Just call us Hockeyville

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Don't call us London, but it's OK to call us Hockeyville.

On a cold, frigid, windy day yesterday, Lambeth put its best foot forward in an effort to become Kraft's Hockeyville, the community that best represents hockey in this country.

With a CBC television camera crew driving down Lambeth's main street led by a police car, several hundred fans -- many of them wearing Lambeth Lancers minor hockey sweaters -- tried to stay warm as they cheered and held signs.

The television crew then went on to film at the arena, where the Lambeth tyke hockey tournament and other activities were being held. The building was jammed.

Lambeth has always been a fiercely independent community. Longtime NHL star Rob Rammage still corrects anyone who says he's from London.

"I'm from Lambeth," he says over and over again.

It's a town with a proud hockey tradition.

"It would be awesome to be Hockeyville," said Tyler Walden, a minor hockey player who showed up with mom Lisa.

"We're Hockeyville here in Lambeth," said Lisa when asked why she'd come.

A large group of players, parents and supporters, including former Westminster mayor Ben Veel, shivered outside the Cottage Pantry Restaurant. Owner Patricia Mattheos was trying to keep a sign greeting the CBC from blowing over. But she wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

"My kids used to play hockey in Lambeth. Now they are all grown up, but this is great," she said. "We're all crazy about hockey."

Gabe Metron lives at the corner of Colonel Talbot Drive and Beattie Street. At the end of Beattie sits Lambeth Arena. Metron's clothesline held seven Lancer sweaters of various sizes and two referee sweaters. The line also held hockey socks. On his fence was a pair of hockey pants and in the yard, a hockey net.

"We tried to get the hockey pants on the line, but it didn't work," he said.

"I've lived here for 27 1/2 years. There's a pretty good tradition of hockey in our family and in Lambeth. My dad coached, I played, my brothers played, we all played.

"Back in the Lancer heyday, there were Sunday nights when the crowds would be walking up and down the street, banging drums, and it was crazy. Cars would be lined up down the street."

Communities across the country have applied to win the Hockeyville competition. CBC is travelling to the communities to film them.

"They pick 50 communities to put on television starting March 29," said Dave Frizzell, one of the people driving this event. His committee now has between 30 and 40 members.

"If you are picked, you have to do a two-minute video and judges will judge the video and other spirit items. If you are selected to the next phase, then you have to do a one-minute video. It all runs through the NHL playoffs until there's a winner."

Fans will call in and be able to vote on which community they like. The prizes include an NHL exhibition game held in the winning community, $50,000 in upgrades to the local rink along with other prizes.

The message Lambeth wants to deliver is simple.

"Look at the people out here," said Melody Gilmore, who is the trainer for the Lambeth peewee A girls' team. "This is a work day. Kids are out of school, but their parents have to work. This is a community that always works together."

Lambeth doesn't need the rest of Canada to validate their hockey pedigree.

"Win or lose, we think Lambeth is Hockeyville," said Frizzell.

"The kids love that we're doing this and it brings the community together. At the very least, we'll be profiled on the CBC and other media, putting Lambeth on the map."


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