A Near Perfect Weekend for local Sports Nut
by Randy Pascal
Weekly Column can be found in the Northern Life - every Thursday
It was the type of weekend that reminded me so clearly of why the mid-life career change was necessary. The type of weekend that was made to completely
encapture a passion for local sports. The type of weekend I live for.
Saturday morning, bright and early (OK – bright and early by the standards of my teenage kids), it’s time to head off to Foothills Farms in
Chelmsford, the site of an equestrian horse jumping competition.
It was a time of very mixed emotions for organizer Cathy Inch and the remainder of those involved with the Rick Smith Memorial Trillium Show.
The Foothills venue has long been the site for Trillium events, dating back a few decades now.
But this would be the first since the sudden and unexpected passing last winter of the man who, in the words of his wife, was the “blood, sweat and
tears” behind the entire facility. It wasn’t only Cathy Inch that would deal with the loss of husband Rick Smith. It was the entire equestrian community.
A very tight knit group, like so many immersed in their own particular sporting passions, those involved in this Trillium Hunter Jumper competition
would pay tribute to Rick in the most appropriate manner possible – by enjoying everything that the sport which was the very essence of his being has to
Riders and friends from across Northern Ontario shared stories, smiles and memories, intermingled with the requisite amount of friendly competition. It
was a show that would have made Rick Smith proud.
The sun continues to shine as I make the trek back in town to catch up with Clive Stephenson, Dave Lepage and the Panhellenic United U-17 boys
soccer team. Facing second place Vaughan Azzuri in a pair of games up north, the United crew have somehow escaped the radar screen of all but the
most ardent of local youth soccer aficionados.
For the past two summers, the team has concluded play in the Central Soccer League (CSL) just slightly above the mid-point of divisional
standings, comfortably avoiding relegation. This might not appear to be, at first glance, a performance worthy of admiration and respect.
Perhaps not until it is duly noted that two other local entries into the CSL were dispatched quickly, with lopsided scores typically the order of the
day. This summer marks entry number four and while the Italia Flyers Azzuri U-15 boys have managed to keep a good portion of their scores
respectable, it appears likely they will meet the same fate as all but the United squad has endured.
On this Saturday afternoon, it’s an intense battle on the pitch that develops, one that would bring a smile to the face of many Sudburians who remember
the soccer wars waged at Queen’s Athletic Field through the 1950s and 1960s. Panhellenic and Vaughan gave no quarter as the contest threatened to
escalate out of control.
It might sometimes be forgotten that Joey Martellacci first staked his claim as an elite athlete on the local sports scene on the soccer pitch,
not the football field. He provides a reminder of just that, scoring four times Saturday in a 4-4 draw and adding an impressive six goal effort as United
moved on to semi-final Ontario Cup action Sunday with a hockey-like victory of 9-4 over the Azzuri.
Sunday morning arrives and it’s time to gather with fellow hockey buffs as the tradition that is the “uNHL” (pronounced “un-HL”, for fear of having to
relinquish one’s first round pick to the dreaded Edmonton Oilers – storied franchise of the league commissioner) enters a second decade of computerized
simulated hockey existence.
A sort of rotisserie league/hockey pool mesh created for those who crave the ability to take their crack at completely experiencing the challenge of an
armchair NHL general manager’s position, the league is home to thirty franchises, an intricate financial system complete with a salary cap, contract
signings, trades and of course, the entry draft.
Tyler Beskorowany may not know it yet, but he’s as much a part of the future of the (uNHL) New Jersey Devils as he is the real life hopes
of the Dallas Stars. Ah yes….real life – time to wander back from the world of simulated hockey surrealism and off to the Countryside Arena to catch
up with Olympic hopeful Rebecca Johnston.
In fact, it’s a chance to touch base with many a local hockey talent currently studying out of town but back home for a few months each summer. This
group has been assembled by Carleton Ravens netminder Valerie Charbonneau and brings together many acquaintances from her days with the Sudbury
Samantha Stortini, Josee Belanger, Manon Davis, Caroline Pollock, Lucia Mazza, sisters Robyn and Karly Armstrong, Jamie Tessier – all
taking advantage of the opportunity for a little extra ice-time. Hockey friendships cross gender lines, it seems, as a small handful of midget and junior
guys tag along for the skate.
From my end, it's an opportunity to hear the latest tidbit of information on the local hockey scene – Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves forwards
Mathieu Lecours and Deven Stillar will be heading West, signing on with the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey
League in the hopes of pursuing the NCAA scholarship route.
Naturally, a fitting close is required to make this weekend complete. The final chapter comes courtesy of the Panhellenic U-21 men, who continue
to add to a very impressive resume this summer, earning a berth in the Ontario Cup semi-finals next weekend in Vaughan after edging the
Gloucester Hornets 1-0 at home.
A treat for all those fans who wandered out to the James Jerome Complex, the contest featured outstanding pace with a great mix of skillful
ball-handling and fierce competition for each and every loose ball. And as the sun gradually set behind the imposing presence of the “Super Stack”, it was
crystal clear – this weekend could end in no other way.