An image published by Play On shows a previous street hockey festival elsewhere in Canada.
A non-profit dedicated to a national celebration of street hockey wants to host an event in Yellowknife early in the summer of 2024.
Play On Canada, which bills itself as “Canada’s sports festival,” has spent two decades running similar events across the country – some of them with hundreds of participating teams.
Alec Parker, currently based in New Brunswick, is trying to establish a Yellowknife committee that can help him stage a street hockey festival in the NWT capital.
“It’s a three-on-three hockey tournament. We’re going to shut down a street in Yellowknife, we’ll set up a bunch of rinks for you guys, and we’ll have different divisions based on age,” Parker told Cabin Radio.
“We’ll come in late May, early June, when the snow has gone but before everyone gets out to their cabins and gets on the lake. We’ll arrive on a Friday, we’ll spread out through the town and host events Saturday and Sunday, and we’ll leave by early Monday.”
So far, Parker said, his committee includes the likes of Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby, Cabin Radio’s own Scott Letkeman and Yellowknife coach and hockey leader Charles Wyman.
He says the committee ideally needs eight to 15 members. (You can write to him if you’re interested.)
“My pitch to the city is yes, it’s a tourism attraction, but it brings the community together,” Parker said.
Funding is the priority
Convincing Yellowknife may not be the biggest hurdle.
Play On needs to find money for a fresh slate of events after CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, which once provided the organization with core funding, dropped out.
In a message on its website earlier this year, Play On said no events would run in 2023 while it tried to find new sources of funding. The organization hopes events – like the planned Yellowknife festival – can resume in 2024 with the help of municipal, provincial, territorial and possibly federal cash.
Parker said finding $60,000 in financial support for a Yellowknife event would be a “good starting-off point” and will form the committee’s initial focus.
“We’re going to aim for 2024 but if I don’t get funding commitments soon, it’s going to have to get pushed to 2025,” he said.
In a broader message, Play On’s board said it had “resolved to use the balance of 2023 to continue to seek funding and partnerships for events to be held in all provinces and, ideally, territories, beginning again in May 2024.”
“This timeline will allow the organization to ensure that the events can be held when the communities want them, typically in spring/early summer,” Play On wrote, “and also to ensure that cost of participation remains affordable so that every Canadian that wishes to participate may do so.”
Parker said he wants to find a way to create a Yellowknife street hockey event that can become a fixture in the city’s calendar, particularly given City Hall’s recent appeal for the return of events and festivals that had previously died off.
“I just want to make it really easy to have this event year after year,” he said, “without a lot of stress.”