I paced off from my desk. I passed through the doors that lead into the press area at the Times. Took a few more steps. Veered left. Marched on. Went through the large doorway leading into the shipping area warehouse.
Closed the door behind me and then continued until I found the archives.
The walk itself only took 43 paces, but as I looked around, I saw, stacked one on top of the other until it reached 15 feet above the ground, large books filled with past editions of the paper from as far back as 1939.
But I couldn’t find it. Where was 2004? Where had it gone?
I continued, and after asking for and receiving direction from a co-worker, eventually found 2004, which was hiding below a table in the large press room.
But I referred back to the question I had asked myself earlier—where had the year gone?
Has it been a year already? Had a year in our lives passed? Had a year of sports highlights been, well, highlighted?
Flipping through the pages of those meticulously placed books (one for January to June; the other for July to December) were stories of accomplishments, failures, achievements, and heartbreak.
Ranging in length from three to 30 inches were stories that dealt with triumph, some of bewilderment, others of success, and still others of sorrow.
There were pictures that told stories themselves. Some showed (and told) acts of commitment, of excellence, while others showed scenes of solitude and glimpses of sadness.
Faster than a newborn’s heartbeat, 2004 has gone by, but our teams and athletes never missed a beat as championships were claimed, trips to OFSAA were made, personal achievements fulfilled, team records inscribed, and moments of glory witnessed.
The Year of the Monkey was good to Fort Frances and its sports pages, but unfortunately, goodbyes are part of life, but I reckon for every farewell there’s another hello that awaits.
So let’s raise our glasses and bid adieu to the year that was, and then raise them again for the year that will be.
It seems like yesterday the Muskie girls’ hockey team recorded their first point in NorWOSSA in more than two years with a 5-5 draw against the vaunted Kenora Broncos.
Then there was Curtis Boivin, who finished fifth at the World Snowmobile Championships in Eagle River, Wis., and don’t forget the rink of Lorne Jackson, Don DeBenedet, Derek Jackson, and Wayne Beacham as they won the Zone West Bonspiel in Kenora to advance to the Northwestern Ontario playdowns.
Or when Amy Gushulak, Dixie McDonald, and Carla Hanzuk reached the provincial five-pin showdown in Sudbury after performing well at the Sunset Country Open roll-offs.
The shortest month of the year was not short on highlights, with Breenda Taylor securing a fourth-place finish overall for the Fort Frances Visserettes at the regional championships in Thunder Bay.
There also was the rink of Scott Gobeil, Dave Priestly (Winnipeg), Scott Bell (Winnipeg), and Dennis Smith (Thunder Bay) winning the Manitoba Police Curling championships to advance to the national playdowns, where they eventually would finish fifth.
And we can’t forget about our local swimmers and their performances at the Northwestern Ontario championships held here as the 33 swimmers representing the Aquanauts received 43 medals (19 gold and 24 silver) while the eight competitors for the Cyclone earned 23 (13 gold, nine silver, and one bronze).
Then in Vancouver at the junior nationals, Aquanaut swimmers Heather Dutton, 17, came in 34th in the butterfly while Alex Parent, 14, took silver in the 400m free, and finished no lower than fifth in the six events he was entered in.
Shortly after, the Muskie girls’ curling team of Amy Nielson, Jenna Enge, Kate Bondett, and Courtney Beadle advanced to NWOSSAA, as did the boys’ rink of Adam Bolen, Jason Pattison, David Kaun, and Joey Wensley.
And there were our senior boys’ bowling team, coached by Rick Stamarski, who won gold at the zone round of the “4 steps to Stardom” tournament in Dryden to advance to the provincials in Timmins.
That team featured the likes of Jonathon Wood, Sheldon Legaree, Andrew Stamarksi, Jeff Watts and Dan Bone while Jon McCoy, Joey Ballan, and Ashley LaFrieniere advanced as individuals.
First there was the Muskie cheerleading team and their win at the all-girls (20+ member) competition against Dryden in Thunder Bay to advance to the provincial championships.
Then there was the Fort Frances Visserettes and their first placing at a competition in Red Lake in the all-around category. And following that was the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team and their 85-74 win over Dryden to advance to NWOSSAA.
And who could forget the Muskie boys’ hockey team and their sweep of the Dryden Eagles to advance to OFSAA?
Shortly after, Fort Frances witnessed the thrilling Game 7 between the Borderland Thunder and Dryden Ice Dogs in the SIJHL playoffs, which unfortunately saw the Thunder lose 4-3 in overtime.
