LOUISDALE: Spencer McNamara walked into the Richmond Arena on Jan. 20, with a smile on his face. When he left, the smile was even bigger.
He learned that he was scheduled to attend the NHL All-Star weekend, thanks to Make-A-Wish Canada.
The foundation visited the area to officially present McNamara his tickets to St. Louis, Missouri, the site of the NHL extravaganza. Along with the tickets, he was presented with details on accommodations, spending money, not to mention some treats including a cake bearing his likeness, a couple of gifts, and Spencer’s favourite: a McCain Deep ‘n Delicious cake.
Joining McNamara in the celebration were members of the Richmond Hurricane, the high school hockey team he played with prior to Sept. 25, 2018. McNamara was involved in a car accident on that date that put him in a hospital room at the QEII with life-threatening injuries.
The healing process was long, and it involved McNamara re-learning how to walk, talk, eat, as well as use the left side of his body. He still attends daily therapy, and he’s still a part of his team, as he serves as honorary general manager of the Hurricane.
PORT HAWKESBURY: The YMCA announced it was no longer the fitness facility operator at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
YMCA Cape Breton said it would no longer operate in Port Hawkesbury as of Feb. 22.
The YMCA Board of Directors voted on Jan. 28, to close their Port Hawkesbury branch, located at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. The vote was made following an extensive review of the branch’s financial standing and increasing operational expenses.
Andre Gallant, CEO of YMCA of Cape Breton, said the impact on staff was the hardest part of the decision for him, but the effect on people trying to get healthy or maintain good health is also a major concern.
In a press release from the Town of Port Hawkesbury, the mayor and town council thanked the YMCA for their years of service. The release reinforced the town’s desire to have the facility remain open, even though the YMCA will not be running the show. The town owns the bulk of the equipment in the gym.
Nine days later, it was confirmed that the gym would be run by town staff and were offering members a fitness pass.
The pass allowed members to use the gym equipment, attend fitness classes (led by experts like Jennifer MacDonnell and Marsha McSorley, as well as yogi Mary MacKay), but also take advantage of other town-owned fitness facilities, like the Strait Area Pool, the civic centre rink and the SAERC gym.
The fitness centre itself underwent a spring cleaning and was spruced up with new paint and a newly waxed floor.
PORT HAWKESBURY: The Dalbrae Dragons connected for three third period goals to lift them to a 7-4 win over the SAERC Saints. As a result, the squad became the 2019-20 Highland Regional champs.
The victory assured Dalbrae a spot at the Division II provincials.
The first period saw SAERC go ahead when Ethan Donaldson (from Andre Gerroir and Shamus Beaton) let a wrister go from the top of the circle. The power play goal came at 3:22. Dalbrae took advantage of a man-advantage at 6:56, with Jayden Muise (from Luke Gould and Spears) hitting the top corner on a point shot.
SAERC found themselves nursing another power play late in the period, but Dalbrae sniper Matt Ellis (unassisted) took advantage of a neutral zone turnover and broke in to make it 2-1.
The second frame saw Dalbrae’s Ellis (from Muise) and Muise (from Nolan Beaton) score, with SAERC’s Shamus Beaton (from Brady White) and Braden Kelly (from Brady MacNeil and Beaton) scoring.
Most significantly, SAERC’s White (from Harrison MacFadyen and Donaldson) broke into the Dalbrae zone and popped the Saints’ fourth goal with seven seconds left on the clock. That goal tied the game 4-4.
The turning point in the third period came when Dalbrae’s Muise (from Ellis and Gould) intercepted a clearing attempt and was able to beat SAERC goalie Chase MacPherson. That was the game winner.
Ellis (from Gould) and Colin Van Zutphen (from Joshua Smith and Angus MacDonald) rounded out the Dalbrae scoring.
LOUISDALE: The Cape Breton West Islanders made them work for it, but at the end of the weekend, the Strait-Richmond Pirates claimed their third consecutive league championship.
