Where you’re from means a lot

“Hi, my name’s Reuben. I’m from the Fort Frances Times.”
That’s a common introduction I’ve used countless times here. But while covering the Borderland Thunder during the SIJHL final last week in Dryden, I learned there’s a lot about the rivalry between the two towns when it comes to hockey that I was about to experience firsthand.
And all it takes is saying where you’re from.
It all started when I agreed to take that ride up Highway 502 with “Wild” Bill O’Leary for both games. He had arranged to film Games 3 and 4 for the Thunder as a scouting tool and was really pumped up on the way to Dryden for the third game last Wednesday night.
Ol’ Bill had seen a lot of local high school, junior (he even wore a rare Fort Frances Royals hat), and minor hockey games—and for a good portion of the two-hour drive was intent on describing to me what the Thunder had to do to get back in the best-of-seven series.
He liked his strategy so much, he repeated it three more times.
We got there two hours before game time, and I dropped Bill off at the Dryden Recreation Centre to set his camera up on the balcony—where the only way to get up was a thin, not-so-reliable, ladder (the arena superintendent had him sign a release just to climb it).
Now I should have played my cards right and waited at the arena. But oh no, I got sucked in by the local culture (read: I went to Wal-Mart).
I got back 10 minutes before game time and people were starting to file in. It was time to put on the old charm and play newsboy.
I went up to the entrance and (insert common introduction here).
“Yes?” the woman said, clearly unimpressed.
“Well, I’m just here to take some photos,” I said while rifling through my wallet to grab my press I.D.—the one I’ve used twice since the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship last summer.
“I think you’ll need to buy a ticket,” she responded without even looking at my card.
At this point, I knew this was the hottest ticket in town and there would be no way to get one now.
“Uh, I don’t think so. I’ve been here before and haven’t paid,” I said with a touch of irritation in my voice.
“Just hold on,” she said as she looked over at her supervisor—but he was busy talking to someone else.
“Go ahead, I guess,” she concluded with a sigh.
Now most of you involved with hockey or figure skating in town probably have been in this building. Without sounding too harsh, the Rec Centre there is—oh, what are the words I’m looking for? Dirty and cramped. It was a chore trying to get a decent shot of the game much less make your way to the washroom.
Again, this is probably my mistake for coming just as the game was starting but it still didn’t prepare me for what was to come.
The Ice Dogs took control of Game 3 and cruised to a 4-1 win and a 3-0 stranglehold of the series. Bill’s camera broke and he didn’t tape the game.
Before Game 4 the following night, I would get there early and stay up in the balcony for photos. “Those Ice Dogs players were shooting pucks at me on purpose while I was setting up,” Bill warned.
So there we were, the lone remnants of the Fort Frances media with nothing to show but a couple of cameras and a pair of release forms should we break our necks getting down from this dust trap.
During pre-game warm-ups, I thought nothing of Bill’s early warnings as I prepared to take some practice shots.
Then, whizz! A puck went right by my shoulder. There’s no way that was a mistake. Another flew by to a “thud” against the wall, just missing Bill, who wasn’t even fazed.
There was a nice location in the top row which would give me a good side shot of the Dryden goalie for the third period. I had noticed there was a free seat next to a little boy for the first 40 minutes.
Asking wouldn’t hurt. Once again it was charm time.
I approached his dad during the intermission and . . . (insert common introduction). “Sir, I was wondering if I could use the seat beside your son to take a few photos. Just for a few minutes.”
Barely looking at me, he replied, “I think you’ll have to ask his permission. He’ll be back. He’s getting some candy.”
This boy was hardly five years old and I had him to ask permission? This was getting more unbelievable by the minute. I stood in the aisle waiting for him to return. I knew the father was having some fun with me but there were no smiles or “just kiddings.” He just pointed to the seat and said, “Go.”
I took my photos, thanked Mr. Mom curtly, and finished the game by the glass, where I had to deal with screaming fans and team officials as the Ice Dogs scored late and got the 6-4 win to end the Thunder’s season.
So what did I learn from all this? Not much. I have nothing against Dryden but there’s definitely an attitude against anything Fort Frances, which probably works both ways.
But next time I’m there, I’ll have to amend my common introduction—“Hi, my name’s Reuben. I’m from the Fort Frances Times and was wondering if I could get a spot away from puck-assaulting Ice Dogs, rude ticket tearers, and dads who like watching reporters squirm.”
None such available? I thought so.
• • •
Local judoka Jared Catholique-Bruyere captured gold in the juvenile open class (81 kg+) division at the Eastern Manitoba Open in Winnipeg. Catholique-Bruyere went 2-0, defeating an opponent from Brandon in the final.
He’ll go to Toronto this weekend for the junior provincials, with a chance to join Team Ontario in Edmonton for the nationals later this spring.
• • •
A couple of wrap-up hockey tournaments took place last weekend.
The 45-and-over Papermakers went 0-3 at the “Last Chance” tournament in Dryden while Squeak’s Machine men’s hockey team reached the semi-finals of a tourney in Atikokan before losing out to the host M&C Generals 2-1.
Team captain Darren Brown said Squeak’s got strong performances out of Tim and Brian Hughes, Marcel Page, and Jim “Stubby” Armstrong, who faced 60 shots in one game.
• • •
The Canadian Wrestling Federation will make an afternoon stop here next Saturday (April 20) at the Ice for Kids Arena. Start time is 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $15 to $8, and are available at Rainy Lake Sports and Tackle, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, Red Dog Inn, and Village Variety in Emo.
• • •
The local PeeWee Lions hockey team finished 1-2-1 at a 10-team tournament in Thunder Bay over the weekend.
They lost 1-0 in the ‘A’ final to Current River.
If you are planning any upcoming sporting events or have any sports-related information, feel free to call me at 274-5373 or drop by the Times office.
You also can e-mail me at rvillagracia@fortfrances.com

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