From Bobcats to Olympic hopefuls to a bad case of Perimeteritis, we’re all over the map today. But with the Canada West conference season opening tonight, let’s start on campus at Brandon University.
In seven short seasons, Russ Paddock has taken the Bobcats from expansion team to national contender, with silver and bronze medals to the program’s credit. Paddock has passed the torch to longtime assistant Grant Wilson to serve as head coach this season while Paddock concentrates on his athletic director duties including overseeing the Bobcats’ move into the new Healthy Living Centre.
For Wilson, they are big shoes to fill, but “it’s a good thing I have big feet,” he says.
While he filled in for Paddock during the faculty strike last season, Wilson will officially make his debut as head coach tonight when the Bobcats clash with the Cougars in Regina, a night he has been anxiously awaiting.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Wilson said. “It seems to be a long pre-season and everybody is looking forward to getting started on Friday. In terms of nerves, it’s like any other game, really. I think it’s a good thing to feel nervous and excited and anxious and I certainly feel all of that … It’s been a great opportunity to work with Russ in the program and to have this opportunity land in my lap is a bonus and I am just going to try to make the best of it.”
With Wilson’s long track record as Paddock’s right-hand man, the Bobcats appear to be in good hands.
Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh is halfway to making Canada’s World Cup skeleton team, the first major step in qualifying for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
The 28-year-old Neelin High School graduate raced to a second-place finish at the first of two national team qualifying races last weekend and takes to the track in Whistler, B.C., on Saturday for the second event. A top three finish for her will clinch a spot on the World Cup team for this season, which would complete a remarkable run of skeleton success for Hawrysh, who is currently ranked 30th in the world.
On the men’s side, it’s a critical weekend for reigning Olympic gold medallist Jon Montgomery of Russell, who placed fifth in last week’s first team trial race. Tomorrow, Montgomery needs to at least match or improve on that finish in order to earn one of the coveted six spots on Canada’s World Cup and Intercontinental Cup teams, just in order to remain in the running to qualify for the 2014 Olympics.
The Winter Games may be more than a year away, but the Olympic dream will end Saturday for some of Canada’s top athletes.
So much for earning home-field advantage.
In theory, the Vincent Massey Vikings (4-2-1) and the Neelin Spartans (6-1-0) both should have enjoyed the benefits of playing in Brandon in last night’s quarter-finals in the Winnipeg High School Football League.
However, despite impressive seasons — the Vikings finished 4-2-1 in the Kas Vidruk Division and the Spartans were 6-1-0 in the Andy Currie Division — both teams were forced to play their “home” playoff games in Winnipeg. While the Spartans at least played in a neutral site at Canad Inns Stadium, the fourth-place Vikings were forced to face the fifth-place Kildonan East Reivers at the East Side Eagles field where the Reivers play all of their home games.
League commissioner Paul Normandeau told the Winnipeg Sun this week that he didn’t consider home-field advantage when making the playoff schedule. The question is, why not? At the very least, that game should have been played at the Stadium.
The league also cites travel costs as the main reason why Winnipeg teams never have to play in Brandon in the playoffs, leaving the Vikings and Spartans on the hook for those very same travel expenses.
It’s clearly another case of Perimeteritis, with rural teams getting the shaft once again. But, as Crocus Plains head coach Kevin Boyd points out, those are the rules that the three Brandon teams all agreed to when they joined the Winnipeg league three years ago.
“It sucks, it really does, but we knew it going in,” Boyd said.
Former Brandonite Daren Millard has come a long way since his early days at CKLQ radio and CKX television, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
The 42-year-old Rogers Sportsnet broadcaster and Hockey Central host purchased a pair of Brandon Wheat Kings season tickets — one adult and one youth — and donated them to Hockey Brandon this season, allowing players and parents to take in games for free. Millard, a Crocus Plains high school graduate, said his earliest sports memories are of attending Wheat King games as a youngster and he now enjoys taking his own daughter to sporting events in Toronto.
A great gesture from a good guy going out of his way to pass on that same experience to kids back in his hometown.