Cowichan Valley's pride and joy of giant hockey stick threatened by U.S. town with a bigger stick

Illinois’ Lockport — population 26,000 — is keen to win bragging rights with a stick of 76 metres, which would surpass the Cowichan stick’s 62.5 metres.

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Is the Cowichan Valley going to let Lockport, Illinois, snatch the title of Home of the World’s Largest Hockey Stick away from Vancouver Island? From Canada?

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Area residents will get a chance to weigh in on that question if the Cowichan Valley Regional District agrees to a recommended survey about the future of the stick.

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Estimated replacement costs could be “upwards of several million dollars” depending on the design, construction material and timeline, staff said in a report to a recent meeting of the Cowichan Community Centre committee.

The stick has been mounted since 1988 on the Cowichan Community Centre, co-owned by Duncan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District and located just inside the North Cowichan border.

Lockport — population 26,000 — is keen to win bragging rights with a stick of 76 metres, which would surpass the Cowichan stick’s 62.5 metres.

The community southwest of Chicago would mount the stick on a planned 71,000-square-foot ice facility featuring two NHL regulation-size ice rinks.

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It’s no secret that the Cowichan stick, weighing in at 28,118 kilograms, needs upgrading.

Ongoing maintenance and extensive repairs in the early 2000s extended the life of the hockey stick, but the structure of the stick is showing evidence of advanced decay, a staff report says.

Last year, a woodpecker tried to set up house in the stick by punching holes in it, although the bird eventually moved on.

A consultant said the regional district should either plan for significant renovations or replacement by 2025.

The stick was originally commissioned by the federal government and featured at the entrance to the Canadian pavilion at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver.

More than 30 other communities entered a contest for the stick, but the World’s Largest Hockey Stick Society raised $150,000 to bring it to Vancouver Island.

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The society transferred the stick to the regional district in 1994. The Guinness Book of World Records determined it was the largest hockey stick and puck in 2008.

“It is definitely a point of pride for the community in Duncan,” said Brain Cant, vice-president of business impact and engagement with 4VI, formerly Tourism Vancouver Island. “This is among a collection of beloved roadside attractions.”

Vancouver Island has other quirky attractions. Port McNeill was home to the World’s Largest Burl, recently damaged when it was set on fire. In 2019, the nearly eight-metre-tall Howard the Gnome was relocated from Nanoose Bay to Galey Farms in Saanich.

Options for the regional district include modifying the stick’s support system, replacing existing materials, building a new stick, making it larger, or not replacing it.

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Some regional district board members suggested early this year that the stick could just be extended.

The estimated replacement cost came in last year at between $1.5 million and $2 million, although that would likely increase in the next couple of years due to anticipated construction cost escalation and inflation, the staff report said.

A capital reserve fund stands at about $3.37 million, but much of that is designated for a roof replacement for the community centre.

“Time is of the essence” because of the time it would take to run a public engagement process and the 2025 deadline, the staff report said.

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