Muskie hockey seemed to rule this month as Kurtis Wepruk gained recognition as he was awarded the Danny Johnson Memorial Award (player best exemplifying the spirit and love of the game of hockey) and also won the Mrs. Bert Egan Memorial Trophy (for outstanding contribution to the team).
Steven Sus was given the Barney Maher Trophy as the team’s most valuable player while Mat Gamsby received the Al Freeman Memorial Award as the player judged by his teammates to combine a love of hockey and good sportsmanship.
Justin Larson accepted the Randy Roach M.B. Award as the team’s unsung hero, David Pierce was given the Rod Cain Memorial Trophy for his leadership and dedication to team play, and Tyler Miller won the Capt. Billy Woods Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year.
In Muskie badminton action, Simone and Natalie Desjardins, as well as Jason Pattison, advanced to OFSAA.
Rounding out the month’s highlights was Bruce McLeod as he was honoured with the prestigious Jim Fullerton Award for his career contributions to U.S. college hockey.
First, Dixie McDonald advanced to the TSN Pins Game qualifier for the Northwestern Ontario region, and then the Muskie boys’ soccer team easily advanced to NWOSSAA with a 4-1 win over the Rainy River Owls.
The Muskie girls’ soccer team also advanced to NWOSSAA with a 9-0 drumming over St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora) and eventually would advance to OFSAA.
The Muskie awards banquet soon followed with a variety of players being recognized, including Heather Dutton and Jason Pattison being named athletes of the year.
Andrew George received the Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and perseverance, and also was the male winner of the OFSAA Colin Hood Award and the Mike Smith Award.
Amanda Allan got the nod as the female award recipient of the Colin Wood Award while Struchan Gilson received the award as a teacher/coach.
•Letterman Awards and Athletic Certificates—Trisha Smith, Andrew Mueller, and Kevin Gemmell
•MVP ‘A’ Football (Paul Renaud Trophy)—Kevin Tysz
•Outstanding Defensive Player ‘A’ Football (Reece Scofield Memorial)—Jody Botsford
•MVP ‘B’ Football—Steve Boileau and Terry Carmody
•MVP Junior Girls’ Volleyball (Horban Award)—Natalie Desjardins
•MVP Junior Boys’ Volleyball—Tyler Johnson
•MVP Senior Girls’ Volleyball (Patti-Jo Reid Award)—Kate Elliot
•MVP Senior Boys’ Volleyball (Horban Award)—Kurtis Wepruk
•MVP Junior Girls’ Basketball (Horban Award)—Natalie Desjardins
•MVP Junior Boys’ Basketball (Tim Callaghan Memorial Trophy)—Andrew Dobie
•MVP Senior Girls’ Basketball (Patti-Jo Reid Award)—Carley McCormick
•MVP Senior Boys’ Basketball (Tim Callaghan Memorial Trophy)—Kevin Gemmell
•Swimming (Most Dedicated Female)—Heather Dutton
•Swimming (Most Dedicated Male)—Alex Parent
•MVP Junior Badminton—Lacey Johnson and Kristina Caul
•MVP Senior Badminton—Jason Pattison and Natalie Desjardins
•MVP Cheerleading—Kerri Stinson
•Cheerleading Rookie of the Year—Melissa Scott
•MVP Boys’ Curling—Adam Bolen
•MVP Girls’ Curling—Jenna Enge
•MVP Girls’ Hockey (Frank ‘Ike’ Eisenzoph Award)—Megan Bob
•Girls’ Hockey Most Dedicated Player (Shirley Ann Fowler Memorial)—Kristen Roehrig
•Outstanding Contribution to Muskie boys’ hockey (Mrs. Bert Egan Memorial Trophy)—Kurtis Wepruk
•Contributing Most to the Development of the Good Sportsmanship, Morale and Teamwork boys’ hockey (Rod Cain Memorial Trophy)—David Pierce
•MVP Girls’ Soccer—Kate Basaraba
•Outstanding Contribution Boys’ Soccer (Jim Curr Sr. Memorial Trophy)—Matt Basaraba
•Grade 12 Boy for Academic and Athletic Achievement (Douglas Morrow Memorial Award)—Jason Pattison
•Sportsmanship and Perseverance (Brent Ogden Memorial Trophy)—Andrew George
•Female Rookie of the Year—Alyssa Holliday
•Male Rookie of the Year—Steven Boileau
Kevin Webb of the Borderland Thunder was named MVP of the SIJHL while Kurt Hogard of the Thunder was recognized as the league’s top defenceman.
