Despite scads of media attention the Mount Pearl Mark’s Work Wearhouse Junior Blades and their coach, Brian Cranford, have generated, why do more questions than answers still prevail regarding the story of the penalized junior hockey team and its suspended coach?
The Blades were slapped with a $2,000 fine and Cranford banned one year by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador after Mount Pearl failed to show for the opening cermonies and closing banquet at the Don Johnson Cup, the Atlantic junior B hockey championship staged at Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena in April.
Cranford’s been all over the news this week, appearing on CBC and CTV national, Sportsnet and within the pages of the Toronto Star.
Amid all the excuses — the primary one being the players were studying for exams — we are still waiting for answers to some obvious questions:
‰ Why was not one or a couple of the 36 players, who appeared in at least one Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League game for Mount Pearl this season, available to attend the opening ceremonies or the tournament’s closing banquet, the latter of which was scheduled for 8 o’clock on a Saturday evening?
‰ Why was not the GM, the coach, one of the two assistants, the trainer or the manager (the Blades even have a team doctor listed on the junior league’s web site) available to attend to at least have some representation? Was everyone remotely connected with the Blades studying?
‰ Why at no time — not once — was Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Junior Council chairman, Gerry Taylor, who practically lived at Jack Byrne during the week, informed the Blades would not be attending neither event?
‰ Why did a similar problem not arise back in 2009, when Bay Roberts played host to the Don Johnson Cup, or in 2003 when Mount Pearl staged the tournament?
‰ Why did the host team, St. John’s Toyota Plaza Caps, manage to get to the events, while the Blades did not? None of the Caps attend school?
‰ Why wasn’t that reason, that each and every on-ice and off-ice associate of the bookworm Blades could not pry himself from their studies for a couple of hours to honour a tournament obligation, not conveyed to The Telegram after we initially asked questions? Why, instead, was reporter John Browne, who broke the story the day the tournament ended, basically told by Blades’ representatives to beat it and mind his own business?
‰ And finally, why would a provincial sports governing body, not to mention the largest and most powerful in the province, even consider fining a team and suspending its coach for telling his players to stay home and study if that really was the crux of the matter?
No, we suspect there is much more to this story than meets the eye.
Could it be, perhaps, the Blades weren’t happy campers from the outset, playing second fiddle to the host Caps on the tournament schedule, their only night game the tournament-opener when St. John’s and Mount Pearl hooked up at 7:30 p.m.?
Maybe, maybe not. Just a thought.
But we do know this: the Blades collectively snubbed their noses at the tournament’s organizing committee, and Johnson himself, the well-respected former Newfoundland and Canadian hockey president for whom the tournament was named.
Turns out it was his last tournament, and the brush off has not gone unnoticed up the line, and I’m not talking about HNL. Johnson’s friends within Hockey Canada and the pro ranks are left wondering what the hell happened over here at that tournament.
So the Blades can go ahead and offer whatever song and dance they choose. They may fool some, but not all.
Most hockey people know the difference.
And the Blades’ name is mud.
They have to live with that.
Mark Nichols swears his move to Winnipeg this summer and his hooking up with Jeff Stoughton for the 2012-13 curling season has nothing to do with any conceived rift with his former skip, Brad Gushue.
After taking a year off from curling, Nichols is heading west to play with Stoughton, the former world and Brier champ who will make a run for a berth in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
Nichols, of course, won Olympic gold with Gushue six years ago (was it that long ago?) in Turin, Italy, when he was one of the top two or three vice-skips in the world. With Stoughton, Nichols will throw lead stones.
“He’s one of the best shot-makers in the world,” Nichols said of Stoughton. “I’ve always liked Jeff. He got a bad rap in Newfoundland with the ‘no chance’ comment, but he’s a guy who speaks his mind. He’s actually pretty easy-going. They’re a laid-back group.”
Prior to the 2005 Olympic Trials, Stoughton told the Winnipeg Free Press the Gushue team had “no chance” of winning the Trials.
Nichols has curled with Gushue forever. The two were together when they won the world juniors, and were even curling prior to that. So Nichols swears there is no underlying anti-Gushue sentiment behind his move.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Brad,” he said. “We won a lot of spiels together.”
By heading to Manitoba, Nichols gets a good crack at another Olympics, and his wife, Colette, gets to move closer to family in her native Saskatchewan.
An Olympic berth for Sochi figures to be just as tough as it was for Turin and Vancouver. The usual suspects — Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe and Stoughton — will be in the mix, and joined by John Epping, who won this year’s Players Championship, Brad Jacobs, Mike McEwen and, of course, Gushue.
Jerry ‘Stats’ Elliott’s ‘A Trip Down Memory Lane, Volume 2’ is out and should be a must-read for fans of the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League. ‘Stats’ is a wealth of statistical information on the old senior league, and its staple teams: the St. John’s Capitals, BlueCaps, Shamrocks, Conception Bay CeeBees, Gander Flyers, Grand Falls Cataracts, Buchans Miners, Stephenville Jets, Corner Brook Royals and Port aux Basques Mariners. Those statistics can be found in Volume 2 along with chapters devoted to some of the game’s greats like Harry Katrynuk, Hughie Wadden and Andy Sullivan, and chapters on some of senior hockey’s most famous franchises, namely the Capitals, Miners and Flyers. To pick up a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org ... What’s with the love-in between Mount Pearl and its politicians? A couple of weeks ago, there was a sod-turning ceremony for the new swimming pool, which will be attached to the existing Reid Community Centre, and in the photo were the mayor and some councillors, MHAs, MPs, you name it. Only elected figures missing, I figure, were Barack Obama and Stephen Harper. And I wondered: where are the little swimmers, or a long-time Mount Pearl swimming volunteer. At Mount Pearl’s minor hockey banquet, even, councillors and MHAs arrive en masse and every ... last ... one ... of ... them ... has to speak. Enough already. Knock it off with the political bootlicking ...
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.
He can be reached by email email@example.com