Summer season sure has been busy

I’ll admit there have been a few times where I’ve worried about getting enough content to put together a legitimate sports section.
When I came in cold to the job back in December, I wasn’t totally sure what kinds of things I would be covering.
I had found out about the Lakers and the Muskies’ court teams through a quick Google search, but thought I’d be having to really wrack my brain for story ideas.
Well, after about 30 minutes in town, my hockey season worries were alleviated—taking me right to the end of the Lakers’ playoff run well into the spring.
“There goes the cash cow,” I had sighed at one of our story meetings.
Well, Muskie soccer was a godsend, as were other spring activities that popped up from week to week, so it ended up being okay.
But then school ended a few weeks ago, and I was absolutely certain that, unlike the vast majority of students, I’d be counting down the days until school started and all sorts of Muskie sports booted up again.
Happily, though, that hasn’t been the case, and much of that is due to the success of local athletes all over North America.
Of course, topping the list is former resident Duncan Keith, who helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years with a 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers in June.
Even though Keith opted to bring the Cup to Penticton, B.C. rather than to Fort Frances (more on that later), the win definitely is a feather in the cap of the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association, where the Norris Trophy winner took his first competitive strides.
Not far behind is another local hockey player, Joe Basaraba, who was chosen in the third round of the NHL entry draft by the Florida Panthers.
While the Panthers, without a playoff appearance in a decade, have been among the league’s cellar-dwellers for much of their 17-year history, save for a shocking run to the Stanley Cup final in 1996, there is hope.
The team recently hired former Blackhawks’ GM Dale Tallon, who is credited with rebuilding a Chicago team that was in much the same position that the Panthers find themselves in now.
The “Cats” appear to be centering their re-tooling around youth as Basaraba, in the 69th slot, already was the team’s seventh selection.
Couple that with a pair of national bowling titles for Jeff Watts (the Master Bowlers of Canada teaching ‘B’ crown), as well as Ken Dick, Bruce Henry, and Jim Fowler (Club 55+ Triple Team National Five-Pin Championships).
Stock car racer Steve Arpin, who cut his teeth at the Emo Speedway, earned his first couple of wins on the ARCA circuit earlier this year, and now also has a Top 10 finish on the Nationwide Series as he picks up the intricacies of that loop.
And don’t forget Troy Norman and Andrew Carlson, who topped 200 other boats at the Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament in May.
In the water, Thunder Bay Diving Club member Molly Carlson, who has family ties to Fort Frances, is turning heads on the diving scene, collecting a pair of silver medals at nationals earlier this month, while local swimmer Donovan Taylor is likely to make a dent at the National Age Group Championships in Winnipeg this coming weekend.
Instead of a dearth of spectator events, both the Rainy River District Fastball League and Borderland Racing Association at the Emo Speedway have provided action.
For a town and district of this size, there certainly is a noteworthy number of people performing some fantastic feats on some great stages.
Now, we wait to see if a local duo can keep the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship trophy in the district since Dave and Lee Lindsay of Sioux Narrows won it all back in 2005.
• • •
I had the chance to speak with Scott Downs during the annual Kingsley Downs/Gus Lindberg Memorial slo-pitch tournament in Devlin after the Downs’ family team pulled out a big win Saturday morning.
Downs recalled several things about his father, a prolific umpire in the area, including “the Kingsley Rule” where if one team clearly was pounding another, he would have the superior one take the field even if its offence hadn’t made three outs in an inning.
“Only he had the charisma to pull that off,” Downs remembered.
Another neat part about the tournament is that the Downs family puts together its own team to compete against some of the local squads from both the Devlin and Fort Frances leagues.
Players also come from Manitoba and St. Paul, Mn. for the tourney, with Downs even noting a long-lost relative came out to the tournament last year and decided to take the field again this year.
The tournament was blessed with excellent weather this year, and looked like a fun time—just, according to Downs, as his father would have wanted it.
• • •
There was a lot of talk—and even a Facebook group sporting more than 1,000 members—but once Chicago Blackhawks’ defenceman Duncan Keith got his day with the Stanley Cup, it ended up in beautiful B.C. on Saturday.
Though many locals were disappointed with the choice, it’s hard to fault Keith for choosing Penticton.
It’s where he settles during the off-season, and where he moved with his family at 14—an age where most young people really start to begin their formative years.
Keith did recognize his connection to Fort Frances, both in a CBC interview moments after winning the Cup last month and later when talking to summer reporter Bryce Forbes a few weeks ago.
He did say if the Blackhawks capture another Cup during his tenure there, Fort Frances would be a possible destination given pulling off a split between Penticton and here just wasn’t in the cards this year.
“It would be different if I had two days with the Cup,” he had noted.

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