Although they didn’t win the Intact Insurance Club Excellence Award, the fact that the Annapolis Valley Speed Skating Club placed among much larger clubs in the contest’s finals serves as a feather in the hat of the local group.
The organization was one of five Canadian speed skating finalists vying for this year’s Intact Insurance Club Excellence Award – one that went to the Calgary Grizzlies Speed Skating Club.
There was a $10,000 grand prize on the line, along with the promise of a visit from two national team athletes during the 2019-20 season.
Finalists in the contest, however, will not go without a reward. The local club and fellow finalists received a $2,500 cash prize – an amount based on the number of medals won by the Canadian team this past season.
“It’s very exciting for us, especially looking at the other clubs that have been selected as finalists,” said club president and coach Steve Rafferty, noting that a lot of the other finalists are much larger clubs.
“It’s great to get recognition as a small club in an area that doesn’t have a lot of history in speed skating,” Rafferty said.
The Annapolis Valley Speed Skating Club’s path to recognition was paved with a gauntlet of hard work.
“They were looking for promotional recruiting campaigns and we did a program this past season that we created and did in conjunction with other clubs,” Rafferty said.
The focus of that promotional campaign was, “you can do that here, too,” Rafferty explained.
This campaign consisted of open house events in Kingston and Kentville, in an effective bid to drum up local interest in the club.
That campaign was a resounding success, with the 2018-19 season – the club’s seventh season in operation – seeing the best levels recruitment.
“It helped generate the highest membership since we started in 2012,” Rafferty said. “There was a big spike of growth, and we now have 41 members this year.”
Another reason the club qualified, Rafferty noted, is because two of its skaters, Justin Noakes and Ben Eaton made it to the short track competition in the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
“That was a first four our club, to have some members make it to that,” Rafferty said.
The club’s commitment to safety in the last year also earned members recognition in the competition.
“We looked at steps we could take to make the sport safer this year,” Rafferty said.
With assistance from the province and Sport Nova Scotia, the club purchased new pads and bumpers that now adorn the rink in Kingston.
“That was done to support the growth of the club and the skaters,” Rafferty said. “We have faster, stronger skaters. We’re taking steps to make sure everything is done at the highest level of safety.”
The Annapolis Valley Speed Skating Club will be using the money it was awarded as a finalist to build on the success of previous open houses, and host more of them. Additionally, the club plans to expand its short and long-track skates to build up its rental inventory.