Minor hockey in Burlington gets 20 big ones: $20,000 in the bank – what should it be spent on?

By Pepper Parr

No one knows how many times this vote button was pushed. Often enough to bring $20,000 to Burlington.

BURLINGTON, ON  April 5, 2013  Goderich managed to get more votes for themselves than Burlington and they get the $100,000 Kraft – The Games Goes On award – but Burlington was most definitely in the race and will be given a $20,000 award for the Burlington Lions Optimist Minor Hockey Association (BLOMHA)

John McNeil was the Burlington “poster boy” for this feat when Kristen Priestner nominated him as the “manager extraordinaire” and that got McNeil in as a finalist.

The contest, which was open to any community in the country that ran a minor hockey team that met the Hockey Canada criteria, was based on nominations that came in from individual communities.  The country was broken out into five regions, with Ontario being one of them  Once all the nominations from each region were in, Kraft narrowed down the list to five from each Region.  Burlington was up against Goderich, Lakefield, Cornwall and Stittsville.

Just over 18 months ago Goderich got hit with a major hurricane that tore apart the centre of that city – the community had to pull together and that experience would have had them well-oiled for the Kraft – The Game Goes On contest.

The selection was based on “votes” but these were not like the usual vote – in this game a person could vote as many times as they wanted and for whoever they wanted.  All you had to do was log in click the vote button, key in the code to ensure that you were a human being and not some computer out there dialing in.  Then all the user had to do was click on the vote button.

And then did it all over again until your were numb with exhaustion.

There it was – proof positive that BLOMHA was in the winner’s circle.

No one knows yet what the individual counts were for each community – the total for the country was reported at 750,000 which seems quite low.

Dirk Wolterbeek from Goderich, Ontario, received the most votes and is being recognized today with a $100,000 award to the Goderich Minor Hockey Association. The other four inspiring Ontarians earning a $20,000 award for their selected minor hockey associations include Mike Goble from Lakefield, Rod McLeod from Cornwall, John McNeil from Burlington and Cathy Bureau from Stittsville.

Burlington’s nominee, known as a “Manager Extraordinaire,” John McNeil was described by his nominator, Kristen Priestner “as going  above and beyond for the Major Atom A Burlington Bulldogs. Whether fundraising, coordinating tournaments, hosting the Parents’ Christmas Social or organizing this year’s Ontario Hockey Federation Playoffs, McNeil is the heart and soul of his team.”

As we reported on this event during the two-day race to get as many votes as possible – the picture that told the story for us was this one. The kids are focused and just clicking away. That guy in the middle is going to be playing the game – real soon.

The voting started at 9:00 am last Saturday and other than a small hiccup at the start it went smoothly.  Burlington parents were involved in their hockey end of season games.  Besides driving to London twice and getting their kids out to two games in Burlington this band of parents had to hustle anyone they knew with a keyboard to dial in and vote.

Working from a “hot spot” on the 401 and a cell phone – these “bulldogs” managed to vote frequently.

“We used a cell phone to find a “hot spot” on the 401 and had kids on-line via the cell phone to vote as a parent drove” explained McNeil.

The winners of awards were announced Monday night during a Flyers -Canadiens game (Montreal lost which was not a good sign) and Kraft announced the $100,000 winner for Ontario – Goderich.

Well – they certainly no where their bread is buttered. A $20,000 prize tends to pull smiles like this. This is the BLOMHA core that made the award possible – there are probably a couple of bodies that didn’t make it. I want to know – which one is Kristen Priestner?

For fans – it is all about the game and $20,000 is nothing to sneeze at.  McNeil who doesn’t control the award does expect the BLOMHA executive to use the funds to defer fees for kids who can’t afford to play and to buy equipment for those who need better than what their families can afford.

The core team did gather at McNeil’s house to watch the results – “it was a school night and we had practice last night, practice tomorrow, all the parents are going to a community fundraiser Friday night and we have a game Saturday…. Busy busy.”  And they still managed to bring home $20,000 worth of bacon.

McNeil hopes Kraft releases the numbers. “we would like to see how we fared against the other communities – it will give us a sense of where our strength is and where we can improve”, said McNeil.  Ever the analyst – he wants data.

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