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Hockey Day in Canada preparations fitting together like a jigsaw

Events run Thursday through Saturday at the Inner Harbour and other Victoria locations. Scenes from Victoria on Sportsnet nine-hour TV hockey broadcast on Saturday, featuring games involving all seven Canadian teams, plus a Royals game at Memorial Centre.
Workers set up the rink in the hospitality zone at Ship Point ahead of this week's Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada festivities in the Inner Harbour. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

John Wilson watched crews put the final touches Monday on the synthetic-ice skating rink at Ship Point, which will be the focal point of the Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada festivities from Thursday to Saturday.

The $100,000 rink fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, which is an apt metaphor for the entire operation.

“It has been complex to organize this event. Maybe that’s why they never told me when they asked me,” quipped Wilson, the local businessman who heads the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society, which is the organizing committee for the event.

It is all coming together with the committee having never lost sight of the benefits for the city. The event culminates with the Sportsnet nationally-televised Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT from the Inner Harbour, wrapped around NHL games featuring all seven Canadian teams and a Victoria Royals versus Kamloops ­Blazers WHL game at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, interspersed with segments on Island hockey history.

“The nine hours of coverage times nine million viewers across the country is why we have put in all this time to do this,” said Wilson, who heads the 50-member organizing committe, which is backed by more than 200 volunteers.

“It’s worth it and a no-brainer and that is why the city and province both jumped in. The broadcast panel will be located on the roof of Milestones [restaurant] and the camera views, facing the legislature with the Empress on the left, are going to be fantastic for the rest of the country to see.”

The response locally has been strong with the gala Thursday at the Victoria Conference Centre, the NHL alumni and celebrity game Friday night at the Memorial Centre featuring the likes of Ron MacLean, Kevin Bieksa, ­Elliotte Friedman, Wendel Clark, ­Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Lanny McDonald, Darcy Tucker, Kirk McLean, Nathan Lafayette, Brian Burke, Greg Adams, and also the Royals-Blazers game Saturday all nearing sell-out status.

“There are only a few tickets left for each event,” said Wilson.

The events begin Tuesday night with the sold-out Legends of Broadcasting Hot Stove at the Bayview Roundhouse featuring Ron MacLean, Bernie Pascall, Jim Robson, Jim Laing and Tim Ryan talking old-school hockey days. MacLean needs little introduction as the host of Hockey Night in Canada, Pascall is a B.C. sports broadcasting legend and Robson the iconic play-by-play broadcaster of the Vancouver Canucks. Ryan, who called the glory days of the New York Islanders before his extensive U.S. network Olympic, NFL, tennis and boxing broadcasting career, and Laing, former Boston Bruins play-by-play announcer, have both retired to Victoria.

Hockey bibliophiles, meanwhile, are in for a treat Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. when broadcasters MacLean and Ken Reid and former ­Vancouver Canucks GM Brian Burke, all in town for Hockey Day in Canada and all with new books out, will be at Munro’s for signings. MacLean is the author of Hockey Towns, Burke has ­written Burke’s Law and Reid Hometown Hockey Heroes.

The Stanley Cup and football’s Grey Cup, along with Canucks mascot Fin, will be at Ship Point and the many other happenings around town.

The budget to host Hockey Day in Canada is $850,000, according to the Victoria legacy society. The province and Destination Greater Victoria are contributing $100,000 each. The City of Victoria is giving $100,000 in cash and another $100,000 in in-kind services such as bleachers and stages for the concerts that are planned as part of the festivities. The rest is coming from corporate sponsorships.

“We are very close to breaking even,” said Wilson.

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