Hockeyville win gives Elsipogtog reason to celebrate after week of grief

·3 min read
Some members of Elsipogtog First Nation waited to hear the winner announced Saturday evening.  (Submitted/Kylie Francis - image credit)
Some members of Elsipogtog First Nation waited to hear the winner announced Saturday evening. (Submitted/Kylie Francis - image credit)

Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick is celebrating a big win after a tragic week.

The community won the Kraft Hockeyville contest on Saturday, earning $250,000 toward rebuilding the Chief Young Eagle Arena, and the chance to host an NHL exhibition game.

The community has been without its arena since September when a fire left the building inoperable.

Band councillor Ruth Levi said the community was ecstatic after finding out it had won the competition.

"We were overjoyed and in shock, we were grateful, grateful for the support," she said. "If it wasn't for the support of Canada, we wouldn't have been able to do this."

Only a limited number of people could gather inside the community centre for the announcement due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Elsipogtog First Nation's hockey arena hasn't been open since a fire destroyed the inside of the building in September.
Elsipogtog First Nation's hockey arena hasn't been open since a fire destroyed the inside of the building in September.(Submitted/Facebook)

"I don't think words can describe what our community was going through last night," Levi said of the reaction to winning the competition.

The news came after a week of mourning. The community lost two fishermen when a fishing boat capsized off the Nova Scotia coast last Saturday.

Four crew members were rescued from the Tyhawk, but one of them, Seth Monahan, died after being taken to hospital.

The ship's captain, Craig Sock, known around the community as Jumbo, is still missing and presumed dead.

Sock was a band councillor for Elsipogtog First Nation and was a driving force in helping the community win Hockeyville.

Craig Sock was captain of the Tyhawk, which sank April 3.
Craig Sock was captain of the Tyhawk, which sank April 3.(Submitted by Derek Sock)

Levi said as the week of grieving went on, winning the competition to honour Sock became a focus.

"Before the announcement at the community hall the children started chanting 'Jumbo, Jumbo.' So his spirit was inside that community centre. He was there with our children. He was there with our community members."

Kylie Francis was instrumental in promoting the community's bid to win the online voting contest.

"Our hearts are heavy and we weren't sure what this week would look like after what happened," Francis said.

People anxiously waited at the community hall to hear the announcement.
People anxiously waited at the community hall to hear the announcement.(Submitted/Kylie Francis)

She agreed with Levi that winning the competition was important to remember Sock.

"Jumbo was an avid hockey player in our community, he supported our campaign so much, and he wanted us to win."

Francis is a hockey player and said the sport is a big part of her family, which is why she wanted to get behind the effort to win the competition.

"Our arena is our home," she said, adding that it was important to win the competition to get the building open again for the younger generations.

The Chief Young Eagle Arena was built by the community of Elsipogtog through fundraising in the 1970s.

The community is still waiting to learn if the frame of the arena can be saved or if a new building will need to be constructed.