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Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018
Surveying the significant scope of the Sudbury sports scene
by Randy Pascal

From time to time in my travels, it will be suggested to me that I am “everywhere”, covering the complete spectrum of sports in Sudbury. And while I feel a great deal of both pride and joy in being able to state that for a majority of weeks during the calendar year, I will attend at least a single local sporting events six to seven days a week, that is still a far cry from providing details of everything that is athletic competition in this area.

That, of course, speaks far more to the sheer volume of games, tournaments, meets, etc… in which Sudbury youth are involved, especially when one factors in the locals that are on the road, as well, at any given time.

Consider this past weekend as a classic example.

Let’s start, as so many winter weekends do, with hockey. The Valley East Minor Hockey Association were boasting a delegation of teams that were 56 strong, and this for their annual tournament that is only open to tyke, novice and atom teams.

Visitors to our fair city included groups from Orillia, Sault Ste Marie, Temiskaming Shores, Gore Bay and Wikwemikong, Timmins, as well as a huge cross-section of regional entries. And it wasn’t even as though this was the only hockey event in town, as the peewees, bantams and midgets were busy with the Caisse Populaire Tournament in Coniston.

Forget, for a moment, that the action on the ice in our region would also have included OHL, NOJHL, GNML, NDMHL, NEHL, SPHL, WMHA, CCMHA, OUA games and every other acronym imaginable.

The New Sudbury corner was kept hopping as College Boréal played host to the OCAA East Regional Badminton Championships, with delegations from Georgian, George Brown, Seneca, Centennial and St Lawrence joining the Vipères at a meet of more than one hundred racquet yielding post-secondary athletes.

The high-schoolers were taking to the court at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School, with a junior/senior girls volleyball tournament, while the Laurentian Voyageurs basketball teams played host to Lakehead and Guelph.

Out in Coniston (which was apparently a beehive of activity), the Curling Club was staging their annual “Interplant Bonspiel”, a tradition which now dates back several decades and continues to draw very well. With any luck at all, results of this gathering will form the focus of the much-anticipated curling column later this week.

But one cannot just limit oneself to teams that participating in the Nickel City basin if one is to truly capture the spirit of Sudbury sport. Keeping in mind that these are only those teams or individuals of which I was aware, the basketball brigade were helping to keep the Tim Horton’s stop in Seguin fully operational, with the three team busload from Collège Notre-Dame returning late Saturday from their participation at the Franco Tournament in Brockville (Macdonald-Cartier also sent two teams to the event).

On a club level, the Sudbury Jam U10 boys were in Markham, as their age division enjoyed a weekend to shine at the MUMBA tournament. Meanwhile, the U12 girls were in Downsview, enjoying the craziness that is the “HoopDome”, pretty much every weekend, while a local U19 crew were just slightly further north, taking part in an IEM tournament in Newmarket.

There is scarcely a weekend that goes by, between mid-October and early April, when at least a couple of the age brackets encompassed under the umbrella of the Ontario Volleyball Association are not active with tournament play.

It was McGregor Cup time for the 13U girls, as no less than eighty teams competed at eight different venues, across the province, ranging from Chatham to Welland to Scarborough, Markham and Pembroke. The Northern Chill squad in this bracket were kept much closer to home, with Sturgeon Falls welcoming the Trillium F grouping.

A very similar story for the U16 girls, except that the Chill were off to Merivale High School in Ottawa. Swimmers numbered in the hundreds in Sault Ste Marie, site of the annual Dave Kensit Memorial Championships, with the Nickel City Aquatics, Valley East Waves and Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club all represented at the three day meet.

Back to the cold, for a moment, as the Lock City was also playing host to the 2017 Festival of Stars, with competitors ranging from pre-juvenile, through all the Star Skate levels, and even into adult women classifications, strutting their stuff on the shores of Lake Superior.

Consider, for a moment, that we have yet to touch the relative “one offs”, the boxers representing Top Glove and Valley East that competed at the Brampton Cup, weighlifting coach Thomas Hums and protégée Kaylee Wedge trekking to Mississauga, gymnast Kayla Folz off to Halifax for Elite Canada gymnastics, coach Mark Rondina and the Atom “AA” Lady Wolves travelling Highway 17 en route to the Nepean Girls Hockey Tournament, and cross skier Lexi Ransom returning from another successful weekend on the slopes.

For those of us who date back to the 1980s, it seems apparent that there is easily enough content here to provide a lyrical backdrop of a Billy Joel tune that could rival “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

Equally as obvious, however, is the huge potential impact when a city commits to making itself a primary destination in the realm of sports tourism. Well, obvious to some of us, anyways.

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