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Sports

By Christen M. Stroh

This past spring, after weeks of online voting, the community of Belle Vernon demonstrated unrivaled enthusiasm and pride by winning the Kraft Hockeyville™ USA contest, meaning that the local ice arena, the Rostraver Ice Garden, became the recipient of $150,000 in arena upgrades. Another part of the prize includes the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the St. Louis Blues.

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The Stanley Cup was on display at the Rostraver Ice Garden to kick off the weekend festivities.

Kraft Hockeyville™ USA – the search for America’s most passionate hockey community – is a program that celebrates the passion and spirit of hockey communities. “In 2015, Canada’s award-winning Kraft Hockeyville™ program was expanded to help build better communities in the U.S. Kraft Hockeyville™ has awarded $3 million in prizing to 80 different communities, including the Rostraver Ice Garden,” said Marisa Kolar, Marketing Lead for Kraft Hockeyville.

Unfortunately, the Rostraver Ice Garden, whose upgrades were not completed in time for the scheduled game on September 24, was unable to host the preseason game they were scheduled to, but still, community members came out to attend one or several of the many events planned during the weekend of September 22 – 24 to celebrate Belle Vernon, the Rostraver Ice Garden, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the thing that brought this all together in the first place – hockey.

To kick things off, community members were in a for a treat that not every community that wins the Kraft Hockeyville™ USA contest gets – a day with the Stanley Cup, as the NHL team affiliated with the local arena just happens to be the reigning champions. The Stanley Cup was on display at the arena on the afternoon of Thursday, September 21, and fans who came out to see it got to pose with the Cup for pictures. “We’ve seen an incredible response from the Belle Vernon community, as their passion and spirit for hockey is already on full display,” said Kolar, continuing, “The fact that we had folks lining up outside the Rostraver Ice Garden starting at 6 a.m. for the opportunity to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup speaks to the excitement and enthusiasm of this community.”

Friday's schedule of events included a visit with Iceburgh and an appearance by Pittsburgh Penguins former player Tyler Kennedy.

On Saturday, September 23, a parade kicked off the day in the morning, and the afternoon's events included a Penguins youth game and a Fun Fair, both hosted by the Rostraver Ice Garden.

The weekend concluded on Sunday, September 24, with a red carpet event welcoming the NHL players from both the Penguins and the Blues, and while the Rostraver Ice Garden wasn't able to host the game between the two teams, they did host a game-day skate on Sunday morning. The game itself also still took place, though it was moved to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, PA.

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Jo Anna Stroh, of Donora, gets a hug from Iceburgh, who was on hand to add to the fun!

“We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate and honor the Rostraver Ice Garden and Belle Vernon, as this community perfectly exemplifies the passion and spirit of the Kraft Hockeyville™ USA program. We set out to help improve local rinks and unite hockey communities across the country under a common interest, and that sense of pride and enthusiasm was on full display this weekend,” noted Kolar.

As for what the future holds in store for the Rostraver Ice Garden, Kolar is excited that the folks of Belle Vernon and the surrounding communities can enjoy their arena for many years to come, indicating, “Hockey is more than just a game. Sports like hockey develop skills on the ice that build a foundation for a lifetime and promote confidence, pride, focus and responsibility. We're honored that we’ve been able to reinvigorate and recognize so many passionate hockey communities over the years, and we are excited to add Rostraver Ice Garden to the list!”

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