On this February 14, residents of Wakaw are celebrating a different 'V' day.
Valentine’s Day takes place every year on this day but for the small Northeast town of Wakaw the residents are dedicating Feb. 14 to a local Olympian. Linden Vey will suit up for Team Canada’s men’s hockey squad beginning Thursday morning in PyeongChang.
Back in Vey’s hometown, storefronts and schools are decorated red and white with residents wearing specially made T-shirts. Some even went as far as face paint and make-up to build excitement for Canada’s first game. Grade 9 student at Wakaw School, Julia Frie said it’s special having an Olympian from such a small community.
“It’s amazing that a small Saskatchewan town could have someone at the biggest sporting competition in the world,” Frie said.
The National Hockey League couldn’t come to an agreement allowing their players to participate in the South Korea based games. This opened the door for players like Vey who currently plays for the Zürcher Schlittschuh Club Lions in Zürich, Switzerland. He started the the season in Barys Astana, one of the founding teams in the KHL based in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana.
Frie said the school and town has been a buzz since Vey was named to the team on Jan. 11.
“I think it’s very upbeat. Vey Day is helping a lot with that, so people are energized. I think more people will watch it from our school and the town,” she said.
Drew Jacobson is a Grade 7 student at the Wakaw School and a big hockey fan. She said she’s planning on waking up for Thursday’s 6:10 a.m. Sask. time face-off. Jacobson said Vey’s inclusion on the team is important for the town.
“It’s a big thing being from such a small town being in the biggest competition in the world. It’s really exciting,” she said.
Canada flags, posters, and pictures covered the school halls and businesses in the town’s core including the Lake Country Co-op locations. Lumber manager Dennis Wagner and his team decorated their locations and dressed up for the occasion. Wagner said small towns need to build off fellow residents' accomplishments.
“It’s great for the community, really great. We need these kinds of things, we forget about our small towns in Saskatchewan, but they are our backbone,” Wagner said.
Vey is the lone Saskatchewan-born player on the roster. Head coach Willie Desjardins is from Climax, Sask.
Wakaw will have a town-wide viewing party for Team Canada’s game against the Czech Rebublic Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. Members of the community also signed a flag leading up to the Games that will be delivered to Vey by his family in South Korea. Wagner said the excitement is evident now but could reach a fever pitch if the Canadians reach the gold medal game.
“I imagine it would be wild, really nuts. It would be great but whether they make it to the gold medal game or not, he’s there,” Wagner said.
Frie and Jacobson provided Vey with a message ahead of the defence of the nation's gold medal in men's hockey.
On Twitter: @ClarkStork
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