Plenty of talent in district

I was certain of one thing before arriving in Fort Frances four months ago: this region is hockey-crazed.
My first introduction to the sports scene here in town, and throughout the district, came via the Internet and the Times’ website. As I was hoping to land the sports reporter job here, I spent most of my time reading the online edition of the sports section.
What I found was this: hockey, hockey, and more hockey.
Now granted, my perusal of the website just happened to coincide with the start of the all-Ontario hockey championship which Fort Frances hosted back in March, but it also seemed to fit the stereotype I had in my mind.
I had visions of a small Northern Ontario community where the sports landscape consisted primarily of the local hockey team (in this case, the Muskies) and players who have gone on to playing careers in other cities.
Four months into the job, I’ve decided I was right—to a certain degree. This is a hockey-crazed region.
One need only drive into town and see the signs listing past Muskie all-Ontario champions to know the game is in the hearts and minds of the local population.
The love of the game becomes even more apparent once you’ve settled into the community and have had the chance to speak with its residents.
Parents want to talk about their hockey-playing kids. Seniors want to talk about some of the great hockey teams and players of years past. And seemingly everyone else is interested in either the National Hockey League, the Muskies, or the now defunct Borderland Thunder.
The only event that comes close to generating as much discussion as hockey in the local sports community is the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship—another event I knew was going to occupy a lot of my time if I got the job at the Times.
I was prepared for hockey. I knew hockey was, and is, a big deal. It wasn’t surprising. What I did find surprising is the interest in other sports throughout the district and the level at which local athletes compete.
There exists in the district an almost underground scene made up of all sports not named hockey or fishing.
Foremost among these sports is soccer.
More than a 10th of the local population plays soccer in Fort Frances and yet I don’t think I’ve ever had a casual soccer discussion with anyone in town.
It’s amazing.
People obviously are passionate about the sport given the number of residents playing the game. The quality of play is outstanding and, from what I hear, it is only getting better.
Another fine example is fastball.
Fastball is a big deal throughout the district, with teams representing all stops from here to Rainy River. And once again, the talent is undeniable.
Later this month, for instance, the Sight & Sound Wolves will be travelling to Wisconsin to compete at the North American Fastball Association’s World Series.
A local team has the opportunity to be recognized as the best squad in the world in its division.
Remarkable.
And then there are the individual athletes competing in all sorts of sports. Like swimmer Alex Parent, who continues to strive towards his goal of competing in the 2008 Paralymic Summer Games in Beijing, China.
Meanwhile, figure skater Taylor Latimer is training with some of the top coaches in Canada in hopes of one day achieving her dreams.
Those are but two of the names that immediately spring to mind.
My point is this—it’s time to shift the perception of Fort Frances and the district as being a hockey region to being a sports region.
There simply are too many quality athletes excelling in too many sports to label the area hockey-obsessed.

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