'Welcome to Hockeyville'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

TRURO, N.S. -- The sign told the story as the Senators' bus rolled into town late yesterday afternoon.

"Welcome to Hockeyville," the billboard read.

This small community of 20,000 didn't just open its arms to the Senators and Canadiens last night, it embraced them.

Big-league hockey made a stop in small-town Canada as Truro/Salmon River reaped the reward of winning the Kraft Hockeyville series that was televised on CBC last spring.

"I kind of look at this like the Heritage Classic in Edmonton, but on a much smaller scale," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was on hand. "This has had the same kind of impact on this community, but it's like a 180-degree turn from the Heritage Classic. It's nice to bring the game back here and this is great for everyone involved."

This wasn't just a one-day celebration. There were activities taking place throughout the weekend -- including a golf tournament Saturday, hockey clinics Sunday and culminated with the game.

MANY EX-GREATS ON HAND

Former Montreal greats Yvan Cournoyer and Rejean Houle, along with former Senators captain Laurie Boschman and centre Shaun Van Allen flew in Sunday to participate in the clinic and sign autographs.

"The last thing we wanted to do was just show up, play a game and leave. That wouldn't have been fair to a community that worked so hard to win this. This was a nice celebration," said Senators president Roy Mlakar.

Yesterday, Ray Emery, Chris Neil, Wade Redden, Dean McAmmond and Mlakar joined members of the Habs to visit schools in the area and sign autographs. They wanted to spread goodwill in the community and make sure the town was rewarded.

Former NHLers like Mike Bossy, Bernie Nicholls and Glenn Anderson were also on hand for the weekend. But the biggest attraction was the Stanley Cup, which drew a crowd of 5,000 to Victoria Park on Sunday during a barbecue and celebration for being the victors in CBC's seven-part series.

It was the tiny Nova Scotia village of Salmon River that beat out 450 other communities which were vying for the Hockeyville crown.

Deuville rink was built more than 50 years ago by Webster Deuville, now an 89-year-old great-grandfather.

Through the years, Deuville rink has seem many changes ... the family cottage was sold at one point to put a roof on it.

Deuville's family still runs the facility and Webster lives in a house next to the rink. The rink has few seats, so the game was held in Truro.

"This is a dream come true for all of us," said son Ellery Deuville. "You think of the people here who haven't seen an NHL game. I haven't seen a game and neither has my dad."

ICED GOOD LINEUP

That's why coach Bryan Murray made an effort to ice a good lineup against the Habs -- even with the Senators ready to make cuts today. Players like Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Brian McGrattan, Mike Fisher and Dany Heatley didn't have to be asked, they were more than happy to take part.

They dressed in a gym across the road from the rink yesterday, putting on everything except their skates and then walked across the parking lot to the building. They stopped to sign autographs.

"Old-time hockey," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "I remember dressing in the back of a van on the way to the rink, but I don't remember getting dressed and then heading over."

Murray, a Shawville native, said the night was a nice step back.

"People in small communities like this are avid hockey fans," said Murray. "They don't get the chance like this very often and they're not recognized. I'm from a small town where hockey is big and the game is a source of pride for the community."


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