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Excitement is building as people in the Amherst area get ready to enjoy some of the best hockey in the world on Dec. 8. Behind the scenes, dozens of people and organizations have spent several weeks preparing to roll out the red carpet for international hockey stars from Team Canada West and Russia, who will face off at the Amherst Stadium as part of the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.

“Our community pride continues to build as we prepare for this elite sporting event, and we’re beyond excited at the number of people who have stepped forward to help,”  Bill Schurman, recreation director for the Town of Amherst, said.

“The sense of community this area is known for will help make this a memorable experience for everyone.”

From the moment they step off the bus, to their departure, the needs of each team will be taken care of by a pair of hosts. Two father-son teams have stepped up to the challenge: Mike Miller and Madden Miller will be team hosts for Team Canada West and Team Russia will be hosted by Grayson Ingraham and Ty Ingraham.

“The hosts will make sure all their needs are met, no matter how big or small,” said Corey Crocker, the Town’s facility coordinator. “It could be as simple as getting directions to the nearest bank machine. Whatever they need will be looked after.”

Several local men have volunteered to be game officials. Travis Davis and Kurtis Langille will be goal judges, while penalty box duties will be handled by Tim Ripley, Eric Black and Don Cluney.

Opening ceremonies for the game will have a colour guard that includes members of local youth hockey teams and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10, and the singing of O Canada will be performed by The Fellas, a local a cappella group. The Lions and Lioness Clubs will be dropping the puck.

Members of 258 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps have volunteered to collect tickets at the door and the Ramblers have offered the use of their 50-50 raffle equipment and dressing room, which will be decorated with hundreds of posters coloured by Amherst elementary students.

With a little more than a week left before the game, tickets are selling fast. Several local businesses have purchased blocks of tickets for their employees, including Blue Wave Energy, Weston Bakeries and Atlantic Superstore.

Mayor David Kogon is excited to show Amherst pride at the game, which will see the puck drop at 7:30 p.m. “Even if you’re not usually a hockey fan, this is a night to celebrate as a community. Wear red, wave the flag, and cheer on our team!” The game is the first of two weekend celebrations, with a free Canada 150 community skate on Sunday afternoon from 1:30 to 3:30 pm.

More information on the game can be found at www.amherst.ca or on the Amherst Recreation Department Facebook page. Tickets are available at Amherst Town Hall, Amherst Stadium, Maltby’s Sports, Bliss Café in Dayle’s Grand Market and ticketpro.ca