Kraft Hockeyville is an annual competition sponsored by Kraft Foods, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association in which communities compete to demonstrate their commitment to the sport of ice hockey. The winning community gets a cash prize dedicated to upgrading their local home arena, as well as the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game. Runner-ups also get smaller cash prizes to upgrade their ice rinks. The contest is normally held in the spring during the latter half of the NHL regular season, with the pre-season game usually held in September before the following regular season.
The competition was first held across Canada in 2006 as a reality television series aired by CBC Television, but since 2007, it has been relegated to segments aired during CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. In 2015, Kraft Hockeyville was expanded into the United States, with a separate competition for communities in America; segments of the US contest are aired on the NHL on NBC.
The Kraft Hockeyville games are televised nationally. From 2006 to 2014, the game was broadcast across Canada on CBC, while the 2015 contest aired on Sportsnet. The Hockeyville USA game is televised in the U.S. on NBCSN.
The inaugural 2006 season of Hockeyville was won by the community of Salmon River, Nova Scotia on June 11. Salmon River's entry, the "Deuvilles Rink", beat 450 other entries from across Canada. Episodes for the 2006 season were shot in arenas in different cities throughout Ontario, with the final episode shot in Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena & Skating Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.
The NHL exhibition game was held September 25 at the Colchester Legion Stadium in the neighbouring town of Truro (the Deuville Rink being too small); the Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 7-3.
- The Deuville rink was awarded the $50,000 Home Depot gift card prize and with the cards the roof was reshingled, new rink lights were installed, ceiling insulated and a heated section was installed at the end of the arena.
The 2007 season of Hockeyville began on March 4 and was changed significantly from the previous season's format. Organizers made the application process more accessible. Communities could now enter by logging on to the website, creating a team name, filling out an application form, submitting a short essay and including three photographs which depict hometown pride and passion for the game of hockey. A video, which was a requirement in previous contests, is no longer part of the process.
In 2007 the series was no longer given its own time slot, but rather shown during broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada.
The Top 10 communities resulting from the first round were Cornwall, Ontario; Nanaimo, British Columbia; Noëlville, Ontario; North Bay, Ontario; Plaster Rock, New Brunswick; Rockyford, Alberta; Saint-Hubert, Quebec; Smithers, British Columbia; Vernon, British Columbia and Warner, Alberta.
The Top 5 communities resulting from the second round were Cornwall, Noëlville, North Bay, Smithers and Warner.
The 2008 season of Kraft Hockeyville began February 23.
The top 10 communities that were in the running for Kraft Hockeyville 2008 were:
- East: Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador vs. Rothesay, New Brunswick
- West: Wilcox, Saskatchewan vs. Redwater, Alberta
- Quebec: Rouyn-Noranda vs. Village sur Glace de Roberval
- Ontario: Huntsville vs. Kingsville
- Wildcard: Winnipegosis, Manitoba vs. Pilot Mound, Manitoba
The top 5 communities were:
- Week 1: Village sur Glace de Roberval (Quebec Region)
- Week 2: Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador (Atlantic Region)
- Week 3: Kingsville, Ontario (Ontario Region)
- Week 4: Wilcox, Saskatchewan (Western Region)
- Week 5: Pilot Mound, Manitoba (Wildcard)
On April 8, 2008, Roberval won the title of Kraft Hockeyville 2008. Roberval won:
- $100,000 towards upgrades to the Roberval Arena
- An NHL pre-season game at the Roberval Arena on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 in which the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2.
- A Hockey Night in Canada broadcast from Roberval
The pre-season game has been taped and shown on a Hockeyville special Saturday, September 27.
The 4 remaining communities from the Top 5 won:
- $20,000 to be used for upgrades to the Home Arena that the community endorses
- A Hockey Night in Canada broadcast from each of the remaining top five communities
The 2009 edition had these cities as the five regional finalists:
- Atlantic: Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Quebec: Thetford Mines, Quebec
- Ontario: Woolwich Township, Ontario
- Western: Terrace, British Columbia
- Wildcard: Humboldt, Saskatchewan
The winner, announced on March 7 during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, was Terrace, British Columbia. Terrace played host to the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders on Monday, September 14, in which the Canucks defeated the Islanders by a score of 2-1. The game was broadcast live on NHL Network in the USA, and highlights were televised during a one-hour Kraft Hockeyville broadcast showcasing their community on CBC Television. Terrace also received CDN $100,000 towards arena upgrades from Kraft Canada.
