FIDDLER'S FACTS: Island Storm set to contend for conference crown

Fred MacDonald
Published on December 24, 2016

Island Storm point guard Al Stewart, left, drives into the paint on A.J. Stewart during practice Thursday at UPEI.

©Jason Malloy/TC Media

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Professional basketball returns to P.E.I. on Boxing Day when the Charlottetown-based Island Storm opens its 2016-17 season, Monday against the Saint John Riptide at Eastlink Centre.

The Storm played Cape Breton Wednesday at UPEI and they looked very impressive in routing the expansion club. Terry Thomas, who was outstanding last year, is back and so are high-scoring Tirrell Baines and veteran Al Stewart, so that’s a great nucleus.

Lack of size hurt the Storm last year but that should not be the problem as a pair of six-foot-nine big boys, Leon Gibson (Houston) and A.J. Stewart (Kentucky), showed this year‘s team is much stronger than last year’s club.

Flashy guard Nick Okorie, a crowd-pleaser here two years ago, is back and is another great addition. Brad States, who starred with UPEI Panthers last year, was a surprising late addition to the roster.

Head coach Joe Salerno and owner Duncan Shaw were all smiles after Tuesday’s exhibition and there’s a lot to like about this club.

It’s only early, and we haven’t seen the other clubs, but I can tell you with certainty, this is a very good club, which will challenge for conference crown.

I’d advise getting there early Monday as Red Shores is hosting a big Boxing Day harness racing card.

On the topic of basketball, I had a chat earlier this week with Mark Ladner, one of the great senior stars of the 1950s and 1960s. Mark holds the record for most points in a single Island senior league game with 75.

Ryan Keliher (University College of Cape Breton) and Jeff Walker (UPEI) are tearing up the P.E.I. Senior Men’s Basketball League.

Keliher was MVP in the 2003 CIAU semifinal while in the same tournament Walker sank three straight pressure foul shots in succession to force overtime in a Panthers victory.

Mark Rainnie, a Grade 5 student at West Kent Elementary School in Charlottetown, recently won three tournaments in a week at the annual Casely Tennis Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The wins came in three separate under-10 tournaments.

News and notes

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Mark Rainnie, Bruce and Kendra’s 10-year-old son, returned from Florida where he went undefeated in the Casely international beating the top tennis players in his age group from USA, China and Japan. Mark never lost a set in the competition.

Charlottetown’s Lam Tran, one of P.E.I.’s best senior players, says Mark is an exceptional player. That’s good enough for me.

Sophia MacMillan, 9, recently had a goal and three assists to lead Charlottetown atom AA hockey team to a win over the Western Warriors.

Stephanie MacMillan, emergency room nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, won the Cross-Fit competition last week in Summerside. It’s a great performance for a gal, who started this type of training a little more than a year ago.

Tracy Lightfoot has advanced to the semifinals in a Canadian-wide NFL fantasy football pool with two weeks to go. She never was a football fan, but now she’s a Sunday NFL regular.

Merchantman’s Kyle Vessey was a perfect 14-for-14 in NFL picks last week.


The passing earlier this week of David (Smelt) Gillis brings back fond memories of a childhood spent at the various ball diamonds in Victoria Park. He was a standout in the City Fastball League and played in many national tournaments. In recent years, he has been tortured by Alzheimer affliction.

To his wife Adele, son Dean and all connected to this gentleman, my condolences.

Harness racing

There’s a 16-dash harness racing card Monday at 12:30 p.m. post time. The $2,300 feature goes in Race 15 and it includes the likes of Drivingthedragon N, Smiley Bayama and five others.

The local race game lost one of its best supporters with the passing of Keith MacLeod, a former owner and handicapper. To his brother John, and all connected, my condolences.

Mark MacDonald will be in Las Vegas next month for the national USA harness racing awards as the horse he drove in six major victories Obrigado was named aged trotter of the year.

Our own Marc Campbell did not advance in the O’Brien horsemanship voting. There were three horsemen with very similar and impressive stats, and the voting must have been close. It is quite an achievement just to be nominated. Congratulations Marc.


Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at

The Prophet’s Picks

Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Buffalo Bills (7-7) – The Fish can clinch a playoff spot with a win, but Miami coming north in December is never a wise pick. The Bills are 3.5-point favourites, a surprise.

Tennessee Titans (8-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – The Titans have won three straight and have a terrific one-two punch in QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeMarco Murray. If you bet the Titans, you give up 3.5 points, no problem.

Green Bay Packers (8-6) at Minnesota Vikings (7-7) – The visitors are 6.5-point favorites and they should be as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is razor-sharp. Green Bay needs the win to keep their playoff hopes alive while the Vikings are playing out the string.

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – The Steelers clinch the divisional crown with the win and they are a much, much better team at home. These teams hate one another and it will be a tight game.

Detroit Lions (9-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-2) – This is a nothing game for the Cowboys as they’ve already clinched home field throughout the playoffs with the Giants loss Thursday. It’s a huge game for Detroit and Matt Stafford. I don’t see Dallas resting any regulars until the last week. I’ll stick with the home team.