CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The 43rd annual P.E.I. Source for Sports Spud Minor Hockey Tournament is in full swing as many teams are scoreboard watching in the hopes of advancing to Sunday's championship games, which get underway at 12:30 p.m. at MacLauchlan Arena.
I had a chat yesterday with Brodie O'Keefe, the chairman of the host committee, and he informed me that 76 teams from Atlantic Canada are participating this year and that has got to be a huge lift for hotels, motels and restaurants throughout the city. Brodie and Keith (Bim) Ford, who is president of the Charlottetown Minor hockey Association (CMHA), have recruited past president George Halliwell and a cast of other volunteers like Vernon (Buzz) Doyle and Terry MacDonald who give their time to make this tournament the biggest and best of its kind in the Maritime provinces. The revenue from this tournament enables the CMHA to maintain the lowest minor hockey registration rates on P.E.I.
Spearheaded by the late Claude and Mary Vaive, and with the support of president of Charlottetown Minor Hockey Ralph Manning and individuals like Clee Gillis, Billy Mulligan, Dr. Charlie Brown, Ron Atkinson, Rollie Hiltz and others, the Spud Minor Hockey tournament was launched in 1975 without a great deal of fanfare.
Today, the Spud is the biggest and best in the region and has been a tournament steppingstone for young minor hockey stars and future NHLers like Islanders Brad Richards, David Ling and Jason MacDonald, plus today's stars like Adam McQuaid and a couple of kids from Cole Harbour, N.S., in Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, possibly the two best players in the NHL today.
One of the best young players I've seen in recent years is bantam-aged Jacob Squires, the very talented captain and standout defenceman with the Central Attack, the combined Charlottetown-Sherwood AAA bantam team. The Attack’s Spud opponent today is a New Brunswick team, game time is 4:15 p.m. at Simmonds Sports Centre and it's your chance to see Jacob for yourself.
Fans will get a chance to see many other of tomorrow's standouts during the championship round on Sunday 12.30 at MacLauchlan Arena.
The Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Island Storm of the
National Basketball League of Canada are both in action this weekend. The Islanders entertain Cape Breton today at 3 p.m. at Eastlink Centre in the second of two with the Eagles this weekend. The Islanders are in a great position to finish among the top eight teams and thus an extra home game in the first round of the playoffs.
On the basketball front, the Storm plays first-place Halifax Sunday at 2 p.m. at Eastlink Centre and it's our first chance to get a look at newcomer Chris Anderson, who looked very good in Wednesday's road loss to Moncton. In addition to Anderson, standout guard and pure shooter Andre Stringer is back and hopefully Chris Johnson, who also missed the Moncton game. Last time Halifax played here they edged the Storm on a last-second basket, so Sunday's game should be a dandy.
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to fashion one of the greatest stories in all of professional sports as they are among the NHL league leaders in points.
No expansion team has ever been this good before and the fans in Vegas are talking Stanley Cup. It could happen in Sin City.
Some readers have asked for answers to the following questions:
1. Will Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan finish the season? I have my doubts.
2. What are two trades NHL teams might regret? Montreal's P.K. Subban to Nashville and Edmonton's Taylor Hall to New Jersey. Neither Edmonton nor Montreal will make the playoffs.
3. Is Ottawa's superstar Erik Karlsson hurting? He's not 100 per cent that's for sure, and the Senators are in the basement in a weak Atlantic Division with the likes of Detroit, Florida, Buffalo and Montreal. The Leafs are better than these five but are third behind Tampa Bay and Boston, who have multiple games in hand.
4. Does Leafs head coach Mike Babcock really think the Leafs can win with a defence anchored by Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly? If he does, he's not that bright. If the Leafs do not get blue-line help before the trade deadline, their playoff run will be a short one.
Also on a local hockey note, the Charlottetown chapter of the New York Rangers fan club called a meeting for the Alley yesterday at 5:30 p.m. and only Ron Hennessey, Jamie Diamond, Mike Kennedy and Stevie Gallant showed up. With the Rangers fighting for a playoff spot, chapter president Bill Mulligan was a no-show. He appears to have abandoned the Rangers ship.
On the local curling front, we almost missed the fact veteran shot-maker John Likely finished runner-up again this year in the provincial Tankard. It has got to be a record – nine or 10 second-place finishes.
Word around the local watering holes is Likely is thinking of recruiting Stu Lavers, who played in the provincial during the early 1960s with Art Burke in the days great teams like Burke, Bobby and George Dillon and another great, Doug Cameron, played. If Lavers does play, he will have had the greatest gap ever in Tankard play, 55 years. Wouldn't that be something.
Harness racing continues today at the city track with an 11-dash card starting at 12:30 p.m. It's the final live card until the spring.
The $2,300 feature goes in Race 10 and the favourite should be Eagle Jolt with Marc Campbell aboard, although Drivingthedragon and Salmonier Storm will be tough.
At Woodbine tonight, Jins Shark who captured the $34,000 top class last week for James MacDonald in a season's-best 1:50 meets Yonkers invader and Maritime-owned The Rev in the eight-horse top class.
Kevin Harvey's Traces of Purple was fifth by four lengths in an $18,000 conditioned pace last time out at Woodbine.
Patrick Shepherd and his brother Robert are on a hot streak at London's Western Fair, clicking for four wins twice already in January. Both boys are among Canada's top 10 in trainer and driver stats.
Bettim Jackie stepped to a new record of 1:53:2 in winning Thursday night for Louie-Philippe Roy at Woodbine in a $17,000 class. The horse is co-owned by Lilley, Blair MacLauchlan and Danny Purcell.
Oceanview Deb was second on the same Woodbine card, but earlier this month the daughter of Neal won in 1:56 and change.
The harness racing game lost a great lady with the passing this week of Carol MacGregor, wife of the late James Roach MacGregor. To Doug, Tanya, Tricia and all connected, my condolences.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org