All it took Saturday afternoon was hearing ‘Clin’ spoken by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to turn the Clinton Arena into a frenzy of cheers, tears and a roaring celebration.
“Congratulations to the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA champion Clinton Arena, Clinton, New York,’’ Bettman said during NBC’s first-period playoff game between Colorado and Nashville.
Bettman’s 43-second announcement was drowned out by the 700 folks in the Arena who only needed to hear the first half of Clinton spoken to know all their hard work and a whole lot of voting in 35 hours had paid off.
Out of about 1,400 community ice rinks around the country, Clinton and the Clinton Arena rose above them all to claim the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA title. Clinton becomes the fourth community in the United States to win the title in the contest run by Kraft and the NHL to showcase the communities with passion and tradition about the game of hockey.
Clinton’s win comes just two months after the community honored that tradition begun 100 years ago at Hamilton College, then carried down the hill to Clinton skaters from the pros who laced up for the Clinton Comets at the Arena, to the high school teams who have played since 1926 and the strong youth program.
It also comes with perks beyond national recognition for Clinton hockey. The historic Arena, built in four months in 1953 after a fire destroyed the original arena, will receive $150,000 for upgrades. The NHL will play a pre-season game at the Arena in September or October and two trophies - one for the national title of Hockeyville and the other the Stanley Cup displaying all NHL champions since 1924 - will be on display as well.
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