The Pirates won the championship game at 2:47 of the second overtime period, when Logan Clannon one-timed a centring pass from Trent Diggdon to beat Islander backstop Christian Doucet on the blocker side. Ethan Richards also assisted on the goal.
Clannon (from Lindan Parsons and Richards) also had the Pirates’ second goal of the game, a power play goal, giving his crew a 2-1 lead early in the second. Ethan Bernard (from Brayden Marchand) and Marchand (unassisted) rounded out Pirate scoring.
On the Islander side, Dylan Aucoin (from Brayden Larade) had a first period power play goal, and Brady Aucoin (from Donovan Chiasson and Parker Fiset) popped one past Pirate goalie Liam Burt in the second.
The Islanders’ third goal came with 3:13 left in the third, when Chiasson (from Dylan Aucoin) tied the game at 3-3, forcing overtime.
This was the first time the Cape Breton Midget A League decided its championship by a Cape Breton Cup tournament.
MABOU: Double overtime was needed to decide who would hoist the NSSAF Division II girls hockey provincial banner but, ultimately, there was no stopping the Dr. J.H. Gillis Royals, who won 3-2 in the championship game at the Mabou Athletic Centre.
The Royals and the Dalbrae Dragons battled for the championship on Mar. 2, following a weekend of action that saw the best Division II squads from throughout the province battle it out.
After a scoreless first, Dalbrae’s Chloe Gillis (from Bryanna Smith) scored midway through the second, garnering a one-goal lead for the hosts. Just after that, Dragon Katie MacNeil was called for body checking, giving Antigonish a power play opportunity to find the tying goal. However, the Dragons tightened up their zone to hold off the Royals’ onslaught.
With 30 seconds left in the frame, Julie Sarah MacDonald took advantage of a Dalbrae turnover in their own zone, broke in, and scored.
MacDonald (from Hailey Richards) had the Royals’ second goal of the game, as she took advantage of a second Dalbrae turnover to go top corner on Dalbrae’s Grace Munro.
The Dragons continued pushing late in the game and, helped along by a tripping call against the visitors, Dragon Marissa MacLennan (from Brook MacLennan) scored on Royal Maddie Fraser. The score was 2-2, with 10 seconds left in the third period.
After a scoreless first overtime, Madison Beson (from Maggie Broussard) broke into the Dalbrae end with just 42 second played. She beat Munro on the short side, lifting the Royals to a 3-2 final.
STRAIT AREA: A number of sports events were cancelled due to Covid-19, but one event that was called off and unrelated to the current pandemic was the deciding game in the Cape Breton West High School Hockey League.
The rubber match in the best-of-three series was slated for Mar. 11, and would have seen the SAERC Saints and Dalbrae Dragons battle for the championship.
The game would have taken place after provincials, but it was felt there was “potential to create emotionally charged situations that could result in events that could lead to player injury,” in the words of SAERC Principal Rob Allen.
Allen, Dalbrae Principal Carol Smith, and league president Robert MacDonald made the decision.
STRAIT AREA: With fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic spreading even more quickly than the virus, a great number of sports events across the province were cancelled.
Hockey Canada suspended all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including the Major Bantam provincials which were being decided at the Keating Millennium Centre in Antigonish.
The Nova Major Bantams finished the provincial league as regular season champs. They were also the top seeded team for the tourney that never happened.
Also canned was the Bantam AA provincial championship, which would have taken place in Port Hood. The Strait-Richmond Minor Hockey Championship, which would have been going on this week at the Richmond Arena and Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, was kiboshed.
Prior to the Hockey Canada announcement, the IIHF Women’s World Championship was cancelled. Even though the event was slated for Halifax and Truro, the canceling had repercussions for the local area. Both Antigonish and Port Hawkesbury were to see pre-tournament action.
Volleyball Nova Scotia suspended activities last Friday, which left the Strait Area Saints U18 Girls in limbo following their winning of the Super Series 2. The girls had the opportunity to move onto the Tier 1 Super Series, but it’s now off the table.
