting on Tuesday.

The hockey spotlight will shine on Kinistino starting on Tuesday.

Over the course of five days, the town will play host to several events and hockey of all different levels including U18 AAA Male and Female games and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Kris Babbings, who is a member of the host committee for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan, says the event will be a celebration of the sport of hockey and for the town.

“It’s a fantastic thing for our community and more importantly for our sports complex. Ours, like a lot of small-town arenas, it is in need of work. This gives us an opportunity to raise some much needed funds for our sports complex at the same time bringing the community together and celebrating, not just hockey, but the community of Kinistino, our history and the great people that we have here.”

Last year, Martensville played host to the event where they raised $72,511 to put towards arena improvements. Babbings says the rink in Kinistino needs work in several areas and funds will be used to keep the facility open and active.

“They did raise over $70,000. Our goal is $100,000 is what we would like to raise over the weekend. Our ice plant needs significant repairs. The arena in general, the roof, there’s a number of things. We’ve just had to put in a new fire suppression system. There’s no shortages of expenses that this will go towards to cover and realistically, there’ll be a number of things that it will be able to fix in the near future.”

Hockey Day in Saskatchewan dates back to 2008 when the town of Unity hosted the event and raised over $20,000 for the town.

Babbings says the province of Saskatchewan is very fortunate to have huge support in hockey from areas both urban and rural and that Hockey Saskatchewan has been doing all they can to support the sport in smaller communities.

“Working with Hockey Saskatchewan who’ve been fantastic, it’s clear that this is a big priority for them. They want to be involved and they want to make sure that hockey (and) its grassroots in Saskatchewan continues to thrive and grow. They understand that the only way that that happens is to do fundraisers like this and support it with their connections and just to ensure that it’s maximized and so that one town every year in Saskatchewan gets a chance to have this.”

Saturday will be the highlight of the event with a unique tripleheader on the schedule. Stryker Zablocki, who recently returned from the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Switzerland and the Regina Rebels will take on the Prince Albert Northern Bears at 1 p.m. The Prince Albert Mintos will host the Battlefords Stars at 4 p.m. before the SJHL will take center stage with a 7:30 matchup between the La Ronge Ice Wolves and Nipawin Hawks.

“It’s a great thing for people of all ages to be honest, to be able to see the level of hockey that we’re going to have here.” Babbings says. “I think there’ll be a number of people that are going to get to go to their first U18 AAA boys or girls’ hockey game and just see the level of talent. For the young kids, they’re going to be able to be able to just come out as well, but they’re going to have a chance to see players and teams that they’ve never seen before. Plus, see some local kids play at the AA and AAA level, which again gives them an idea that anything’s possible and if they just work hard and do the right things, that could be them at some point in time.”

A banquet and cabaret will take place on Friday night featuring guest speaker Jay Onrait, who is most well known for his work on Sportscentre on TSN.

Babbings says he is looking forward to meeting Onrait.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think anybody who’s tuned in to watch Sportscentre knows what type of personality he has. He’s the kind of person that can light up a room. I can only imagine the story that he’s going to be able to tell. The other thing too, he is originally from Alberta. If anybody’s ever seen him here at a Grey Cup here in Saskatchewan, he absolutely loves this place from everything I can tell.”

See Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Herald for a full story on Jay Onrait and what is looking forward to most about coming to Kinistino.

A full schedule can be found at Hockey Day in Saskatchewan will officially kick off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday with an autograph session with the Prince Albert Raiders at the Kinistino Sports Complex lobby.