On September 6th 2022, the Smilezone team unveiled TWO NEW SMILEZONES within the Jim Neilson Sports Complex in Big River First Nation, SK– the first ever Smilezones in the province of Saskatchewan! A very big thank you to our generous donors – Big River First Nation, the New York Rangers and the Graves Family – for supporting the first ever Smilezones in Big River, SK.
The new Smilezones features professional New York Ranger style locker rooms, with custom bench seating, murals, jerseys, and more – all custom designed to help kids smile while lacing up their skates!
The Jim Neilson Sports Complex multi-use sports facility welcomed community members and dignitaries from across the province Tuesday for its grand opening featuring a WHL preseason game between the Saskatoon Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders. The facility features a 1,500-seat arena, artificial soccer turf, football field, baseball field and a space for powwows. Hundreds of people were on site for the official ceremonies and the hockey game.
“I’m excited it’s finally come to fruition,” said Big River First Nation CEO Derek Klein “It’s been twelve years of hard work in this facility is going to be great for the youth and community for years to come by.”
The First Nation’s CEO says the there is a sense of pride permeating through the community at the grand opening of the facility. “I can just feel it in the community in how proud they are and how much this facility is going to benefit the youth,” he said. “It’s been a dream for the last 15 years and it is coming true today, so we couldn’t be more excited.
Jim Neilson, a member of Big River First Nation, played over 1,000 games in the NHL, many of them spent with the New York Rangers. “Hopefully this building will inspire youth in the community that if Jim could make it so could we,” said Klein.
“We couldn’t be prouder to celebrate (Neilson) here today and his family and know that he is such a huge part of our history,” said Graves, New York Rangers Alumni and Smilezone Foundation Co-Founder. “Certainly his legacy lives on in New York, but up here he is such an inspiration to all these kids and this facility is terrific.”