Richmond Recreation cancelled all programs that were scheduled for March Break, and that included the two public swims scheduled at the Strait Area Pool as part of the March Break Fun Flyer. With that, all public skates scheduled for the Richmond Arena for the remainder of the season were cancelled.
Port Hawkesbury Town Council held a special emergency meeting on Sunday. It was decided to close the arena facility including the walking track. The Port Hawkesbury Fitness Centre is also closed until further notice.
Ray Bates of the Chedabucto Curling Club contacted The Reporter to state his group closed the rink for the balance of this curling season.
PORT HAWKESBURY: The Town of Port Hawkesbury allowed the public to use the town’s bicycle track, along with having access to park at trailheads.
Public parks and recreation fields were accessible again, however due to their poor conditions; the town implemented their own restrictions on the field’s use.
HALIFAX: As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decrease, the provincial government opened more recreation facilities and opportunities.
On May 1, Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, announced the easing of some measures.
Provincial and municipal parks were re-opened, including school grounds and sports fields, and trails were allowed to open.
Sport fishing was permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies or festivals were not allowed. And people from outside the province towing boats for sport fishing were not allowed into Nova Scotia.
People could attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use.
Golf driving ranges opened, including those at golf clubs, and golf clubs were allowed to perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening.
As of May 16, archery, equestrianism, golf, paddling, sailing/boating, and tennis resumed at outdoor facilities provided social distancing, environmental cleaning and participant hygiene were maintained.
However, organized coaching or training, competitions, tournaments, regattas or similar events were not permitted.
Public beaches reopened as of May 16 at 8 a.m. but people had to stay two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five.
INVERNESS: The Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission announced that it approved the Inverness Raceway’s 2020 race date calendar.
Inverness Raceway was scheduled to host a total of 17 pari-mutuel race dates in 2020, all of which were conducted on Sundays and featured a first-race post time of 1 p.m.
Inverness’ first pari-mutuel card was scheduled to be raced on June 28, and after that, the track was scheduled to host a live card every Sunday until the meet-closing program took place on Oct. 18.
STRAIT AREA: The Town of Port Hawkesbury, and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) both launched an equipment loan program, giving families access to recreational equipment; inviting them to stay active and have fun at home.
The loan is for one week at a time and the equipment includes items like roller blades and helmets, tennis rackets and balls, soccer balls, basketballs, volleyballs, football, hula hoops, washer toss, ground hockey sticks, and weighted body bars.
The Antigonish Town and County recreation departments partnered to provide families up to three free summer activity kits – providing awesome ideas on ways to keep recreation happening. Kit contents include a booklet with ideas for outdoor adventures, ways to keep moving, arts and crafts, word puzzles and more.
The recreation department in MODG kept the Chedabucto and Canso swimming pools closed for the summer. Also recreation summer programs, including the traditional mobile day camp and Guysborough County’s 55-plus games, were also cancelled.
MONCTON, N.B.: The director of hockey operations for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has deep roots in the Strait area.
The Wildcats announced that Isle Madame native Ritchie Thibeau, who was interim director of hockey operations, moved into the role full-time.
Born and raised in Boudreauville, Thibeau graduated from Isle Madame District High and played in the Richmond Amateur Baseball Association with Little Anse for six seasons.
About 25 years ago, after Irving purchased the Wildcats, Thibeau started volunteering to help the organization, and from there, he started getting more involved in the business side of hockey.
Looking back at his more than two decades in the business of hockey, Thibeau said he was fortunate to have good mentors.
MABOU: A local group reached an impressive online milestone.
Since March, Michelle Greenwell, of Tai Chi Cape Breton, led daily live broadcasts, and on July 1, she reached her goal of 108 on-line sessions.
She pointed to the immune-boosting properties of Tai Chi as perfect in the midst of a stressful and dangerous time.
Since she was already doing Tai Chi sessions almost seven days a week, Greenwell said she was prepared for the daily slough which offered even causal practitioners some helpful tips, and the chance to practice on their own.
Tai Chi Cape Breton started nine years ago and now has groups in Port Hawkesbury, Judique, Mabou, and Belle Cote.
