Hockey Day WHL game gets venue change

The Canada Games Centre is, without question, the Yukon's premier sports facility, and will be the hub of activity as Whitehorse hosts CBC's Hockey Day in Canada in February.

The Canada Games Centre is, without question, the Yukon’s premier sports facility, and will be the hub of activity as Whitehorse hosts CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada in February.

But it won’t be the site of that day’s showcase event.

When the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers help ring in Hockey Day with a regular season game in Whitehorse, a much larger number of spectators will be able to catch the action with the recent decision to change the game’s location to the Takhini Arena, just a kilometre down the road from the Games Centre.

“As much I needed to see it from a television perspective, the WHL had to sign off on it because it had to do with dressing room space, where the benches are, how the benches are separated, the glass and things like that,” said Joel Darling, director of production at CBC Sports, in an interview with the News. “When I was up there in March, we were looking at the venue that there would be events in the lobby, the Stanley Cup on display and floor hockey games, things on the ice, so it made a lot of sense.”

The Games Centre will still be the hub of activity on Hockey Day, as well as Shipyards Park earlier on, but it was decided to move the game to Takhini after emerging concerns the Northwestel NHL-size rink, which has permanent seating for 240, was too small. So at the start of the week CBC and WHL executives came to have another look at Takhini Arena, which has seating for 1,535, much of which is stadium seating.

“That precipitated (the trip),” said Darling. “Once we added the WHL game, some issues came up that the WHL and CBC had to work out in order to make sure we’re on the right track.

“I know there was a bit of panic up there that we were in the Canada Games Centre. But when we made the decision to come to Whitehorse and use the Canada Games Centre, we didn’t really have showcase event.

“At that point the Canada Games Centre made a lot of sense.”

Hockey Day in Canada, which will be celebrated February 12, is a special installment of the hugely popular Hockey Night in Canada program and will include games featuring all six of Canada’s NHL teams over a 13.5-hour broadcast and will include footage of related events in Whitehorse.

Such local events will be hockey clinics, talks and will likely include visits by hockey celebrities such as former Maple Leaf Wendel Clark, Olympic gold medalist Cassie Campbell, Stanley Cup winner Brad May, and maybe more, some of whom may visit local schools.

Also making the trip north is broadcaster Jim Robson and, of course, and Ron McLean and Don Cherry, who may – weather permitting – host some of the show from Shipyards Park early in the day.

“What we want to do, and we’ve done in the past, is be outdoors for the first couple hours of the show,” said Darling. “At that point we’re introducing stories from across Canada.

“We’ve looked at Shipyards Park as a beautiful spot, right along the Yukon River, to showcase the area a little bit.

“There’s a lot of work to be done with the committee, but we’ve talked about flooding a parking lot and putting an outdoor rink there too.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com