The basketball Storm are joining Islanders to play out of the Civic Centre
© Canadian Press photo
Summerside Storm’s Brandon Robinson tries to drive around London Lightning’s Tim Ellis during last season's National Basketball League of Canada playoff game in London, Ont.
Duncan Shaw has his National Basketball League team where he always wanted it to be. It just took him two years longer than he had first hoped. And only time will tell whether his gamble will pay off.
The Meadowbank resident, and president of Mullache Corporation, cleared his final hurdle Monday night when the City of Charlottetown gave its official blessing to the relocation of the Summerside Storm to the Charlottetown Civic Centre for the upcoming season.
The news has to be a great disappointment to Summerside. Mayor Basil Stewart tried to be gracious despite the departure of a major tenant at Credit Union Place. Mayor Stewart had just averted a somewhat similar disaster in late June when only an 11th-hour deal stopped the Western Capitals from departing and looking for a new home.
Shaw is taking full blame, or credit, for the move. He said it was strictly a business decision. The lack of corporate support in Summerside was a possible threat to the future of the franchise, and if the team is to survive, Shaw argued that it needed to move to the P.E.I. capital.
He also needs larger crowds, which has a better chance of happening in Charlottetown (population 40,000) than in Summerside (population 15,000). Shaw observed that another issue in his decision to leave CUP was the difficulty he faced with management. If the Capitals, a 25-year institution in Summerside, had one foot out the door, and the Storm did leave, is there a problem?
There is no comparison between the two buildings. CUP is one of the finest sports and entertainment facilities in eastern Canada. The blue elephant on Kensington Road is an engineering catastrophe, unsuitable for hockey but may have better luck as a basketball facility.
There are other looming benefits for the Storm. Players will have more things to do outside the basketball court. The team has a great facility nearby for practices and scrimmages, if it can work out a deal with UPEI. Mr. Shaw, chair of development, fundraising and external relations committee on the university’s board of governors, may have an inside track in that area.
One wonders where Charlottetown has suddenly come up with the $200,000 to support the Storm by purchasing a new basketball floor for the Civic Centre, shortly after committing a similar amount to support the new-look Islanders of the QMJHL, formerly P.E.I. Rocket?
There is no question attending a Storm game was an enjoyable event. Apart from the great building, there was a touch of class all evening which left patrons feeling entertained and convinced they were at a professional event. Summerside knew how to put on a show.
For the Storm to survive, it needs additional corporate support, it needs a winning product on the floor but most of all, it needs fans in the stands. To do that, it needs Island-wide support. Can Charlottetown duplicate the marketing prowess, community support and the electricity inside the building on game day that were so evident in Summerside?
It’s unfortunate the two P.E.I. cities seem to be in constant competition, at the expense of each other, where there is a winner and a loser. So far, it has been a friendly rivalry, but this corporate raid could increase tensions and keep western fans at home.
Two years ago, Charlottetown seemed indifferent when Shaw and the NBL came calling. The cold shoulder might be too severe a description but it’s close. Now that the NBL seems to have a stable future, and the buzz around the team is growing, the capital city seems happy to welcome them home.