It was the Oilers and Kings that went head-to-head on the ice, but it was truly Lumby that entered the big leagues.
Sunday’s NHL exhibition game at Kal Tire Place wrapped up a weekend of festivities celebrating the village’s designation as Kraft Hockeyville.
“We did ‘er,” said Len Anderson, among the village’s residents who brought Vernon’s arena to virtual capacity.
“We worked hard to get this. I spent 14 hours a day voting.”
And much like a hockey team taking on challengers in the hopes of claiming the Stanley Cup, Lumby out paced the other communities vying for the Hockeyville title and $100,000 in rink upgrades.
“Our community does amazing things when we pull together,” said Sherry Kineshanko, whose children are involved in Lumby minor hockey.
Lobbying for Hockeyville began nine months ago.
“So many people stepped up to the plate to make this happen,” said Angie Clowry, one of the organizers of the monumental effort.
But despite the tireless hours behind the scenes, Clowry couldn’t contain her enthusiasm as Edmonton and L.A. prepared for action.
“It’s so surreal. People are high-fiving and there’s lots of hugs,” she said.
It was as if almost the entire population of Lumby was picked up and dropped into Vernon for a few hours.
“It’s neat to look around and see all of my neighbours,” said Mayor Kevin Acton.
“It’s been all about the community and families.”
Small towns have tight bonds and that was certainly the case when Linden and Jace Catt dropped the puck in memory of their dad, Peter, a popular coach who died last November. A standing ovation shook the rafters.
“I was crying before the anthem started,” said Rhonda Catt, Peter’s wife, of the emotional roller coaster Hockeyville created.
“You realize Peter is not here to see it but you hit moments where you are proud of everyone involved.”
Peter Catt believed strongly in youth and the ability of sport to transform lives. It was perhaps fitting then that young children filled the seats and ran along the concourse.
Among them was four-year-old Jessica Glaim, who when asked what she likes about hockey, slid across the concrete as on skates and said, “How they hit the glass.”
Likely the youngest fan in the crowd was two-week-old Blake Gannon, decked out in an Oilers outfit stripped from a Teddy bear.
“His first hockey game, so it’s exciting,” said dad Shaun Gannon, from Armstrong.
“He won’t remember it but we have pictures.”
Jack Saxton, who plays for the Novice Vernon Blues, had his nose pressed up against the glass doors prior to the arena opening.
“I want the Oilers to win,” he said.
And it had been a long day for Jack as he and dad James showed up at 6:30 a.m. for the red carpet arrival of the teams.
“It’s incredible. We’re trying to take it all in,” said James Saxton.
And the Oilers and the Kings didn’t disappoint as this was a unique opportunity to take in professional hockey on the home front.
“The passes and the players being where they need to be, it’s fun hockey to watch,” said Eric Godard, a Vernonite and former NHLer.
But as the third period wound down and the Oilers won 3-2, it was community pride and team work that were celebrated in the stands and in the long line of vehicles heading east on Highway 6.
“For Lumby, it’s been the best thing ever. It’s mind-blowing,” said Rhonda Catt.