file photo of downtown Chatham. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Historic Downtown Chatham to host Hometown Hockey

A local sports legend and a former longtime Maple Leaf will be headlining the list of honoured guests when Rogers Hometown Hockey comes to Chatham-Kent.

Cy Young Award winner Fergie Jenkins and retired NHL defenceman Tomas Kaberle are both set to make appearances over the weekend of December 15 and 16. Kaberle will be signing autographs in the Rogers Fan Hub, while Jenkins will be appearing on the television broadcast along with a special live musical performance by country music artist and songwriter Kelsi Mayne.

Rogers has also confirmed that the free event will take place on Wellington Street in downtown Chatham. Chatham-Kent’s municipal lead for the event Ian Clark said that’s welcome news for members of the Historic Downtown BIA.

“I think Rogers looks for the most aesthetically pleasing location they can in each community they visit — they’ve done it a lot in arena parking lots and we certainly looked at Memorial Arena here,” said Clark. “It would’ve worked perfectly, but after they saw our downtown, they thought it would be perfect for their broadcast.”

The two-day festival starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 15 and will wrap up with a live broadcast at an outdoor viewing party on Sunday, Dec. 16 featuring a game between Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets starting at 6:30 p.m.

Clark says the television broadcast of the weekend will also put a special focus some local hockey stories in Chatham-Kent, adding they received “no shortage of feedback” when they asked for submissions earlier this year.

“We consider ourselves a hockey town and we have produced world-class players like Ken Houston, Dave Gagner, the Warriners,” said Clark. “And we’ve had success in the hockey world of business with Blademaster.”

Clark said during the weekend broadcast, Rogers will focus on Dresden’s arena renaming to honour Ken Houston on Dec. 15 and it will also present a special feature on Chatham-Kent’s connection to Para ice hockey. That feature will highlight the accomplishments of Chatham-native Lynn Schultz, who championed the introduction of the sport at the local Children’s Treatment Centre and local sledge hockey players Ashley Goure and Derek Whitson who are both members of Canada’s national women’s sledge hockey team — Goure as a defenceman and Whitson as an assistant coach.

While preparations continue for the weekend, Clark says one way local residents can help out is by making arrangements to carpool, walk or take public transit to and from the event.

“There will be road closures in the downtown area and there are parking options available… but we are expecting thousands of people over the weekend,” said Clark.

Some of the other highlights for the weekend include a Sportsnet Virtual Photo Booth and Interactive Games, a hockey acrobat, a family-friendly outdoor rink, a hockey-themed obstacle course, free pizza, coffee and hot chocolate, live music, and some 50/50 draws.

You can find the full schedule for the events surrounding Hometown Hockey by clicking here.