The popularity of the Summerside Storm consistently grew during the National Basketball League of Canada’s inaugural season. The Storm didn't have the on-court success they had hoped for, winning only 12 of 36 games, but it was a much different story off the court.
Storm owners Duncan Shaw and Darren MacKay deserve a lot of credi for this.
These two gentlemen, without a doubt, are successful businessmen, and they would probably be the first ones to tell you that in business you are only as good as the people around you.
The Storm seemed to do everything right, and that comes from building a good strong foundation with a quality staff. Getting Bill Schurman on board as a management and marketing consultant was a great move by the Storm.
No one on this Island has had more success in that department over the last 25 years than Schurman. After all, he is a big reason why Summerside once had the title of being the Sports Hosting Capital. Many of those national and international sporting events that Summerside has hosted over the years were headed by Schurman.
The Storm did a fantastic job of marketing this team, and only those in winter hibernation wouldn't know whom the Storm were. The Storm reached out to fans Island wide, and the franchise is to be commended on partnering with various charitable groups and organizations.
They gave back to the community, and the community gave back to them. It seems so simple that one would wonder why other organizations do not follow suit?
To think that this Storm team had the third-best attendance numbers in the seven-team league really puts an exclamation mark on the job the marketing personnel has done.
Only much bigger centres in Halifax and London attracted more fans than Summerside, and they were the top two regular-season teams.
Great basketball facility
As good as the Storm did at the gate, that wouldn't have been possible without EastLink Arena. Storm ownership made a smart move when they decided to call Summerside home.
All the bells and whistles of this fantastic fan-friendly facility is well-suited for pro basketball. As I have said many times, fans love going there. Combine that with the great ticket prices for Storm games, it is little wonder they had the support they had.
It looks like the NBL of Canada has a bright future going forward. I think, for the most part, attendance was pretty good for most of the teams, and that will only get better in Year 2. There is talk of a team in Sydney next year to play out of Centre 200. That would be an added benefit for Maritime teams.
Also, the fact that teams and organizations will have that year of experience under their belts can only help. One can be sure that some things may be done differently in Year 2.
As far as the Storm is concerned, there is little doubt that the team will be better next year. When you read the comments that Storm ownership has made about next year, fans have very good reason to be optimistic.
They say that they will do even more next year to make this team and league a success. That should be music to the ears of basketball fans across the Island!
Don Cherry was in fine form on last Saturday's Coach’s Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada. He had a bone to pick with Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke over having no Ontario-born players on the Leafs. The Leafs’ 23-man roster is made up of 11 Canadians, eight Americans and four players born in Europe.
It is beginning to look like the Maple Leafs will miss the playoffs once again. With only 15 games left, the Leafs would have to win at least 11 of them, and still may come up short with 89 points.
The lack of good goaltending will be the difference for this Leafs’ team. They have gone 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, and have allowed 38 goals over those 10 games. That is an average of almost four per game, which does not win too many games in today's NHL.
Another Canadian team who could make the playoffs is the Winnipeg Jets. What a great story the Jets have been in their first year back in Winnipeg.
The Jets are contending for that final playoff spot, and control their own destiny. The great fans of Winnipeg should be the edge the Jets need. The fans started cheering before Game 1, and they haven’t stopped since. They are truly elated to have their team back.
It must be great for the players after moving from that ho-hum city of Atlanta, where fans had little or no interest. It must be fun to play in that hockey-mad atmosphere, and it would be great to see the Jets make the playoffs. It is one of the best stories in the NHL this year!
As retired CTV broadcaster Lloyd Robertson would say, “That is all the news that fits!”
Have a great week!
Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.