It seems the centre ice in the Ice for Kids Arena, home ice for most of the town’s hockey teams, bears the logo of the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres instead of the high school’s Muskie squad for only one reason.
Quite simply, the Muskies aren’t interested.
“There’s no reason at all, they’ve never asked,” Community Services manager George Bell laughed. “[The Sabres] asked if they could put a logo at centre ice, and provided us with the logo and we did it.”
The area’s latest sports non-issue arose when the Fort Frances Times (yes, this Times) ran a poll with the question “What logo should be at centre ice at Ice For Kids Arena?” The four options were that of the Sabres, the Muskie ‘M’, the crest of the Town of Fort Frances, and ‘No Smoking’ (judging by the comments, that joke went over a few heads).
The results were squarely in favour of the Muskies’ logo until early last week, when a flurry of pro-Sabres’ support pushed them into the lead with 34 percent of the vote, ahead of Fort High’s 27 percent.
The poll drew just under 450 votes, well over double the usual tally (although to be fair, the poll was up an extra day due to some internal issues). The town can only hope the municipal by-election on Jan. 14 will generate that kind of voting excitement.
What’s shocking is the completely unmeasured response on the web to the poll. Most of the responses, of course, were reasonable. For example, from an anonymous author: “The community of Fort Frances have been supporters of the Muskie hockey organization for almost 45 years know (sic) and it would be unfortunate if those years were lost.
“The ‘M’ should be the logo on the ice not because it would look great or fancy, but because it would remind everyone about the history of Fort Frances and the Muskies.”
Or, from the pro-Sabres side, also submitted by an anonymous reader:
“These are young men who have never played together and are doing an awesome job. They deserve to have a logo that represents them and a constant reminder of how proud we all are of them. Keep up the great work boys!!!! Play hard and play smart!!! Go Sabres!!!!!!”
Some people were obviously passionate about the issue, and took their comments a step further. One anonymous reader wrote: “HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY IN FORT FRANCES IS ON THE DOWNSLIDE. YOU MUST NOT HAVE BEEN TO A MUSKIE-BRONCO GAME FOR A FEW YEARS. YOUR LUCKY IF THE ARENA IS HALF FULL . . . GO SABRES GO!”
And, of course, this pearl of wisdom from an anonymous author: “If you smoke, you will DIE. Your [future] will die!!!Q!”
Why people won’t take credit for these comments is unclear.
While the reading might have been funny from the sidelines, the anti-Sabres sentiment running throughout hit home for many in that organization.
“It was terrible, it was just terrible, and some of those comments on there never should’ve been printed,” Sabres’ president Carolyn Kellaway said. “It was just hurtful.”
Kellaway was just as unimpressed the Internet response swung in favour of her team and against the Muskies.
“Neither one of us should’ve been dragged into this mess,” she said. “We’re all for the Muskies hockey. If there’s anything we can do to support them any way possible, we’d do it.”
Unfortunately, malice aside, there was a good measure of comments based on a poor understanding of the situation—underlined by the myth that the Sabres paid more than the Muskies to get their logo on the ice.
Bell couldn’t help but chuckle over the response. “This is not an issue,” he said, explaining Sabres’ ownership didn’t pay the town a dime—and gave the town nothing more than a design to paint on the ice.
If the Muskies wanted to have their logo at centre ice, that’s news to Bell.
“We would expect them to take the initiative. [If] they would like their logos on the ice, then I would suggest next July when we’re putting the ice in, provide some logos.”
The ice will stay in until April and won’t be put back in until the summer, which means any changes, such as adding the logo of the Muskies, the girls’ Muskies, Ice for Kids, ’52 Canadians, or the Town of Fort Frances wouldn’t come until 2008—and, of course, only if someone approaches the town.
There’s plenty of space on the ice between the two bluelines to squeeze in a few logos, plus the issue may have raised the importance of ice space to local businesses—perhaps prompting a few to consider buying centre ice ad space to generate a few extra bucks for the town.
But Kellaway would want to see something like that bringing the hockey community together, not apart. “In a town like Fort Frances that’s so hockey strong, you don’t need people trying to separate the hockey, putting up divisions like that.”
Considering the public response the poll has generated—around the water cooler, in the Sabres’ own locker-room, and, of course, on the web, it’s only fitting to give the last word back to the public.
Quoth anonymous (quite the popular name, apparently):
“I feel this poll is ridiculous. Why is it that this logo issue was not a big deal years before the new Sabres team was formed? …This is unbelievable. Such a silly issue for a town to be worrying about and making such a big deal of.”
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