North Saanich is Hockeyville

Panorama's Arena B named one of two Kraft Hockeyvilles across Canada. Now in the running for an NHL preseason game.

Dawson Bikadi and Tonya Warren celebrate at Panorama's Arena B Saturday night after the rink was named one of two Kraft Hockeyvilles in Canada

Jason Fletcher laughed with what breath he had left after celebrating Panorama’s Arena B being named one of two Kraft Hockeyvilles in Canada Saturday night.

“It’s just amazing. I just don’t even know what to say,” said Fletcher, the one behind the initial nomination of the rink in the nationwide contest. “I can’t believe how many people got behind this thing.”

The top two finish, announced Saturday night during Hockey Night in Canada, earns the North Saanich rink $100,000 for improvements — and now the voting begins all over again.

“The work is just starting now,” Fletcher continued. “We get to vote for the next 48 hours. I am just freaking out right now.

“This is our chance to bring the Benn boys back home. I know it’s not a given but it just makes perfect sense.”

He’s referring to former Peninsula hockey products Jamie and Jordie Benn, who now play for the Dallas Stars. People gathered at the rink Saturday night to watch Dallas play Vancouver — and await the Hockeyville announcement — and Benn scored the opening goal of the game.

“It’s just amazing.”

Voting started right after the announcement as Panorama from the west and Chatham Memorial Arena in Chatham, Ontario from the east. The top vote-getter will be announced next Saturday night — and they will win the NHL preseason game.

Fletcher said the campaign brought together people from the hockey community — and plenty of other people unrelated to the hockey world.

“I am so proud right now of our community,” he said.

Wayne Ruffle, chair of the Peninsula Recreation Commission, said the win was unbelievable.

“Everybody did so much work to make this happen. I felt that we were going to win.”

Ruffle said if people keep voting over the next two days, Panorama will win the NHL game. Voting for Hockeyville — at — ends Monday night, March 30, and supporters are hoping people vote as often as they can.

“The community … it was an Island effort,” Ruffle added. “That’s what we gotta do for the next level, to get that hockey game.”

Fletcher said he realistically didn’t think the rink would make it this far. In fact, he said things were really quiet before Saturday night. He said, however, the win shows people got behind the effort and volunteers with local hockey organizations, Panorama Rec. and more showing their support.

Now, he said people need to vote — and vote often.

“Vote, Vote, Vote. We want to bring the NHL. We’ve got the most amazing gift from Kraft, it’s going to go so far.”

Fletcher added now the community needs to ramp it up. He said there will be another celebration next Saturday. Watch for more details as they become available.