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ROBIN SHORT: Simon says: “I’m focused on winning in St. John’s”

Irwin Simon was presented with his first Cape Breton Screaming Eagles jersey during a press conference to announce his majority ownership in the team at Centre 200 in Sydney on Nov. 13.
Robin Short says the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' new owner Irwin Simon will be tempted to turn his attention to Sydney, N.S. with the QMJHL team, and the possibility of purchasing all or a portion of the Cape Breton Highlanders basketball team. - Cape Breton Post file photo/Jeremy Fraser

But Short says his attention will veer back to his Cape Breton roots

Boy, I sure do hope the St. John’s Edge win the National Basketball League of Canada championship next week.

What a time I’m going to have, riding on a float with the owner, and me and Big Baby fist-bumping and body slamming, all hands showered in confetti.

Irwin Simon told me. Got ’em on tape and everything.

“My only focus today,” Simon, uh, says, “is the Edge winning the championship” ... “and you being there with me on the float going down George St.”

There it is. Irwin promised.

Go Edge go!!

But, see, here’s the thing. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that’s not going to happen. I think Irwin’s going to forget our little pact.

I have no proof, just a feeling.

The same feeling that tells me Simon won’t be sticking around St. John’s next season. And where that leaves the Edge, who knows.

There’s not a lot of people out there in St. John’s with deep enough pockets to own a pro sports team.

I don’t say Glen Davis is playing for minimum wage.

Let’s hope I’m wrong, however. It’s pretty neat being a sports scribe, and having a couple of pro teams to write about. Fans are lapping up a hoops show that’s proven to be a pretty good night of entertainment.

But here’s the catch.

While Simon maintains his commitment to bringing a basketball championship to the city this season, there’s no such long-term guarantee.

“First and foremost,” he says, “it’s about winning a championship in St. John’s. That’s the only place I’m focused right now.”

Not focused … full stop. Focused … “right now.”

Just like his only focus is, “today.”

Now perhaps I’m putting two and two together and coming up with five.

Simon speaks glowingly of St. John’s. Says he feels like “home” when he touches down here, which is quaint.

But Simon’s from Glace Bay, N.S., and Newfoundland may as well be New Brunswick to a Cape Bretoner.

You know, handy and all, but it ain’t home.

What’s more, Simon’s a bit a sports big wig now back in Sydney, where he’s the new owner of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles QMJHL franchise.

“I love sports, I love sports teams, love the support of where I came from, love to create something where it’s great for the citizens, great for spectators and great for the city,” he told me.

“Think about it. Two years ago, that building (Mile One Centre) was dark most nights. If there’s an opportunity that I can do it right in Cape Breton, we’ll see.”

Oh, there’s an opportunity, alright.

Last week, word came out of Sydney the city’s NBL team, the Cape Breton Highlanders, is on hard times. Tyrone Levingston is all but standing outside Centre 200 with hat in hand, asking for loose change.

“We’re desperate for support,” said Levingston. “If we don’t get the proper support that we need, I don’t see the Highlanders being back next season.”

Simon could pick up this team for next to nothing, lunch money in Irwin’s world.

And how convenient would that be, owning a hockey team AND a basketball team that plays in the same building in the backyard where you grew up? Oh, by the way, Simon is said to be considering purchasing or taking over Centre 200’s operations.

Convenient for a chap who’s as busy as ever; though he recently stepped down as CEO from the multi-billion dollar company Hain Celestial, he’s now in the weed business as the interim CEO and board chairman of Aphria, which produces medal cannabis and is listed on both the Toronto and New York stock exchanges.

All makes sense to me.

Betcha it makes sense to Simon, too.

Will it happen? Who knows.

But I get the feeling the odds of Simon dashing off to the Highlanders and Screaming Eagles back home are better than me leading the victory parade.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email robin.short@thetelegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

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