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NHL hockey is likely finished for this season and for hockey followers in Las Vegas, fate has intervened in what most likely would have been a long Golden Knights’ playoff run.
Most P.E.I. hockey fans have abandoned the Vegas bandwagon after the club’s outrageous decision to replace head coach Gerard (Turk) Gallant and assistant Mike Kelly. It would be hard for fans to watch any such successful Vegas playoff run. The Golden Knights improved their team immensely after Gallant’s departure by adding an all-star type goalie in Robin Lehner to support Marc-Andre Flurry, up-and-coming forward Nick Cousins from Montreal and defenceman Alec Martinez from Los Angeles.
The hottest Western Conference teams when play stopped due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) were Vegas and St. Louis (8-2 in their last 10 games), followed by Colorado (7-2-1), Winnipeg (6-3-1), Calgary (6-3-1) and Nashville (6-3-1).
Goaltending is the key to any successful playoff run and Vegas’ tandem, plus their style of play, fashioned by Gallant, would have been in great shape for the playoffs. The difference between Gallant and other coaches is the players' interests are his interests, nothing more.
The Boston Bruins looked like the best in Eastern Conference with Washington, Tampa Bay and the surprising Philadelphia Flyers in the hunt. But, barring injuries, my money would have been on the Beanies in the East.
I’m disappointed we have no playoff hockey to watch, but if you’re expecting me to feel sorry for the Golden Knights, I’m not.
Summerside lost one of its finest gentlemen and a former great athlete with the passing this week of George MacNeill.
George starred in hockey with Saint Dunstan’s and stopped pucks for the Saints when they won the 1964-65 Maritime championship led by power forward Billy MacMillan and guys like linemates Andre Gelinas and Denis DuCarufel, as well as Mike Kelly, Darrell Pollock, Vince Mulligan, Rex McCarville, Jack Hynes and others.
The next year George joined the Halifax junior Canadiens along with Paul MacWilliams and Bill Dickie playing against the best major junior teams in Canada, as well as the top university teams in the region.
George was also an outstanding baseball player – a top-notch catcher/infielder and a powerful right-handed hitter. He played on the 1965 Canada Games and on many Summerside intermediate baseball and fastball teams.
George always liked me to tell the story of his hockey playoff series between the Summerside and Tignish. During the series, Summerside’s backup goalie Gary Somers was forced into action for the injured MacNeill in the third period with the Summerside up 5-2. Tignish standout Mickey Callaghan pumped four shots past Somers, and Tignish won 6-5 and the championship. George got the greatest kick out of that story and I can still see his laughter when he asked me to tell it in front of George, Bill Dickie, MacWilliams, Blair Connell and, of course, Somers.
He was honoured last summer at the Summerside ballpark where he starred for many years, a well-deserved honour for one of the finest people one could ever meet.
My condolences to all connected to this wonderful gentleman.
It seems no matter which way we turn these days, we are greeted with bad news. Not that long ago, we had lunch with Gordon Tweedy and Roger Perry and today both are battling ill-health. Tweedy is an alumnus of UNB varsity hockey and a longtime mainstay of Charlottetown oldtimers hockey and of championship rugby teams.
Perry was the first football coach at Prince of Wales College in the mid-1950s and helped develop minor football in Charlottetown for many years. He was also a key player when Orin Carver put together the P.E.I. Canada Games host committee.
Roger’s son, Steven, played football at Colonel Gray and his sons, Michael and Scott, excelled in sports. Last year Scott played wide receiver with the Acadia Axemen. Roger’s granddaughters, Sarah and Samie Williams, were also top athletes and starred with the Charlottetown Bluephins swim teams.
This morning, Gordon and Roger can read The Guardian and argue who was the better athlete.
Hopefully, by early June the harness racing scene will be back in action. Red Shores has allotted time slots for trainers to get their work done while adhering to social distancing and other strict health measures.
The breeding season is now upon us and broodmare owners are carefully selecting stallions for their mares.
I talked to Ian Moore when he was here a few weeks ago and he told me he has two Arthur Blue Chips in training and they are impressive. One is a colt and the other a filly. Arthur Blue Chip is standing his first season at Bruce Wood’s Woodmere Farms and the Shadow Play stallion is a gorgeous looking individual.
Woodmere also stands Rollwithitharry, whose first crop in 2019 produced the Atlantic Breeders crown two-year-old winner, and another great looker in Stonebridge Terror, a high-percentage sire who has to his credit the top two-year-old Half Cut.
The Bettors Delight horse Malicious led Canada and North America three-year-olds in four categories, including percentage of three-year-olds to the races and percentage of three-year-olds with sub 2:00 records. He’s standing at Windemere Farms along with Articulator, sire of such standouts as Atlantic sire champions Ramblinglily and Woodmere Oleksiak.
Jamie MacKinley’s J J Farms in Cornwall has a couple of interesting studs in Hilarious Halo p, 1:48:3 ($475,000), the fastest stallion in the region and whose first crop will race this summer, plus Tobago Cays (Rocknroll Hanover, $800,000) who had two stakes winners from a small test crop of three last summer in Delaware. Tobago is out of the great Bunny Lake, which is interesting indeed.
Next week, I’ll look at HowMac Farms star Source of Pride, Robin Burke’s highly regarded Shanghai Phil and the Ron Gass Farm in Cornwall plus other stallions.
In closing, here’s a funny story. I asked taximan George Larter how his three-year-old The Fox was training under the care of Brendon Curran. “The colt looks good, but they’re trying to convert me into a Tory,” laughed George.
Good luck with that one!
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at email@example.com.