There’s a lot riding on the upcoming world junior hockey tournament in Finland.
The Charlottetown Islanders management team, like the rest of us, will be playing close attention to what’s happening in Helsinki.
Charlottetown Islanders goaltender Mason McDonald will likely start at least one of the early games, but nothing is carved in stone.
Canada, with McDonald in goal, lost 5-4 in a shootout against the Canadian university all-stars last weekend in Toronto.
Let’s hope McDonald is razor sharp.
A great performance by him will greatly increase his trade value and since it doesn’t appear the Island club is set for a long playoff run, if any at all, trading McDonald for draft picks or quality players makes sense.
During last Saturday’s 5-1 win over Drummondville more than one fan questioned why the Islanders blew up the team after the first-round playoff loss to Val-d’Or three years ago.
The Islanders were coming off a franchise-record 41-win season and had the likes of Antoine Bibeau, who went on to become the Memorial Cup most outstanding goaltender, top defenceman Ryan Graves plus top forwards Louick Marcotte, Yan-Pavel Laplante and Alexis Pepin among others.
Other question last year’s decision of trading first round draft picks for 20-year-olds Ryan MacKinnon and Ross Johnston or the giving up two first-round picks for Oliver Cooper. There are those faithful fans who insist it was the price to get past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the inaugural season.
Professional hockey, including major junior, is a tough business. When you’re winning everybody is on the bandwagon. When a team slumps or fails to live up to expectations, exaggerated as they were with this Islanders team, the swords come out and rumours abound.
The Islanders played Acadie-Bathurst Friday in a matchup of teams fighting for the final playoff spot. A loss and you can rest assured the drums for change will grow louder and louder.
Gerry Kane may not be a name familiar with today’s hockey fans on Prince Edward Island but the colourful speedster from Charlottetown was certainly one of the most entertaining players in Maritime senior hockey in the mid-1960s and 1970s.
Gerry left Charlottetown in 1967 with his buddy Fred Burke and joined Saint John of the New Brunswick Senior Hockey League, which included top Island defenceman Frank (Doughboy) Shepherd and Kane’s longtime friend and enforcer Billy Chowan.
Gerry could play the finesse game but he was at his best when the going got tough. Sadly he passed away early last week in the Port City.
Gladys MacMillan, 86, was well known in this city and throughout the province for her work with under-privileged people, but it was with her partner, the hockey legend Buck Whitlock, that she developed a love of hockey and harness racing. If Gladys MacMillan is not in heaven today with Buck, there’s not much chance for the rest of us.
Live harness racing continues today at 12:30 p.m. with a 16-dash card.
The $2,400 top class goes in Race 15 and includes All Turain and Forever Paradise on the outside against First Art Down, Cambest Kisser, Painted Desert and Smiley Bayama.
In the $34,000 top class tonight at Woodbine, Apprenticeship Hanover, who looked razor sharp last week in his debut off the shelf, looks the best in the six-horse field.
Yonkers Raceway is dark for the next two-and-a-half weeks, but the Meadowlands has a full field tonight in all but the $25,000 open, where Melmerby Beach looms as the favourite after beating the same class two weeks ago.
Arthur Blue Chip (Wally Hennessey) has the six-hole in the $11,500 open pace Sunday at Pompano Park against a tough field, including Bluehourpower and Alex’s Jackpot.
The Prophet’s Football Picks
I told everyone last week to jump aboard the Pittsburgh Steelers bandwagon and they beat the Bengals outright.
Denver Broncos (10-3) at Steelers (8-5) – It makes no difference who plays QB for the Broncos, they lack offence. Steelers QB Big Ben Roethlisberger will score plenty, so take the Steelers.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-9) – The Chiefs are on fire with seven straight wins under the guidance of QB Alex Smith, who does not turn the ball over. Since they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs for the season, Baltimore is just not the same defensively.
Chicago Bears (5-8) at Minnesota Vikings (8-5) – The Vikings always beat the teams they should beat. In fact, they looked better than they are until being exposed by Green Bay and Seattle. The Vikings are not great but they’re much better than the Bears and with running back Adrian Peterson will clobber Chicago.
New York Jets (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (4-9) – In a rare Saturday night game, the Jets are playoff bound and a solid club, while the Cowboys are going nowhere. Jets all the way.
Carolina Panthers (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7) – The Giants can pull off an upset if Eli Manning comes up big. Take the five points and play the Giants.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.