That was quite the surprise UPEI landed on the sports community earlier this week, moving Summerside native Billy Schurman into the athletic director’s spot and moving Ron Annear into another position in the department.
A number of people were upset the position was never advertised, but those that hold that position have a short memory. Annear himself was dropped into the AD position without a competition. Government has the right to go outside the public service to hire “excluded individuals” but when that happens, the excluded person gives up something, the right to union protection. That’s the way the big ball bounces.
I do not know who was pulling for Schurman behind the scenes, but I’m sure it couldn’t be the new president Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, who came here from Egypt via Calgary and wouldn’t know Billy Schurman from Humpty Dumpty. The connection may be Duncan Shaw, the co-owner of the Summerside Storm, who worked with Schurman and sits on the UPEI board of directors.
It matters not, because in my view this is a good hire.
Schurman has a proven track record in athletics and more importantly in corporate fundraising for athletics, which at UPEI is massively underfunded and short-staffed.
The Panthers have done very well with the resources they have had, with budgets tight, and expecting to be tighter, there are new concerns for the athletics department. Hence, the arrival of Bill Schurman.
At the rink
On the local hockey front, the UPEI Panthers played last night against UNB and are home again next Friday and Saturday against St. F.X. and St Mary’s.
The P.E.I. Rocket is on the road this weekend as well and let’s get behind the boys and fill the Civic Centre when they return. They are having a successful season and with the top two scorers in the league deserve our support.
The Halifax Junior Canadiens of the mid-1960s were one of the great junior clubs in Maritime hockey history and they were loaded with Islanders like Errol Thompson, Bob Whitlock, Paul MacWilliams, Bill Dickie Jamie Kennedy, Kevin Smith and Jack MacEachern among others. Brian Reddin was a fast forward on those teams, not as quick as Boston native and Junior Canadiens star Bob Sheehan, but a good forward. He also played senior hockey with MacWilliams with Buchans Miners of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League. He was a regular at the city track and visited his buddies here last Old Home Week. Sadly Reddin passed away last week in Nova Scotia.
Brendon Dunphy, a star with the Peakes Bombers teams of the late 1950s and 1960s in the Kings County league also passed away last week. Our condolences.
On a happier note, last Saturday’s Tignish hockey-themed dinner in support of the West Prince Warriors was a sellout with more than $10,000 raised in support of the team, which is headed to the Quebec City tournament next month. Terry Hennessey of Source for Sports donated the Adam McQuaid jersey and it went for $1,400, while Mark Flood’s Winnipeg Jets stick, compliments of his parents Alan and Virginia sold for a healthy $250.
Thinking of next week
On the NFL front, Premier Robert Ghiz is emphatically endorsing his San Francisco 49ers in tomorrow’s sudden-death game vs. Atlanta. If he wins, he could be a candidate for our annual Super Bowl poll.
Ex-Panthers football great Shane Dowling gets his chance this year in the poll, so we’ll see what insights he has to offer.
Staying with the NFL, the Chicago Bears pulled quite the surprise by signing Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman to run the Bears. One of Trestman’s biggest supporters was 49ers great quarterback Steve Young, who spoke highly of Marc’s work when he was with the 49ers. Bud Grant and Marv Levy had long NFL runs with Minnesota and Buffalo after their CFL days and it could be a long stint in Chicago for Trestman.
At the track
Live harness racing continues this afternoon with a 13-dash card getting underway 1 p.m. sharp at Red Shores.
The $2,200 feature goes in Race 11 and it includes from the rail out: Camcun, Blue Star Outlaw, Oakrock Almighty, Block Party, Joseph Michael and Big League. There’s also a $1,500 open trot and a very competitive $1,500 backup pacing class.
It’s been a rough week for brothers James and Anthony MacDonald as both are now on the shelf with injuries. James suffered a dislocated ankle and tendon and ligament damage in that horrific spill at Woodbine last Saturday night.
On Wednesday, Anthony had the lead turning for home but his horse fell and Brad Forward came over the top. Anthony is bruised up and banged up and on crutches while Brad suffered a broken ankle and ligament damage similar to James. Watching these races is very disturbing especially for parents. Heading into last Saturday, James was leading the nation in wins with 16 and Anthony seventh with 13 wins, but both are now sidelined. It could have been a lot worse.
The night Francis McIsaac was killed in Saint John (1979), his horse Go Go Ike did not go down nor did the incident appear serious. Our condolences to race fan regular Tony MacKenzie and to all connected on the passing of his dad Merlin Red MacKenzie, one of the top golfers in the province for 40 years.
At Yonkers tonight, Proven Lover has drawn post seven in Race 8 for a purse of $28,000 against former Ian Moore-trained Malicious. This race can be seen via simulcast at the city track. Red Shores will be starting a new handicapping contest to run every Thursday night beginning in February. There’s a weekly winner and an overall winner who gets a chance for a spot in the world handicapping contest at The Meadowlands in April. More on this next week.
If you checked this column the past two Saturdays, and if you bet what this writer, the Sports Prophet advised, you should have filled your pockets.
After going eight-for-eight during the last two weeks, tomorrow’s two conference championship games look like easy pickings, but I wouldn’t go that far. In a sudden-death game anything can happen, especially if the quarterback gets hurt or a key player is out.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: This could be a tougher game than the odds makers think, Pats are nine-point favourites. The Ravens play the Patriots tough and remember last year in a similar game, a Ravens’ missed field goal would have forced overtime. The Ravens also edged the Patriots in the regular season, so this will be no waltz in the park.
Betting against Brady and Belichick, however, is not a strategy I would endorse — it could land a gambler into the line at the local soup kitchen.
I love New England but by seven points or less.
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons staggered to a last-second win against a much better Seattle team last Sunday, but I don’t believe they can handle the likes of 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Why on key short-yardage situations last Sunday didn’t Seattle run Russell Wilson on a sweep, I will never know. Kaepernick will run wild over Atlanta, and the 49ers will win by a touchdown, so bet San Francisco. The Sports Prophet is red hot right now, and if you haven’t been on the Fiddler’s bandwagon by now, I may not let you aboard.
As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can be at email@example.com.