I knew about the World’s Largest Hockey Stick long before I knew anything about the Cowichan Valley.
I remember it from the many trips I took years ago between Nanaimo and Victoria, and that big hockey stick on the side of the Cowichan Community Centre was always very visible from the Trans-Canada Highway to mark what I considered to be the halfway point between the two cities.
I’ve learned since then that the hockey stick has been an iconic part of this community for 35 years and I’ve often heard the rink at the CCC, the home of the Cowichan Valley Capitals, referred to as “The Stick” by sports commentators from across Vancouver Island on the radio.
It’s well known not just in the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island, but across B.C. as well.
I listened to Sonia Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley and leader of B.C. Green Party, talk about it with the hosts of a popular morning radio show in Vancouver while driving to work earlier this week.
After some discussions on the state of the province’s politics these days, the radio hosts were anxious to talk with Furstenau about the fate of the large, 205-foot wooden replica hockey stick which was authenticated to be the world’s biggest hockey stick in the 2010 Guinness Book of Records, after it was recently announced that it was up for sale.
The radio hosts were amazed that such a unique and well-known part of the landscape of the Cowichan Valley will soon disappear, and even suggested ways to keep it in place, like a GoFundMe campaign to pay for its repairs.
It struck me that many people in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland seem to care more about the fate of that hockey stick than the people that live here.
Needless to say, I was surprised by the results of the public survey that was held by the Cowichan Valley Regional District over the summer asking taxpayers what they want done with the hockey stick, which has decayed over the years to the point that the structure must be replaced or removed in order to ensure public safety.
The CVRD suggested several options for consideration for the future of the hockey stick as part of the survey, including replacing it with a similar or different design and materials, keeping it the same size or making it bigger, or removing the stick and not replacing it at all.
To my astonishment and dismay, the majority of people who participated in the survey indicated that it’s not important to them to maintain the world record for the largest hockey stick, and that it doesn’t provide significant importance to the region and shouldn’t be replaced.
I have not seen any estimates provided of the amount of money that would be required to fix the stick, but I’m sure, in the larger scheme of things, it would not be a lot compared to the amount of publicity it brings to the region.
It’s the second time in a matter of months that I was perturbed by this community’s apparent lack of willingness to hold on to and cherish artifacts and buildings that make the region unique, tells a story of who we are, and (more importantly for some) potentially brings tourists and their money our way.
The other issue involves the locally based Oak Park Heritage Preservation Society and its efforts over many years to save the crumbling Elkington heritage house on Maple Bay Road.
The two-storey Elkington House was built in 1895 by William Howard Elkington and the residence became the first house in North Cowichan to be given heritage designation in 2008.
The society began a campaign to save the building in 2017 and proposed establishing a stewardship group that would be responsible for fundraising and the maintenance of the large heritage home, which is currently owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
But, amazingly, the campaign is not getting the support it deserves from the province and local governments, so we risk losing this part of our heritage as well.
We need to hold on to these important cultural and historic symbols in the Cowichan Valley.
They are a part of our past and tell a story about the Cowichan Valley, and they can never be replaced if we lose them now.