EAST GRAND FORKS — It's in the blood of all 8,700 residents in East Grand Forks.
"It's an expectation to play hockey," said Landon Parker, a senior on the East Grand Forks hockey team.
"When I was a little kid, I would go to all the games and watch the bigger kids who were role models to me," explained Kendra Emery, a junior on the girls hockey team.
It's kind of appropriate that the city is one of four finalists for this year's title of Hockeyville USA, sponsored by Kraft and the NHL.
"(You) play not just for yourself, not just your team, but your community," Parker said.
Not only do they get the prestigious title, but the winning city will also receive $150,000 for rink upgrades.
The city's nearly 50-year-old civic center still relies on its original refrigeration system, said Reid Huttunen. Parts of it are no longer approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"A lot can go wrong at this point in time. It's troublesome to find replacement parts for (and) more expensive to maintain," Huttunen said.
There were plans to get the money through a sales tax, but those efforts hit the post due to the pandemic. Whether it's game night or figure skaters shining bright in the spotlight, there's always that fear when the lights come on that the ice may be a big puddle.
"That's already a fear, to be honest with you, and has been for a couple of years," Huttunen said.
The prize money would only cover approximately a third of the cost for a new refrigeration system. However, city leaders point out a new system would allow them to have ice year-round. Currently, there is no ice in East Grand Forks from April through October.
"(We'd) be able to host some tournaments and draw more interest and revenue back into our community," Huttunen said.
Many players believe year-round ice on the ground will mean more banners in the rafters.
"When you are younger, you don't get on the ice all year round, so if they got on the ice all year round their game would develop so much better," Emery said.
Who gets the Hockeyville title is all up to voters. Online voting begins at 6 a.m. Saturday and lasts through Sunday at 10 a.m.
Those interested can vote online as often as they want at https://www.krafthockeyville.com/#/landing.
The other three towns in the running are El Paso, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; and River Falls, Wisconsin.
Typically, the winning community also gets to host an NHL preseason game, but the NHL did not want to commit to that this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.