ANTIGONISH: StFX X-Women basketball head coach Lee Anna Osei didn’t let the pandemic slow her down.
In fact, she established and founded the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), a newly formed not-for-profit organization committed to providing a platform for Black Canadians in sport.
Creating a tangible platform – a web site to disrupt the negative narratives and instead celebrate the stories and accomplishments of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the sports industry was the first step.
Osei stressed that the BCCA is not just for BIPOC stakeholders, it is for everyone who supports the goal of attaining racial equity in the Canadian sport community. The three objectives of the Black Canadian Coaches Association are celebration, advocacy though ally ship, and networking.
STRAIT AREA: There was mixed news for local baseball fans as the Richmond Amateur Baseball Association (RABA) announced it would not go forward with the 2020 season, while minor baseball leagues announced their schedules.
During a meeting on Aug. 3 of the RABA executive and all teams preparing to play this year, it was decided that the 2020 season, the league’s 50th anniversary year, would not proceed.
Although the league appointed an executive and Petit de Grat, Little Anse, Isle Madame, Louisdale, and Port Hawkesbury teams confirmed in the spring that they would field teams this year, RABA president Gary David said issues with teams was one problem.
The other equally troubling issue surrounded liability for ballfields. Another issue surrounded the play-off weekend.
Although RABA teams did hold off on starting the season earlier this summer due to new baseball rules to adhere to public health restrictions, David said that wasn’t the main reason for the cancellation.
PORT HAWKESBURY: After several months of being closed due to COVID 19, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre Fitness Centre re-opened on Aug. 4 as part of a phased reopening approach.
COVID safety protocol was integrated into the operating plan starting with the limitations placed on the numbers of participants in the gym at one time.
To incorporate enhanced safety and cleaning practices, staff performed a complete deep clean of the facility and many maintenance projects during the closure were carried out.
STRAIT AREA: Local minor baseball teams finished the season strong.
Despite finishing the season in fourth place, the Strait Area Sting won the U15 Cape Breton Baseball League on Sept. 12 defeating New Glasgow 7-6 in the semi-final, then travelled to Antigonish and beat the Angels 11-5 in the final.
Sting coach Joey MacDonald described the first game as a “back and forth battle” in which they used three pitchers, including Cole Johnston who was named game MVP.
In the championship final, the Sting won behind the pitching of Keiran Madden and Lucas Marshall, with Marshall being named the game MVP for the Sting. Antigonish earned a berth in the final with an 11-4 win over the Isle Madame Mariners in the other semi-final game.
JAMES RIVER: Management with the Riverside International Speedway announced they were tentatively planning their first Maritime Pro Stock Tour race since the implementation of provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
The organizers of the event, which was scheduled for Sept. 26, had to finalize a Guest Management Plan with Nova Scotia’s Public Health Authority – and could see several hundred spectators in attendance.
In August, it was announced by government officials the 100-acre facility in Antigonish County was on a shortlist with three other sports venues throughout the province being considered to host gatherings of more than the 250 provincial maximum; with appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place.
The afternoon event saw the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, which is the highest level of stock car racing in Canada, along with one other racing series.
Representatives with Riverside International Speedway indicated the plan saw less than a 20 per cent maximum capacity, with the grandstand area split into separate zones – each with a maximum of 250 spectators – who were self-contained with their own entry and exit, washrooms and seating areas.
LOUISDALE: The municipality responded to criticism from parents and the minor hockey association for its decision to open the Richmond Arena in November.
Strait Richmond Minor Hockey Association (SRMHA) president Angie Matthews posted on Facebook that the Municipality of the County of Richmond decided not to open the Richmond Arena “until at least the beginning of November.”
Richmond Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Don Marchand told The Reporter the decision to postpone the arena’s opening was reached after he and other municipal staff “evaluated the health and safety concerns for our arena staff and those entering the facility.”
The CAO said the decision to delay the opening was forwarded to Richmond Municipal Council on Aug. 26, and since he “did not receive different direction from councillors,” on Sept. 3 the minor hockey association was informed.
