For members of the Island Storm, Christmas is hardly time for a break.
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Members of the Island Storm basketball team Al Stewart, left, and Greg Plummer joke around with brothers, from left, Emmett, Silas and Owen, on Christmas Eve at their home in Emyvale.
With the Storm holding a practice today to gear up for a game Boxing Day, none of the members on P.E.I.’s National Basketball League of Canada team could leave the province to see their own families.
However, that didn’t stop Islanders from spreading some holiday cheer to the team by hosting players for Christmas dinners across the province.
“It’s almost like our friends and fans have taken it personally that we are away from our families. So they welcome us into their homes,” said Greg Plummer, a 6’4” forward from Brooklyn, N.Y. “(It means) a lot. If they didn’t, what would we be doing? It would just be another regular day.”
Plummer and point guard Al Stewart, who is also team captain, were two members of the team who paid a visit to Brenda Brydon and her family in Emyvale on Christmas Eve.
The family, which includes husband Lawrence LeClair and sons Owen, 13, Silas, 11, and Emmett, 8, have been Storm fans since the team’s first exhibition game more than two years ago in Summerside.
Knowing that members of the team, many of whom are originally from the U.S., would be unable to travel home for a break, Brydon helped arranged for all of the team’s members to be hosted for Christmas dinners.
“I felt compelled to do something in return because the players over the years have been so kind to my three children and I know we have such great Island hospitality,” said Brydon.
The Christmas invitation also means a lot to members of the team.
“You kind of think about, who else is doing this in the league? Who else has families to go to?” said Stewart. “We really respect this and are really happy about the situation we’re in.”
The close connection between the teammates and family of fans was clear on Christmas Eve when Stewart and Plummer took time to joke around and play with Brydon’s three sons, all who play basketball.
Stewart was also planning to visit a friend in Summerside for Christmas dinner, while Plummer was going to meet up with another family he had first met while playing for the Saint John Mill Rats.
“They have three younger boys, almost the same age as these guys,” said Plummer.
With the team taking time to promote the sport to kids through clinics and other events, Brydon knew there was a close connection between the players and community.
However, she discovered a testament to the fans’ appreciation of that connection when she started looking for host families.
“I had to turn families away that wanted to have them over for Christmas dinner,” she said. “They’re such good ambassadors for the sport. They’ve been so good to us during the past three years.”
The Island Storm will host the Halifax Rainmen at Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown at 2 p.m. Boxing Day.
The team will travel to New Brunswick to face the Moncton Miracles in a doubleheader on Friday and Saturday.
The team will then return to Eastlink Centre to face the Rainmen again on Tuesday.