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Rogers Hometown Hockey hits LaSalle

Updated: Feb 27


By Garrett Fodor

As the temperature rises, a case of hockey fever hit Windsor and Essex County this weekend.

  Uniting hockey fans young and old, Rogers Hometown Hockey arrived at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Complex in LaSalle this past weekend. The traveling festival stops in select cities across Canada each weekend, designed to let each town share its hockey stories and show its passion for the game.

  The free event features various hockey activities and games, from ball hockey to video games and everything in between, along with local musicians. The weekend concludes with a Sportsnet national broadcast, featuring co-hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone, conducting interviews and sharing stories of prominent athletes from the area. 

  “We always had the opportunity to shine a light on the rink rats - the volunteers, the backbone of the game and that was nice,” MacLean said, who is the host of Rogers Hometown Hockey and of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

  “Then, what I found and what Tara [Slone] has found, is that there was great buy in by athletes, whether it was Canadian Women’s Hockey League players in the National Hockey League, stars like – as an example this weekend, Luke Wilson, the Super Bowl winner with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL is from LaSalle - he’s writing and voicing the opening for our show; Kylie Masse, who’s a two-time world champion, 100 metre backstroke swimmer and bronze medalist at Rio, she’s coming on the telecast. You always had…this great support from people, who wanted to celebrate the roots.”

  The weekend also allows fans to have up-close encounters, with meet and greets with notable NHL alumni in attendance. In LaSalle, fans had a chance to meet four-time Stanley Cup Champions and former Detroit Red Wings forwards and ‘Grind Line’ members Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper. The pair was in attendance throughout the weekend, signing autographs and sharing stories with fans, young and old. The pair also still work for the Red Wings organization, as the Wings played the Calgary Flames for the Hometown Hockey Game.

  “It’s obviously family and kid oriented, so it really brings you back to your roots of being a kid and being outdoors playing hockey, street hockey, ice hockey, pond hockey, all that fun stuff,” Maltby said, as a group of LaSalle Minor Hockey players awaited a meet-and-greet with him. “They put a great event on here. There is lots for the kids to do and just come over and be a part of this. It’s just another great way of being able to give back to the community, but also the sport.”

  The set up for each Rogers Hometown Hockey event begins the Wednesday prior, as decorations and banners begin to go up. Then, the on-air studio and equipment begin to arrive later in the week.

  As the festival is in its sixth season of traveling around Canada, MacLean said the response has been great and they have been steadily growing to improve the experience for fans and viewers, not only giving fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but also sharing community stories and comradery among teammates. 

  “We began like a musician, playing in a coffee house and hopefully graduate into a larger venue. I feel that’s kind of what the show has done,” MacLean said. “Its just consistently gone out and toured, and like a musician making his or her way, we’ve kind of built an army of friends and viewers, who enjoy learning about the country and sort of celebrating the game. We get great support. And, I think my favourite part for sure is the parade of champions. I love seeing the kids in their sweaters and the joy they bring, it is something we’ve added the last couple years and is a win-win.”

  Along with the free event, the live broadcast and tourism factors, Hometown Hockey also supports local hockey organization efforts. Hometown Hockey Sponsor, Scotiabank, donates $15,000 to local minor hockey associations in the surrounding area at each tour stop this season. 

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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