If it wasn’t for the people, said Rogers Sportsnet Hometown Hockey co-host Tara Slone, the cross-Canada tour would be a grind.
Slone joins Ron MacLean at Vernon City Hall’s Spirit Square this weekend for the latest instalment of the 24-city Hometown Hockey tour.
“The interactions with the people, whether it’s a seven-year-old or NHL alumni, I find it rejuvenating,” said Slone prior to heading west from Toronto. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of travel but I get energized when I hear the people’s stories.”
Slone – who lists Halifax as her hometown, though she has lived in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario – has seen most of Canada as the co-host of the Hockey Hometown tour which has been in the Okanagan the last two years in Kelowna and Penticton.
She has also seen a fair number of Canada’s bars and dressing rooms as the former lead singer of the Toronto-based group Joydrop, which enjoyed some success with a couple of hits in the 1990s.
“I always tell people that Hometown Hockey is a pretty privileged way to see the country,” said Slone, who will co-host the Sunday Sportsnet hockey broadcast between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks with MacLean from Spirit Square starting at 4 p.m., and who will do some skiing at Silver Star with Sportsnet baseball analyst Gregg Zaun (which will be shown on the broadcast).
Also to be shown on the broadcast will be the story of Vernon’s Larry Kwong, the first Asian-Canadian player in the NHL when he took a one-minute shift for the New York Rangers in 1948 and never played in the league again.
Slone and MacLean will be joined at Spirit Square during the broadcast by NHL alumni such as former Canucks greats Kirk McLean and Russ Courtnall, and Vernon Hometown Hockey heroes like Ed Johnstone, Dean McAmmond, Jerred Smithson and Brent Gilchrist, who was part of a dominant pee wee rep team in 1980 playing out of the old Vernon Civic Arena.
“We won every tournament we entered that year, including the Vernon Winter Carnival tournament which, as a kid, you always wanted to play in that tournament,” said Gilchrist, 49. “We also won the provincials that year. It was a great team with great guys that are friends to this day, great coaches and and great parent support.”
Gilchrist was one of four players from that squad drafted by NHL teams (Montreal, fourth round). The others were Jeff Finley (New York Islanders), Bruce Major (Quebec Nordique) and Jay Stark (Detroit Red Wings).
Gilchrist, like Johnstone, enshrined in the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame, played in the NHL with Montreal, Edmonton, Minnesota, Dallas and Detroit and Nashville. He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 1998.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend,” he said of his appearance on Hometown Hockey. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Vernon. All players like to talk about the place they grew up and learned the game. It’s always special to remember the support from the community, its people and family.”
Slone is slated to drop the ceremonial puck for the opening face-off at Saturday’s Vernon Vipers home game against the Powell River Kings at 6 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.
The Hometown Hockey festival gets busy on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. with live music on the main stage from the Shawn Lightfoot Band, autograph sessions with McLean and Courtnall and a Scotiabank Legacy Cheque presentation of $15,000 at 12:45 p.m.
Things run Sunday at Spirit Square from 12:15 p.m. to 7 p.m.
During the weekend, activities at Spirit Square will include Rogers Fan Hub, Rogers NHL Viewing Room, Scotiabank Community Locker Room, The Dodge Family Zone, McDonald’s Ball Hockey Rink and Dr. Oetker Giuseppe Pizzeria.
All activities are open free of charge to the public.
The City of Vernon has announced to residents, businesses and drivers that 30th Street between 32nd Avenue and 35th Avenue will be closed to all traffic from 6 a.m. Thursday to 2 a.m. Monday as part of the Rogers Hometown Hockey celebrations.
Parking will be limited downtown during the duration of the festival so drivers are encouraged to park in the downtown parkade on 31st Avenue.
TIME LOCATION EVENT
12:00pm – Main Stage – Live Music: The Shawn Lightfoot Band
12:00pm – Autograph Tent – Autograph Signing with Kirk McLean
12:30pm – Scotiabank Tent – Autograph Signing with Russ Courtnall
12:45pm – Main Stage – Scotiabank Legacy Cheque Presentation & .Jersey Unveil
1:00pm – On·Site – The Hockey Circus Show
2:00pm – Main Stage – McDonald’s Trivia
2:45pm – On·Site – The Hockey Circus Show
3:00pm – Autograph Tent – Autograph Signing with Kirk McLean
3:15pm – Main Stage – Live Music: The Shawn Lightfoot Band
3:30pm – Scotiabank Tent – Autograph Signing with Russ Courtnall
4:00pm – Main Stage – Playmobil Word Play
4:15pm – Main Stage – Dr. Oetker Giuseppe Pizzeria Puck Stack
4:30pm – On·Site – The Hockey Circus Show
5:15pm – Main Stage – Live Music: The Shawn Lightfoot Band
TIME LOCATION EVENT
12:15pm – Main Stage – Playmobil Word Play
12:30pm – Main Stage – Scotiabank Hotstove featuring Tara Slone with Kirk McLean and Russ Courtnall
1:00pm – Autograph Tent – Autograph Signing with Kirk McLean
1:00pm – Main Stage – Thank You Presentation to the City of Vernon
1:00pm – Scotiabank Tent – Autograph Signing with Russ Courtnall
1:15pm – On·Site – The Hockey Circus Show
1:45pm – On·Site – Rogers Hometown Hockey Trick Shot Competition
2:15pm – Main Stage – Dr. Oetker Giuseppe Pizzeria Puck Stack
2:30pm – Main Stage – Dodge Family Face·OH
2:45pm – Main Stage – Live Music: The Young’uns
3:15pm – Main Stage – Cheer Like Never Before
3:30pm – Main Stage – The Hockey Circus Show
4:00pm – Broadcast Studio – Rogers Hometown Hockey Live Pre-Game Show with Ron MacLean and Tara Slone
4:30pm – Broadcast Studio – Rogers Hometown Hockey Game: Vancouver Canucks @ Chicago Blackhawks
5:15pm – Scotiabank Tent – Autograph Signing with Russ Courtnall
2nd Period – Autograph Tent – Autograph Signing with Kirk McLean