An entire nation gathers, summoning its children, parents, grandparents and its brothers, sisters and friends. Calling the labourer, the executive, the farmer and the scientist. It sets a stage for the Inuit, Métis, First Nations and immigrant alike. It is sustaining, fulfilling, tormenting, just in its appointment. Focusing a nation on a singular joy. It’s Hockey Day in Canada!

Now in its eighth year, Hockey Day in Canada has become engrained in the very fabric of our society. The day is representative of what we do, how we do it and who we are as a people. In a way it encapsulates the Canadian Experience. We are a society that succumbs to this iconic sport. It flows through the very essence of our being.

It might seem as though I overemphasize the connection between Canadians and the sport of ice hockey but believe me when I say, “I’m not”.

This is precisely how we feel towards the sport of ice hockey. After all, it is our game, our sport.

The growth of ice hockey has mirrored the growth of Canada for over a hundred years. True grit and determination have allowed both to flourish.

Hockey Day in Canada was created to bring our national passion to the forefront. With essays on how life has evolved around ice hockey, how ice hockey has transformed communities, three NHL games and a lot of pomp and circumstance, this day celebrates Canada and the true meaning of being Canadian.

Considering these truths one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing a single venue to host these events. It’s not easy but through contest and great consideration a city or town is chosen. All eyes then turn to the winning community as celebrations commence.

On February 9th, 2008 Winkler, Manitoba has the distinction of hosting events celebrating Hockey Day in Canada. This is an awesome responsibility and I’m sure they are up to the task.

Winkler is a rural town of 8500 people located 120 kilometers southwest of Winnipeg in the Red River Valley of western Manitoba. Agriculture is the main industry in Winkler. The township saying is, “Where people make the difference”.

On Saturday the people of Winkler will open their doors and collective hearts to the Nation and in response the nation will stop for a while to pay homage.

Through modern technology Canada will celebrate together. Ice hockey will be the catalyst to stories from Northern, Southern, Central, bi-Coastal and provincial Canada. And Canada’s national communications service, CBC television, will bring all the festivities live.

Canadian personalities such as Ron McLean, Don Cherry (Grapes), Cassie Campbell (Olympic Gold Medalist), Kelly Hrudey (NHL retired), Wendel Clark (NHL retired) and many more will take part in events throughout the day.

An NHL triple-header will also be part of the day. 3:00 P.M. The Detroit Red Wings will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for an Original Six match up that will be the only time this year (except NHL Finals) these two teams play one another. 7:00 P.M. The Montreal Canadiens visit the Ottawa Senators and the Edmonton Oilers visit the Calgary Flames. 10:00 P.M. The Colorado Avalanche visits the Vancouver Canucks for a nightcap.

Intertwined throughout are stories of triumph, both individually and collectively and more of legends in the communities persevering and overcoming poor odds to see brighter days.

Remember, ice hockey is not the star; it is only the phenomenon that bonds us. Humanity is the superstar. We rise and grow together as a nation, traversing valleys and mountains. Each allegory is revealing in each of us.

Hockey Day in Canada will cause people to pause, take a day off work, and leave errands undone. We do almost anything to gather together for a truly Canadian spectacle. Those who unavoidably miss the day have regrets for planning something else that day.

As the day approaches, anticipation rises steadily. By the day of, a fever pitch is in full blow. “Is everything ready?”

I invite you to join all Canadians on this day. If you are able to get the CBC signal, I hope you choose this opportunity to join with us and learn a little more regarding your neighbours to the north. Become Canadians for a day.

My wish for all Canadians is “Happy Hockey Day in Canada”.

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