Wilkie and Ituna land in top 10 for Kraft Hockeyville 2017

Ituna and Wilkie, Saskatchewan are top 10 finalists for Kraft Hockeyville 2017.

The communities are guaranteed at least $25,000 for their arenas, with the chance for $100,000 if a top two position is attained.

The winner of the contest will have the chance to host an NHL pre-season game, in addition to receiving cash for arena upgrades. 

Ituna Arena: It's an old barn...

Ituna's barn, built in 1962, is outdated and on its last legs. Home to the Ituna Avalanche and the rec team Ituna Raiders, Ituna Arena is busy most days of the week, says Sean Trefiak, who nominated Ituna for the contest.

The Avalanche, pre-novice to peewee squads, wear jerseys similar to the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. 

"A lot of kids that play here, you kind of feel a different kind of feeling when you're wearing the same kind of jersey as an NHL player," Trefiak said.

"Even if you're not necessarily a Colorado Avalanche fan, it still gives you that kind of feeling that you mean something out on the ice when you're wearing a jersey that's something a pro wears."

Community members would need to drive to the nearby communities of Yorkton, Melville or Balcarres for hockey or figure skating if the rink were to shut down, he said.

"If the rink continues, with the roof leaking, the wood frame starts to rot away," Trefiak added.

"If it gets too bad, then it won't be structurally safe to be in there any more." 

Breathing new life into the rink would allow everyone in the community to play hockey, as signing up is free and there are no tryouts required. 

Wilkie centre: A community hub

The SaskCan Community Centre in Wilkie was hit by a fire in October 2015. 

It was a huge blow to the community, as it contained the town's community centre and curling sheets. Tamara Sittler, who nominated her community for Hockeyville, described the arena as a community hub which is also used for other functions, such as weddings.

"It's history, it just means everything," she said, describing fathers playing with sons, brothers playing together.

"It is just what the community is built on, is family ... it brings a whole community together to cheer on each other."

As the community has been slowly repairing and upgrading the arena, nearby communities of Cut Knife, Landis and Unity have helped out. 

"Unity hardly has time for their own teams because they have so many but they found a spot for our senior team, which was awesome," said Sittler.

"You're rivals when you're on the ice but it's amazing how communities will come together and help each other in a time of need."

Community members have been donating money toward the repairs and companies have chipped in as well, Sittler said.

The Outlaws senior hockey team also organized a fundraiser which raised almost $25,000. Sittler said the Town of Wilkie also held a Kramer online auction that raised $22,000.

"We had to drive to another community, all of our teams, to practice, to play hockey and we did it, to keep hockey going."

Voting for the Kraft Hockeyville top two entries begins on March 12. The two finalists will be revealed March 18, with another round of voting to follow before the winner is announced April 1.