Mission to Manitoba

I’ve been told that clock watching is the curse of lazy men and fools.
To that extent, here is my personal timeline regarding my trip to Winnipeg last Friday with the Muskie ‘A’ football team for their quarter-final playoff confrontation with the Oak Park Raiders.
Whether I’m lazy or foolish, I’ll leave for you to decide . . .
•9:52 a.m.—While picking up several Muskies at various stops along the highway, reality sinks in: there are 49 people making the trip, counting players, coaches, and one media slug. There are only 47 seats.
Players are forced to rotate from being seated to lying in the aisle.
Head coach Bob Swing, having just about seen it all during an 0-7 regular season, sums it up: “This fits in perfectly with our ‘what else can go wrong’ season.”
•10:50 a.m.—Few players are paying attention to the video footage being shown of the Oak Park-Kenora game the previous week. Suddenly, a verbal blast fills the air:
Dead silence ensues. Give Swinger credit—he knows how to command an audience.
•11:20 a.m.—Doing his best Knute Rockne impersonation, Swing relates how he received a phone call from the St. Paul Lakers coach, who told of how Oak Park players allegedly were boasting about their plans to score 100 points against the Muskies.
“They don’t respect you,” he tells his team. “They don’t respect anyone. It’s easy to say there’s no tomorrow, but you’ve got to believe it.”
After the speech, “Remember the Titans” is tossed into the VCR for inspirational purposes—the brainchild of assistant coach Tony Geense.
Nice touch.
•1:25 p.m.—With Winnipeg only minutes away, I scan the pancake-flat landscape to confirm what many have said: from the edge of Manitoba, you CAN watch your dog run away for two days.
•1:35 p.m.—Enter Winnipeg. The first eye-catcher? Gas selling for 64.8 cents per litre. We should only be so lucky.
•2:45—The bus reaches East Side Stadium. As I disembark and overlook the playing field, I realize two things: I’ve never seen a football game in person played on artificial turf, and I should have packed an extra sweater.
Late October in Winnipeg and I’m not prepared. What was that part about foolishness earlier?
•6:40 p.m.—The final gun sounds. Oak Park 35, Muskies 8. Hand it to the black-and-gold, they never quit trying.
•12:05 a.m.—Just past Kenora, a stalled line of 18-wheelers signal trouble up ahead. A car and a truck had met head on, and the car’s front seat is now in the back. A quiet chill fills the bus.
Suddenly, a football game isn’t quite as important as it was a few hours ago.
•1:45 a.m.—Home again. Only six months until spring camp. Just wait ’til next year.
• • •
The registration deadline for the 2003 Emo Walleye Tournament is fast approaching. Nov. 15 is the final day to get your name in to compete in the second-annual derby, which is set for May 30-31.
Contact Dale Hartlin at 482-3093, or Colleen Vennechenko at 482-1811 (work) or 482-2171 (home), for more info.
• • •
The recent mid-Canada cross-country championships at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay yielded some notable accomplishments by local runners.
Rachel Hettinga of Donald Young School in Emo, who actually represented Crossroads School in Devlin at the event, finished eighth in a field of roughly 400 runners from various age groups in the girls’ division.
Meanwhile, the Crossroads boys’ squad of Sean Love, Garnet Cornell, James Saunders, Keith McTavish, Dave Empey, Dustin Chiefson, Jason Angus, and Rob Rae combined to win the bronze medal in team aggregate.
Mine Centre’s Tyler Johnson finished the 3.2-km course in 14:26 for his school’s best result, while Stefan Gerber (13th in boys) and Carrie Bragg (31st in girls) were the pace-setters for Sturgeon Creek School.
• • •
A six-pack of alley cats from Plaza Lanes will head to Thunder Bay on Dec. 8 to compete at the provincial level of the Youth Challenge competition.
Andrew Stamarski (men), Cristy Beadle (ladies), and the quartet of Jon Wood, Dan Bone, Jen Hawley, and Ashley Lafreniere (mixed) all advanced after qualifying at the regional playdowns Oct. 20 in Atikokan.
• • •
One final salute this week to Kenora Stars player Tyler Barker of Fort Frances, who was named player of the week last week in the Manitoba ‘AAA’ Midget Hockey League.
Barker had seven points in two games for the Stars to earn the well-deserved recognition.
If you are planning any sporting events, or have some sports-related information or scores, feel free to call me at 274-5373 ext. 237 or by e-mail at jpayeur@fortfrances.com

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