Asquith raffle raises $17K for rink following Gordie Howe memorabilia theft

Earlier this year, the community of Asquith was questioning whether or not the town's kids would even be able to play hockey in 2017.

Those doubts have been erased as the community's most recent raffle raised $17,000 for the rink.

But the community faced an unexpected hurdle on the way to achieving its fundraising goal.

A signed Gordie Howe jersey, donated by Howe's distant relatives, was to be raffled off and the funds used to maintain the community rink. That all changed when the jersey was stolen following a break-in near the end of January. 

"The bills pile up. It's an old rink," said Jodi Nehring, secretary of the Asquith rink board.

"It needs a lot of maintenance so we rely very heavily on these kind of raffles just to keep going, from year to year."

Once news of the theft got out, the community saw an outpouring of donations and support from within the province and across the country. Replacement jerseys were offered, including another autographed Howe jersey. 

The influx of donations has helped the community, as they will have more items to raffle off and raise funds in the future.

"It's a place for the kids to go, to have something to do in the winter," said Asquith mayor Gail Erhart.

"The rink is always the place to go in the winter," Erhart said, noting the money will help with the inevitable repairs to Asquith's old hockey barn. 

A recent insurance bill for the community was $10,000, Nehring said. She said the community is in the process of replacing the old lighting in the arena with new LED lighting.

"The worst in humanity brings out the best in humanity and that's really the lesson that we've been taught by this," Nehring said.