The five finalists for the 2010 edition of Hockeyville
- Atlantic: Bishop's Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Quebec: Stanstead, Quebec
- Ontario: Dundas, Ontario
- Western: Cranbrook, British Columbia
- Wildcard: Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia
Dundas, Ontario was announced as the winner by Gary Bettman on April 3, 2010, during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with 1,066,855 votes. The game featured division rivals Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators playing in Dundas's J. L. Grightmire Arena on September 28, 2010, with Buffalo winning 2-1. (Incidentally, Dundas has been, since 2001, within the boundaries of the city of Hamilton, Ontario, a frequent target of efforts regarding potential National Hockey League expansion.)
In 2011, the wildcard was eliminated and the West and Pacific divisions were split from each other.
The top 5 communities were:
- Pacific: Mackenzie, British Columbia
- West: Bentley, Alberta
- Ontario: Wolfe Island
- Quebec: Saint-Raymond
- Atlantic: Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador
Conception Bay, NL, was declared the winner of Kraft Hockeyville 2011 on April 2, 2011. The town's arena received $100,000 worth of renovations, and also was to host a pre-season game between the Ottawa Senators and the Atlanta Thrashers on September 26, 2011. Prior to the season, however, the Thrashers were purchased by the Manitoba Moose and were relocated to Winnipeg (being renamed the Winnipeg Jets in the process); the Moose then affiliated with the new Jets, renamed themselves the St. John's IceCaps and relocated to the Mile One Centre in St. John's, 30 km north of Conception Bay South. The Hockeyville game was thus relocated to the Mile One Centre, where the de facto home Jets (featuring many players who would be with the IceCaps later that year) defeated the Senators, 3–1.
Each of the other 4 finalists will receive $25,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft.
Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario was the winner of the 2012 Kraft Hockeyville contest. The planned game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 3 was eventually cancelled due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout, but other festivities continued as scheduled. An NHL alumni charity game was held in the town instead, with one of the participants being Stirling native Rob Ray.
Although the 2013 version of the contest was initially cancelled outright due to the lockout, the league later awarded a game between the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets to an arena in Belleville, Ontario under the Hockeyville brand.
The Top 16 towns for the Kraft Hockeyville contest were announced on Saturday, March 8. This year's contest has a theme much like the NHL itself: East VS West. This means there are 8 towns chosen from Eastern Canada and 8 towns from Western Canada.
From Eastern Canada:
- Richmond, ON
- Prescott, ON
- Beeton, ON
- Exeter, ON
- Chicoutimi, QC
- Kingston, NS
- Amherst, NS
- Central Bedeque, PEI
From Western Canada:
- Salmon Arm, BC
- Kimberly, BC
- Osoyoos, BC
- Bruderheim, AB
- St. Albert, AB
- Sylvan Lake, AB
- Swift Current, SK
- Arborg, MB
This year, the top 16 towns are guaranteed $25,000 in upgrades to their arenas instead of the top 5. Then the top 4 (two from the East and two from the West) received at least $50,000. The winner receives the usual prize of $100,000, an NHL pre-season game hosted in their community, and a visit from CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Voting for the top 16 ended on Monday, March 10. Sylvan Lake won the competition on April 7, and hosted a pre-season game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Calgary Flames on September 24.
For the 2015 season, Kraft Hockeyville USA, for the first time, drew candidates from the United States. The US finalist in the east was the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, while the finalist in the west was the Decatur Civic Center in Decatur, Illinois. Johnstown was named the winner on May 2, received US$150,000 for arena upgrades, and hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game was televised in the United States on NBCSN.
The Canadian Kraft Hockeyville finalist in the east was the Chatham Memorial Arena in Chatham, Ontario, and the finalist in the west was the Panorama Recreation Center Hockey Arena in North Saanich, British Columbia. North Saanich was named the winner on April 5, and received C$100,000 in upgrades. Because the Panorama Recreation Center Hockey Arena had a limited capacity of only 500, the pre-season game featuring the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks was instead played at The Q Centre in nearby Colwood. For the first time, the Hockeyville game was broadcast in Canada on Sportsnet instead of CBC.
List of winners/pre-season games
Bolded teams denote winners
- Deuvilles Rink was too small to host an NHL game. The pre-season match was instead played in Truro.
- The game was moved to St. John's in recognition of the Winnipeg Jets' then-new affiliated minor league team, the St. John's IceCaps.
- Game was cancelled due to 2012–13 NHL lockout.
- Because of the 2012–13 NHL lockout, there was no Kraft Hockeyville contest during that season. The league then awarded a game to Belleville under the Kraft Hockeyville banner.
- Panorama Recreation Center was too small to host an NHL game. The pre-season match was moved to Colwood.
- CNW Group | NEWS - MEDIA | Roberval, Quebec wins KRAFT HOCKEYVILLE 2008
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- NHL set to play preseason games all over world. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
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- "Kraft Hockeyville Past Winners". Kraft Hockeyville 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2015.