Kraft Hockeyville has left its mark in Tatamagouche.

The North Shore community was one of 10 finalists from across the country in the running to be named Hockeyville. In the end, Lumby, British Columbia was the overall winner securing $100,000 in arena upgrades and a NHL pre-season game.

But Tatamagouche didn’t walk away empty handed. As a finalist, the North Shore Recreation Centre has received $25,000 which will be combined with other funds to replace the ice pad.

“Our ice pad is 42 years old,” said Kelly Tucker, president of the rec centre’s board of directors. “It should have been replaced more than 20 years ago. Right now, we keep fixing the leaks but if we were to have a major break, it will shut us down. We just can’t be shut down so our focus is on raising money so we can do the work as soon as possible.”

The replacement project will cost upward of $1.2 million. Tucker says the cost includes the replacement of the arena’s boards and glass.

Over the past several years, the municipality has been setting aside money to assist with the cost and the hope is the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will also play a substantial role with funding.

“At this point, we’re looking to raise at least 75 per cent of the project cost,” said Tucker.

“At this point, I believe we have close to $500,000 which includes the $25,000 from Hockeyville. We’ve applied for an ACOA grant and if successful, we’re hoping that will take us to where we need to be.”

More than 125 people nominated the North Shore Recreation Centre in the 2016 Hockeyville contest, including Marilyn Roberts.

Roberts has a special place in her heart for hockey and the North Shore Rec Centre. She’s been involved in one way or another since it opened when she was a kid.

“I was a statistician for four years,” she said. “From the day the centre opened, I was sitting in the penalty box doing the stats. It didn’t matter if it was minor hockey, the North Shore Hockey League or our Junior C team.”

Roberts was also a founding member of the North Shore Skating Club which is now known as the Tatamagouche Skating Club. She was a coach, which meant many of her days were spent at the rec centre.

She says the Hockeyville nomination was the culmination of work that has taken place over the last two years.

“We attempted to do this two years ago but it just didn’t come together,” said Roberts.

“Hockey has been a passion for many over the years and it will continue to be a passion for future generations in Tatamagouche and the surrounding areas. The rec centre is an important part of our community. It’s a gathering place for young and old and continues to promote healthy lifestyles.”

Roberts recalls the moment she learned Tatamagouche had been nominated. The announcement was made during the second game of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on March 5.

“Ryan Rees with minor hockey organized a bowling night. Because the announcement was made so late, not everyone could make it including me,” said Roberts. “I went home and watched the game. When they came on and started announcing the finalists, I was pretty anxious. By the time they had reached number nine I pretty much lost all hope at that point. Then they said Tatamagouche.

“I screamed so loud. I was stunned,” Roberts added. “The emails started rolling in shortly after that. I wanted to call so many people but because it was after midnight I had to wait until morning.”

Immediately after being named a finalist, a committee was struck in Tatamagouche and they started spreading the word.

Roberts says Tucker and Rees were both driving forces in generating excitement in the community. Even before Tatamagouche was named a finalist, a rally was held at the rec centre on January 17.

“At that point, it was about showing the rest of Canada what we were all about,” said Rees.

“On March 9, every user group packed the ice for a huge faceoff. The stands were packed, the ice was packed and everyone was in their uniforms. It looked awesome.”

Just a few short days later, Joe Gould, manager of Truro Superstore and his staff joined the effort. Gould and Assistant Manager Glen Langille showed up at the rec centre with 2,380 boxes of Kraft Dinner which they used to spell out Hockeyville on the ice.

Following that, Truro Superstore donated the Kraft Dinner to the local food bank.

“They weren’t done there,” said Rees. “The following day, Joe invited our minor hockey teams to the Superstore. They constructed a 16-foot long, eight-foot wide rink inside the store which was surrounded by Kraft products. Our kids played hockey the entire day. They were even joined by other kids who were there.”

On March 14, all of the rec centre’s user groups marched down Main Street accompanied by four firetrucks in an effort to get everyone to vote.

Although they didn’t make the top two, Roberts says the outpouring support, not just from those along the North Shore but across the country, was overwhelming.

“We had so many local supporters who stepped up and really pushed Tatamagouche as the next Hockeyville,” said Roberts. “From local businesses to people who just wanted to make this happen, it was amazing. The community spirit that was ignited has propelled me to explore ways on how we can raise the rest of the money needed to replace the ice pad.”

That includes another opportunity offered through Kraft as well as the Aviva Community Fund. Even though it’s yet to happen, Roberts says she’s not done with Hockeyville either.

“I know a community has never been nominated twice but I fully believe in our community and just how vital the North Shore Recreation Centre is to us. Last year we had 125 nominations. This year I’m hoping to see that number double so the people making the decisions realize just how important hockey and the rec centre are.”

When the project moves ahead, the rec centre will be shut down for approximately three months while the work is carried out. Tucker says the work will be done in the offseason.