It was lights, camera, action in Fort Smith and Yellowknife as speciality sports channel TSN toured the North in the wake of Fort Smith’s triumph as a finalist in the TSN Kraft Celebration Tour two weeks ago.
After beating out Whitehorse in an online voting matchup, Fort Smith won $25,000 from the tour and will host a live Sportscentre broadcast on Aug. 16. The money will go towards purchasing of one of two portable change rooms and washrooms to support figure skaters and hockey players after a fire damaged Fort Smith’s Centennial Arena in May.
TSN, in the Northwest Territories for the first time, wants to take a deeper look into the community for the broadcast as well.
“Producers go in ahead of time and look for a sports related story that we can feature as part of the show in August,” Matt Cade, an associate producer with TSN, said. “We had a research team that did some digging around and found someone heavily involved in sports to profile.”
That someone is Maurice Evans of Fort Smith, a longtime supporter, volunteer, coach, manager and wearer of many other hats for minor hockey in the community.
“It became clear pretty quickly that he was an important part of winter sports in Fort Smith and even in other communities across the NWT,” Cade said. “In particular he is so dedicated to working through the challenges of putting together a full minor hockey team in the North and making sure those kids get to compete in tournaments.”
The TSN crew caught up with Evans in Yellowknife for an interview where they discussed the difference between hockey in the North versus the south.
“Our numbers have dwindled over the years, especially for the bantam league so we often don’t have enough players here in Smith to fill out the team,” Evans said.
That means you have to get creative and network, he said.
Last year, Evans gathered players from Lutsel K’e, Fort Providence and even Inuvik to help flesh out the roster.
“It’s about keeping it going and making sure these kids get to play in tournaments, even if that means driving 700 km, caught behind a transport truck…It’s very rewarding,” Evans said.
For the larger TSN audience, it’s an interesting feat, Cade said.
“For those of us that don’t face these challenges, it’s neat. You gather kids from all these communities – and they’re not close communities by any means – to play the game. It’s great,” Cade told The Journal when he was in Fort Smith interviewing others who know Evans.
“The clip we’ll show in the broadcast is about Maurice but it’s also about sports in the North and obstacles as it works a bit differently here than in other communities in the country,” Cade continued.
Ice surface may be useable at arena
Meanwhile, demolition work to remove the fire damaged areas at the arena has begun.
Fort Smith town council hopes to have enough repair work done to use the ice pad for the 2013-2014 season.
“It’s looking like we’ll be able to use the ice surface there more and more but just the ice surface – not the rest of the arena,” Fort Smith’s senior administrative officer Jim Hood said, noting the washrooms, change rooms and even stands would not be useable. “It’s not 100 per cent yet, however.”
At this point, according to Hood, the town may not need to build a temporary exterior ice surface.
“We haven’t completely ruled out an outside rink yet. That option is still being left open for the time being but we’re mainly focusing all our efforts into being able to use the surface in the current arena as a solution,” he said.
They have been working closely with the fire marshal’s office to meet all requirements and building codes. Testing of the electrical system was also underway last week.
“This will help us determine how much additional work we’re going to need to do to make it useable,” Hood said. “It’s looking fairly positive – a lot better now than earlier.”
Hood said council hopes to have a final quote from the insurance company by the end of August, when they will make a final decision about whether to go with an exterior rink or use the ice pad at the arena.