The small town of Asquith, Sask., says they’ve been showered by support after a signed Gordie Howe jersey was stolen from their rink in late January.
Complete strangers stepped in to save the day.
“It was just shock and disbelief from everyone, just trying to figure out what to do next,” Jodi Nehring, a volunteer at the Asquith Centennial Sports Center, said.
WATCH MORE: Coast-to-coast support for Asquith, Sask. after its Gordie Howe jersey is stolen
The dismay was palpable because the late hockey legend signed the jersey before he died, knowing it would directly benefit the children of Asquith. Funds raised by raffling off the jersey were to be used to keep the rink running.
Word of the crime spread across the country and what happened next surprised the Asquith community, said Andrea Ganchar, another volunteer at the rink.
Jerseys began to pour in, including an alumni jersey from the Toronto Maple Leafs signed by Darryl Sutter and Wendel Clark.
People from across the province even drove to the rink to hand-deliver their donations.
“It just gave you faith in humanity again – just a warm and heartfelt feeling of gratitude to know that you’re supported by your community and your country and our neighbours in the States,” Ganchar said.
The donations will now make it possible to pay the rink’s bills and even tackle a few repairs.
The wish list at this point includes replacing the lights in the rink to lower the utility bill, new boards, upgrades to the bathrooms and a heater for the players’ benches, since the rink isn’t much warmer inside at ice surface on a -40 C day.
Global News was also shown the dressing rooms where renovations are desperately needed – water often pools on the floors come spring as the snow melts.
“The kids love this place, families love this place – it’s our social outing and it keeps the kids busy,” Ganchar added.
Volunteers at the rink said they’re still receiving donations and will likely hold a fundraising event with all the sports memorabilia that’s been collected.
The rink has also recently made improvements to the building’s security system.
Volunteers note that any new funds from the donations are a huge help for the rink, but no amount of money can compare to the kindness shown to Asquith from coast-to-coast.