Best day of the year for country's hockey fanatics

KIRK PENTON

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- You don't have to go far to find a hockey story in Canada.

The CBC, however, has dug deep to find the cream of the crop, and they'll be shown during today's eighth annual Hockey Day in Canada broadcast. The theme of this year's show is "The Journey," exploring how people's lives are shaped and changed by the game.

While a good chunk of the features will focus on the host city of Winkler, not to mention Manitoba, the Mother Corp. has placed correspondents across the nation to tell our hockey story.

And in an effort to expand hockey's reach to Canada's diversifying population, the NHL games will be broadcast in Mandarin, Hindi and Cantonese on the Internet.

"Hockey Day's all about getting people to enjoy the game, getting more people interested in the game and getting more people out on the ice," executive producer Joel Darling said yesterday.

"If we can reach other communities who maybe don't understand the game that well and be able to explain it to them, they become fans or they play the game. That's what this weekend is all about."

It's about the host town, too, and Darling has loved seeing the awe on the faces of Winkler's residents over the past two days.

"It's taking a piece of the NHL or a piece of television and bringing it to their backyard," he said. "And for us it's great to be able to see that, because sometimes people like us who do hockey games week in and week out or during the NHL playoffs, we become a bit jaded to some degree.

"But it's great to see the look on people's faces here who turn around and suddenly they're standing next to Wendel Clark."

Even the mayor, Martin Harder, sounded like a little kid who met his idol after spending several minutes with HDIC host Ron MacLean on Thursday.

"What a humble, down-to-earth type of individual he is," Harder gushed. "Man, that just makes me proud to be there and welcome them to the community."

In the end, however, it's simply a celebration of hockey, from four-year-olds on an outdoor rink to a junior B hockey player in Ontario with only one hand to the Battle of Alberta.

"To me, this happens to be the best day of the year for Hockey Night in Canada," CBC analyst Kelly Hrudey said. "This reminds me of all the memories and the events of growing up."


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