PURCHASE, N.Y.: Manhattanville College director of athletics and recreation, Julene Caulfield, announced Oct. 9, that Jennifer MacAskill was hired as the next head coach of the Valiant women’s ice hockey program.
MacAskill returned to the Manhattanville bench after previously serving as the top assistant for the last two seasons.
Over the past two seasons, MacAskill assisted the program’s all-time wins leader and now-men’s head coach David Turco. With her help, the Valiants qualified for the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) Tournament both seasons, as the squad combined for a 34-16- 5 overall record, including a 25-7-2 mark in UCHC play.
This past season, MacAskill helped guide the squad to the UCHC South Division regular-season championship, as well as a runner-up finish in the conference tournament title game.
MacAskill, a former Auld’s Cove resident who suited up in the Jr. X-Men’s inaugural season in 2010-11, earned her bachelor’s in public health and a minor in psychology from Mercyhurst in 2018. She also earned a master’s degree in sports business management at Manhattanville, graduating in 2020.
PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait Pirates of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) returned to the ice.
The Pirates opened the new season Oct. 30 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre against the Eskasoni Junior Eagles.
After first hitting the ice in early October, the Pirates held a few work-outs, and selected the core of the team.
Under the plan, all play is divisional, meaning each team will play a 20-game schedule facing each of their divisional opponents in two home and two away games.
PORT HAWKESBURY: Meet the Canadian Tire Strait Pirates.
That is the new name of the local entry in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League after the executive of the Pirates was able to reach a sponsorship deal with Canadian Tire.
As part of the re-branding process, the Facebook page is now called the “Canadian Tire Strait Pirates,” and the Canadian Tire logo will be put on Pirate jerseys and game programs.
PORT HAWKESBURY: Just as the plane carrying Anthony MacDonald prepared to stop, sunlight started to peer through the clouds.
A little more than a week after undergoing emergency brain surgery, the SAERC hockey player gingerly stepped from the airplane which took him to the Allan J. MacEachen Airport in front of a large crowd gathered to welcome him.
Port Hawkesbury Town Councillor, and one of the organizers of the welcome, Jason Aucoin, said he had tears in his eyes when the plane carrying MacDonald finally touched down at the airport. The outpouring of support for the MacDonald family makes him proud to be from Port Hawkesbury.
Because of his head injury, it was a subdued, but happy, welcome home on Nov. 19.
During a hockey practice on Nov. 10 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, 15-year-old Anthony was not wearing his helmet when he was hit in the head with a puck.
Anthony was taken to the Strait-Richmond Hospital, then later airlifted via the Emergency Health Services LifeFlight to the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax.
A CT scan confirmed a skull fracture and bleeding on his brain. Later that day, Anthony was taken into surgery, then he remained sedated to minimize brain activity and allow the injured organ to heal properly.
The operation was successful but his doctors predicted a long and complicated recovery that could last up to two months.
But on Nov. 13, Mark posted that Anthony was awake, he was off most of his medications and his breathing tube was removed.
Four days later, Mark reported that Anthony was walking around, and would be released on Nov. 19.
Pilot Dimitri Neonakis with the charity Dream Wings – an organization which offers flights to children with disabilities – flew Anthony and Mark home.
Calling Anthony “tough,” the pilot called local residents “incredible people” after seeing so many people at the airport to greet Anthony.
ANTIGONISH: Two local individuals who made a tremendous difference in the community through sport and physical activity were recognized for their lasting legacies.
Dwayne Russell and Oliver Smith were both inducted posthumously as the inaugural members of the Community Fence of Fame, located on the outfield fencing of The Sandlot baseball field, a fully-accessible community space in Antigonish.
Antigonish Challenger Baseball coordinator, Randy Crouse explained that since Antigonish doesn’t have a Sports Hall of Fame, the Challenger organization wanted to create something of their own at The Sandlot.
The Community Fence of Fame will acknowledge individuals or groups who have showcased a difference in their community through sport or physical activity.