Pair of D-III communities, schools – Nazareth, Geneseo – in running to be named Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017

Communities across the country have shown their local pride and love of hockey, and now 10 of them are one step closer to being awarded the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017.

The Kraft Heinz search for America’s most passionate hockey community – in partnership with the NHL, NHLPA), NBC Sports Group and USA Hockey – led to almost 1,300 local rink nominations across the United States, accounting for nearly 73 percent of rinks nationwide, according to USA Hockey data.

With the nominations now narrowed down to 10 finalists, the first round of public voting will begin April 11 at

Each of the 10 finalists will be awarded funds for arena upgrades from Kraft Heinz, and the grand-prize winner will be awarded $150,000 and the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game televised live on NBCSN.

Two finalists have ties to college hockey as Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Rochester, N.Y., is home to Nazareth and Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena in Geneseo, N.Y., is home to Geneseo.

“We’re excited to be one step closer to naming the most passionate hockey community in America for 2017, and are astonished by the emotion and spirit depicted in the nearly 1,300 nominations we received,” said Kraft Heinz senior VP of marketing Nina Barton in a statement. “It’s going to be a great race to the finish, as each of the top 10 rinks truly embodies the spirit of Kraft Hockeyville USA.”