Surprise donations help Pense renovate rink following Hockeyville loss
PENSE, SASK. -- The Town of Pense, Sask., is getting a second chance to renovate its local rink, after narrowly missing out on the $250,000 grand prize of Kraft Hockeyville.
The town of 532 residents finished in the top four, but failed to win in the final round of voting.
“It was crushing, like I don’t think anybody spoke to each other for 10 or 15 minutes,” Graeme Crosbie, a member of the Pense Memorial Rink Board, said.
The rink’s brine pipping system is well past it’s due date. It costs roughly $300,000 to install a new system. The town raised $106,000 through fundraisers, but hoped the Hockeyville contest would fill in the nearly $200,000 gap.
They were running out of ideas, when a prominent Canadian business person stepped up.
“Brett Wilson the very next morning sent out a tweet saying he was going to match the $25,000 from Kraft,” said Crosbie
“I was dumbstruck, like I didn’t know what to any or do, I sent it to the board and people told me they started crying.”
Brett Wilson, a Calgary business man who rose to fame on the television show“Dragon’s Den," is an investment banker who is originally from Saskatchewan.
“Growing up in a town of 10 or 12 thousand people which was North Battleford, I just see the small town values, the real people helping real people,” Wilson said.
Last year, the town of Wilkie, Sask., was also a finalist in Kraft Hockeyville. Every finalist is guaranteed $25,000. Since the contest’s inception in 2006, no Saskatchewan town has ever won the national competition.
In a similar gesture last year, Wilson gave $25,000 to Wilkie after the town near North Battleford lost the grand prize. He knew Pense was a finalist and decided to once again match the donation after seeing the efforts of the small town.
“If I had a choice of supporting small town Saskatchewan or a big city, somewhere down east, that’s not going to happen, it’s small town Saskatchewan where a handshake and a bottle of beer mean something,” Wilson said.
However, Wilson’s effort’s didn’t stop there. The businessman challenged others in the Saskatchewan community, like former Premier Brad Wall, to match his donation.
In a matter of days, Wilson had helped the community raise over $200,000.
“We got donations from Shercom [Industries], from [Regina Motor Products], from Avana Enterprises, all in the name of $25,000 and we had thousands and thousands from individuals too,” Crosbie revealed.
On top of that, Wilson has never even been to Pense, SK.
“No donation is too small, and no donation is too large, and if you give what’s meaningful to you, you’ve participated in a way that’s helpful,” Wilson said.
“He cares about the people of the province and not just his hometown. This isn’t just about Pense, this is a story about Saskatchewan,” said Crosbie.
When the ice melts at Pense Arena following this season, the Memorial Rink staff will install the new brine pipping and it’s expected the rink will be ready with the new equipment in August.