Cochrane shines on national stage

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Justin Dowling. The Purple Panthers. Mason Raymond. The Rockies. The Generals. The Kimmett Cup…

Cochrane’s hockey heart beat loud and proud this weekend as Rogers Hometown Hockey shone its national spotlight on the town as part of its travelling sports show.

“I’m happy for the community. This is pretty special,” said Mayor Ivan Brooker, bundled up amid a large crowd of hockey fans outside Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre on Sunday night as famed commentator Ron MacLean chatted with co-host Tara Slone live on Sportsnet.

“You’re looking around and thinking, ‘People all across the country are seeing us right now.’ It’s pretty incredible.”

The Hometown Hockey trucks started rolling into Cochrane earlier in the week, and by Saturday afternoon, crews had transformed an outdoor section of the sports centre into a hockey-themed haven – complete with kids playing shinny and lining up for video games, former Calgary Flames’ stars Curtis Glencross and Brendan Morrison signing jerseys and re-living glory days, NHL mascot Harvey the Hound handing out high fives – and scores of sports-loving families enjoying their moment in the sun.

“This is pretty neat,” said dad James Clinch, as his boys took a turn at the palette-sized hockey games set up around the site. “It’s bigger than I thought it would be.”

“I did my hockey cheer: One, two, three, four – come on Panthers, shoot and score!” said seven-year-old Kella Kerr, a player on the Purple Panthers novice female squad, one of several teams who participated in the Cheer Like Never Before contest on the main stage. “It was fun. There were more (people in the crowd) than how many people were at my school.”

“It certainly puts Cochrane on the map,” said sports centre general manager Robin Mitchell, who had three staff on the organizing committee of Hometown Hockey, and also praised the more than 100 volunteers who worked tirelessly to put on the event.

“I thought it was a great experience,” added mom Sara Busby, whose daughter Ella plays pee-wee hockey. “It was a good weekend, all in all.”

As part of the festivities, Sportsnet aired Sunday’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins on big screens at the site – where the Quebec team shut out the boys from Beantown 4-0.

But it was Cochrane that truly took centre stage during the live broadcast.

Hometown Hockey showcased the town and its devotion to and fervour for hockey – profiling Cochranites Justin Dowling (who recently made his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars) and former Calgary Flames player Mason Raymond, giving a shout-out to the Cochrane Generals’ scoring leader Slater Ransom, and portraying the lasting legacy of the late Lindsay Kimmett.

MacLean – who arrived in Cochrane Sunday afternoon after a harrowing flight from storm-battered Toronto – said there was no shortage of stories from this hockey-loving community for the broadcaster to share.

“Dan Gendur, coach of the Generals, (Generals’ general manager) Jacqueline Hurlbert – I can’t wait to meet her, discovering her story … and what a woman Lindsay (Kimmett) must have been,” MacLean said before arriving at the sports centre. “We certainly go out of our way to share stories that mirror all the ways you can come to hockey – and to life.

“If you just start the conversation … it’s really a chance to learn. I believe it’s more about Canada – and way more than hockey.”

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Cochrane Eagle