CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Professional basketball in the Maritimes hasn't had the time to build up bitter rivalries like hockey, where for 50-plus years mainland teams like Moncton, Halifax and Saint John hated coming to the Island because of the intense, physical play of Charlottetown-based teams.
It didn't take long, however, for hoop teams to establish hated rivals status but that's what happened last summer when the Island Storm decided not to retain head coach Joe Salerno. The only coach the team ever knew signed with the Moncton Magic and took along star players like Terry Thomas, Al Stewart and Tirrell Baines.
The Storm signed ex-UPEI coach Tim Kendrick, who did a splendid recruiting job by landing standouts like Franklin Session, Andre Stringer, Du’Vaughn Maxwell, Torrence Dyck Jr., Chris Johnson, Kemy Osse and big boys Marcus Bell, Zack Valliere, Wayne McCullough and Brad States. Toss in ex-UPEI sharpshooter and all-Canadian Tyler Scott and Dut Dut and suddenly the Storm club, which went 30-50 during the last two seasons, transformed itself into a championship contender.
The Eastlink Centre should be rocking Boxing Day when arch-rival Moncton takes to the court for a 2 p.m. contest in what looks like one of the most intense games in Island Storm history with a likely share of first place on the line.
The folks in Las Vegas, the newest NHL city, are starting to believe head coach Gerard Gallant can walk on water.
The success of the Vegas hockey team is the biggest story in pro sports right now and it should be. The expansion Golden Knights were tied for third overall in points and two points back of the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings heading into Friday’s action — not bad for a club that was listed with Vegas bookies as 800-1 to win the Stanley Cup and as late as a month ago at 100-1 to win their division.
After beating Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay during the past 10 days, the Knights are starting to think of themselves as not just a playoff contender, but serious divisional and Stanley Cup contenders.
The Knights have 46 points in 33 games and of the last 35 teams that banked 40 points in 30 games, 34 made the playoffs. If they stay healthy and don't lose any key people, there's every reason to believe the Knights will not only make the playoffs, but will be around for a long post-season run and — maybe — even a Stanley Cup appearance.
Gallant is a lock to win coach of the year honours.
We love to see ex-Islanders excel in all sports/endeavours and strange as it may seem, last Saturday's outdoors NHL game in Ottawa between the Senators and Montreal Canadiens presented an interesting angle.
Tasha MacFadyen, Donnie's daughter, was the wardrobe designer/supervisor for both teams dressing all the stars in period vintage sweaters. She was also the wardrobe supervisor for the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando and the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
I always thought her uncle Neil was the most talented sports figure in the MacFadyen family.
The Big Red fella, no not Ray Murphy, Santa Claus is on his way and I'm thinking he may be bringing the following in his big Christmas bag:
– To teacher/horseman Thane Arsenault: A beautiful trophy with the inscription “to Atlantic Canada's top ice hockey referee for the past decade and long overdue.” Thane has been sidelined with a back injury and possibly sidelined for the season. P.S. Santa, you are upsetting Jamie Kennedy.
– To Grade 12 Colonel Gray student and golf standout Tyler Hashmi: A good luck pat on the back from The Sports Prophet, as you prepares for the CJGA golf tournament at Innisbrook, Fla., Dec. 28-30.
– To Wendell MacEachern, Joyce Dunphy and Tex MacDonald: A one-day golf pass to Steve Dowling and Dave Bowlan's winter golf academy at the Kent Street mall so they can improve their golf game.
– To Darren Noonan, Andrew MacLarin and Jamie O'Hanley: A book each on hockey trivia autographed by Merchantman's Steve MacCabe, Paul Strain and LCC's Jamie MacLeod.
– To harness driver Doug MacGregor: Santa has a win ticket on MacGregor, who makes his 2017 driving debut at city track on Boxing Day. Santa's got to be a big optimist but I'll go along for the ride. One of MacGregor's two drives – Threestepstoheaven – that's what I call a hunch bet.
Live harness racing resumes here on Boxing Day with a 16-dash card, which gets underway at 12:30 p.m.
The $2,400 top class goes in Race 12 and it's a tough five horse field from the rail out: Silverinyourpocket, Rose Run Quest,Czar Seelster, Woggy Rocks and Nogreatmischief.
The big news in the region is the purchase of Stonebridge Terror (by Western Terror) p, 1:51 ($834,000) by Bob Gordon's ElmGrove Farms and Bruce Woods Woodmere Farms. The stallion, who sired the likes of Atlantic Breeders Crown champ Half Cut p, 2. 1:55:1h and stakes winners Chocolate Terror and Elm Grove Misty from a small crop, will stand at Woodmere Farms during the breeding season along with Rollwithitharry and Western Paradise, the half brother to Stonebridge Terror.
The local race game is saddened by the unexpected passing of Ken MacInnis, 86, whose horses carried the Hopedale name. A grand gentleman, MacInnis also campaigned former Governors Plate starter Riccaras Son. My condolences to all connected.
Only two weeks to go in the NFL schedule and there are huge games today and tomorrow with playoff implications. Let's take a closer look:
Indianapolis Colts (3-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6) – The Ravens have to win twice to make the playoffs, and it starts today as 13-point favourites. Play the Ravens on the money line.
Miami Dolphins (6-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – The Chiefs looked razor-sharp the last two games at Arrowhead and they're primed and hot heading into post season.
LA Rams (10-4) at Tennessee Titans (8-6) – The Titans need this game and are praying the Rams are a little down after that pounding of Seattle last Sunday. Rams are too strong and Titans are not nearly as good as their record might indicate.
LA Chargers (7-7) at New York Jets (5-9) – The Chargers need to win and help to make the playoffs and QB Phil Rivers will lead the way against a gritty Jets club. The Chargers are better than 7-7 and they'll prove it to the Jets.
Seattle Seahawks (8-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6) – This is a sudden-death game and the Cowboys have standout back Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup. The Seahawks are coming off a knockout loss and even with Russell Wilson Seattle is no match for a revived Cowboys club.
Buffalo Bills (8-6) at New England Patriots (11-3) – The Bills need the win to stay alive and the Pats need to win to maintain the No. 1 seed. The Bills have a great secondary and they're a lot better than 13-point dogs. Bet the Bills on the spread, this game could be a tight one.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org