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Hockey-mad Terrace, B.C., readies for the arrival of NHL stars

TERRACE, B.C. - Almost everywhere you go in this northwest B.C. community, the message is clear: Terrace is Hockeyville.

The community in the Skeena River Valley was named the winner of the yearly Kraft Hockeyville competition in March, but until this weekend it was just a title.

Starting with a sold out charity hockey game Saturday night, festivities to mark the event in the mountainous city of 20,000 went into high-gear Sunday, one day before the featured NHL exhibition game between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders.

An appearance by the Stanley Cup and four NHL alumni tends to do that.

Thousands flooded a downtown Terrace park to get their picture taken with the Cup and ex-Canucks Cliff Ronning and Dave Babych and former Islanders Bryan Trottier and Ken Morrow.

"This is my first time being a part of Hockeyville and I'm just overwhelmed," said Ronning, a Burnaby, B.C. native.

Trottier, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is participating in his second Hockeyville and said it's a unique opportunity for everyone involved, especially for a community 700 kilometres from the nearest NHL arena.

"This kind of event allows us an opportunity to make new fans," said Trottier. "We want to get on the ice and make an impression on the next generation of fans."

Fans young and old, mostly in Canucks colours, lined up to see hockey's great trophy. Most agreed the opportunity would never come around again.

"I've talked to people who drove eight, nine, 10 hours from Yukon and elsewhere to come and be a part of this," said Steve Smyth, one of the local organizers, who admitted to kissing the trophy.

"I laid a liplock on the Detroit Red Wings and Gordie Howe."

Part of the draw on Sunday was a chance to win the final tickets available to the game.

With numbers limited to about 1,100 spectators, local organizers were given the unenviable task of distributing them through the community.

Out of about 850 tickets they were given, Smyth said the main goal was to get as many children to attend as possible. A quarter of those tickets were drawn from local schools along with minor hockey teams.

Sunday also featured hockey camps for girls hockey with Cassie Campbell-Pascall, former Canadian women's national team captain.

The current NHLers arrive Monday morning. Fans who didn't win a ticket to the game were eligible to win entry to the back-to-back game-day practices.

The city has been abuzz with speculation of which players will make the trip for the game, which kicks off the NHL's exhibition schedule.

Most fans are hoping to catch a glimpse of Canucks captain and star goalie Roberto Luongo, as well as Islanders No. 1 draft pick John Tavares, who could suit up for his first professional game.

Buoyed by the $100,000 contest winnings, the arena has been upgraded to NHL standards, with new boards, glass, lighting, expanded players benches and some cosmetic work.

"I recommend people bring earplugs," said Terrace Mayor Dave Pernarowski. "It'll be 75 per cent filled with children and kids tend to bring a whole other level of excitement."

Hockey Night in Canada personalities Don Cherry and Ron MacLean will make their first appearances Monday for a special to air Sept. 19.



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