As previously noted, the Muskie girls’ soccer team advanced to OFSAA, while Heather Dutton advanced to the OFSAA track-and-field championships in the 800-m event, and then there was Peter Klyne and his inclusion to the Manitoba under-17 football team.
In golfing news, Steve Wood, Clarke Deacon, Colin Drombolis, John Gibson, and Greg Ste. Croix advanced to the Buick Scramble.
You can’t forget Jamie Davis and his victory in the bathtub races on Canada Day. And also Don Copenace and Greg Swire winning the fourth-annual “Castin’ for Cash” bass tournament at Lake Despair while “Snake” Krawchuk followed with his win at the Kitchen Creek Senior Open.
July also broght the 10th anniversary of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, which saw Guy Johnston and Doug Wright catch 44.38 pounds to be the top local team with an eighth-place finish.
By the way, James and Bill Lindner won again—this time with a total catch of 53.82 pounds.
Melissa Armstrong garnered headlines with her ninth-place finish at the Canadian Track-and-Field Championships in Victoria in the 5,000-m event.
Both the women’s and men’s Gillons’ soccer teams won the Borderland “Ball Blast” tournament, and Dorian Lindholm and Russ Pearson (Dryden) won the Dingwall Ford bass tournament on Wabigoon Lake in Dryden with a 12.64-pound total catch.
You can’t forget Tressa Main and her team of “Freeriders,” along with “Hangtime,” as they successfully assembled Fort Frances’ first-ever wakeboarding clinic.
Michael McCaig and Jordan Davis (Emo) helped their ‘AAA’ Bantam hockey team from Winnipeg capture gold at the Sapporo International Hockey Meet in Japan.
The Gillons’ men’s team then won the Borderland Soccer League title with a thrilling win over Subway while the women of Taggs captured their crown with a won over Curves.
Sight & Sound then repeated as the Rainy River District Fastball League champions with a 12-4 win over Barwick.
The Emo Speedway recognized their most consistent drivers as Anthony Visser was the points champ in the MOD-B class, John Hettinga in the Street Stock, Ken Perry Sr. with the Mini-Sprints, and Vic Larson in MOD-A.
And then it was “Snake” Krawchuk with a win Kitchen Creek’s Memorial golf tournament.
The Muskie football ‘A’ team made headlines with their 18-0 exhibition win over the Sturgeon Creek Schooners.
“Snake” Krawchuk won yet another tournament at Kitchen Creek, this time taking the club’s championship. And then there was Sarah Noonan, who plays midfield/forward for the University of Minnesota/Duluth, being named the North Central Conference’s athlete of the week.
Art Berglund was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame as a builder for his contributions to hockey in the United States, along with Brad Kennett, who was recognized as a player with the 1988-’89 Thunder Bay Flyers.
The Muskie football ‘A’ team once again gets a mention with their thrilling 18-13 win over the Kelvin Clippers—their first regular-season win in the Winnipeg High School Football League in more than two years.
Oliver and Jason Gibbins followed with an emotional win at the Rainy River Walleye Tournament.
The Borderland Thunder made their presence known at the MJHL Showcase pre-season tournament in Winnipeg, where they went 1-1-1 as the lone team representing the SIJHL.
The American Hockey League then dropped into town in a highly-anticipated exhibition game that saw the Manitoba Moose win 2-0 over the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Heather Dutton then advanced to another OFSAA event, this time in Guelph and this time as a cross-country competitor.
After going undefeated in 12-straight games to start the season, the Borderland Thunder suffer their first loss against the K&A Variety Golden Hawks.
The Muskie girls’ basketball program followed with a sweep at the NorWOSSA championships, as the juniors won 50-35 over Dryden while the seniors won 31-25 against Kenora to once again advance to NWOSSAA.
The Northwest Tae-Kwon-Do Club did well at a meet in Winnipeg as Tyler Abma won gold in the forms category in the black stripe and 11-14 age division, while Austin Zin got gold in the fighting category in the green stripe and over 15 age division.
Ashley LaFreniere, 15, earned a berth on the provincial five-pin bowling team going to the nationals, while at the Pins Over Average Classic in Atikokan, local bowlers Robert Bombay, Ed Larocque, Rob Ducharme, and Lori Pattison advanced to the provincials, which will be held in Timmins in March.
The Borderland Thunder finished the first half of their season with a 21-4-1 record, which put them in second place in the SIJHL four points behind the nationally-ranked Fort William North Stars.
AND WITH THAT we say goodbye to 2004. So long old friend, it was nice getting to know you. We just hope the New Year will treat us as good as you did.