Every person I have talked to that has been to an Island Storm basketball game has enjoyed the experience and maybe it’s time you did, too. The Charlottetown team is on a roll heading into the playoffs with seven consecutive home wins at the Eastlink Centre and tonight they host the Moncton Miracles at 7 p.m.
It’s hard not to like standout Antonio Ballard who pumped in 25 points and had 20 rebounds in last Tuesday’s thrilling 117-111 win over the Halifax Rainmen. He’s like Michael Jordan, he never has a bad game. In Tuesday’s win, Ballard also had help as Nick Okorie, Steve Tchiengang and Adrian Moss all were in double figures for the winners. The Storm also got a boost earlier in the week with the re-signing of Nick Evans who gave the Storm useful minutes in every game in last year’s final against London.
The Storm is also in action Monday and it’s their last regular season home game, at 2 p.m. against Saint John Mill Rats. Let’s get out and support our local professional team.
In other basketball news, the UPEI Panthers men’s and women’s teams are in Newfoundland and Labrador this weekend in important games. A sweep by the men and another loss by Acadia could result in a first-place finish for the Tim Kendrick-coached team. The women play two four-point games and need at least a split against Memorial, which is 6-1 at home and 1-6 on the road.
On the hockey front, the hockey Panthers meet St. F.X. tonight at 7 in a game that could be a playoff preview. The Panthers will finish third or fourth, which means a date with either Saint Mary’s, which was here last night, or St. F.X. Tonight’s game is important so I’d advise getting there early.
Canada’s Olympic hockey women’s team came up with a terrific performance and downed the U.S. 3-2 in preliminary round play Tuesday in Russia. The Americans had beaten Team Canada four straight games and appeared to have surpassed Canada as a power in world women’s hockey. Neither Canada nor the U.S. have much love for one another; they’ve brawled previously, so the Olympic hockey gold matchup will likely draw a record worldwide audience. Canada and U.S. must win semifinal games Monday for the matchup to happen.
As for the men’s hockey team, they smothered Norway 3-1 in their opening Olympic game Thursday and played Austria on Friday, hardly of test of anything except to see how patriotic Canadian fans are for watching such boredom. The remainder of the tournament should be very, very interesting with Russia, Sweden, U.S. and possibly Finland challenging Canada for gold. I’d love to see Russia and Canada in the final game, which brings back fond memories of that Red Army vs. Canada 1972 series.
While on the hockey front, I haven’t heard too much pushback from communities regarding the P.E.I. Hockey Association’s zoning plans for next season. If you’ve seen the recent Island AAA bantam standings, you will see West Prince and Summerside ranked 1-2.
Hockey P.E.I. wants to form one team between the first- and second-place teams with Summerside parents travelling to Tignish for practices and games and West Prince parents and kids driving to Summerside. West Prince includes Tyne Valley, O’Leary and Tignish and need no help and neither does Summerside which has always had a strong minor hockey system. This is one of the dumbest amateur sports decisions ever rendered in this province. It will result in fewer kids playing, no doubt about it.
West Prince and Summerside are the two top teams. AAA peewee and bantam teams and should be separate teams in any 2014-15 provincial league. At both levels, the provincial league should include the two teams above, plus the following — Mid-Isle, which is west of the North River bridge and includes Crapaud, Kensington, Crapaud; a joint team of Charlottetown and Sherwood Parkdale; Pownal-Stratford, which happens to be the fastest growing community in the province and Kings County.
This format makes far more sense that the PEIAHA’s foolishness.
It is no secret that costs are driving kids and parents out of hockey and the new zoning plan will do just that. I think the PEIHA would be wise to review the zoning plans for next year and give communities a chance for real input, not a choice of a poor plan or an even worse plan.
If Hockey P.E.I. wants to do something constructive, I have an idea. Goaltender Corrado (Corey) Micalef, who played with the Detroit Red Wings and with Team Canada in the 1986 world championships is here on the Island working for Veterans Affairs. He worked as an assistant with the P.E.I. Rocket and has outstanding insights into the game of hockey. Hockey P.E.I. should get Corey and possibly Jamie Blanchard and Paul Drew to put on clinics for goaltenders across the province and charge budding minor hockey goaltenders nothing. Parents of goaltending kids playing minor hockey deserve a break now and then because the costs are astronomical. When Wayne MacDougall was president of Hockey P.E.I., he built up a bank account that would choke a horse. How about spending a little for the sake of hockey development.
No live harness racing today at the city track but plenty of simulcast action from Flamboro and this evening from Yonkers Raceway, Woodbine and The Meadowlands.
The O’Brien Awards last weekend was a rousing success from start to finish. The opening Thursday night at the Fanningbank to spend some time with “the Suthen Governor”, the Kitchen Party at Red Shores with great entertainment especially horseman Tim MacKinnon who forced Rabs MacDonald and Jody Jamieson to stay on the sidelines and finally the awards on Saturday at the Delta. Great show all the way around.
Kent Oakes has been voted chairman of Standardbred Canada which is a good move. It’s nice to see accolades for P.E.I. Horse Owners Association Tom Clarke and Eldrid Nicholson.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears every Saturday in The Guardian