Last Sunday marked the first time in 30-plus years that atom-aged football was played here. The Cox and Palmer Spartans, with local “Football Freak” John Turner at the controls, had an impressive 25-19 win over the Moncton Blue Bombers.
To beat the established Moncton team is one thing, but the fact that this was the Spartans’ second-ever tackle game makes the win more impressive. It is great that this age group has the chance to play the game.
Football was once very popular in Summerside and, in fact, numerous teams played in atom, peewee and bantam divisions at Notre Dame and Queen Elizabeth Park back in the 1970s. There was a very successful Island high school league back then, and football was big at UPEI as well.
Those days seem to be coming back and, thanks to football people like Turner, programs like the Spartans are being established. That will only help the sport to grow.
Starting at a young age gives kids plenty of opportunity to play for a long time as they can continue up through peewee, bantam and maybe onto college or university ball. There were a couple hundred fans at last Sunday's game to see the exciting Spartans’ home debut.
They play at home again tomorrow when the Salisbury Silver Foxes are at Eric Johnston Field for a 1 p.m. start.
Big Caps’ crowd
The Summerside Western Capitals have to be pleased with their season-opening crowd last Saturday night.
Close to 1,800 took in the game, and by all accounts fans were impressed with this year's edition of the Caps and the opening game. Although they lost the game to Pictou County in overtime, the Caps carried much of the play in a pretty good game.
If memory serves me right, it may have been the biggest opening-day crowd in the Caps’ 30-year history. They never had an opening-day crowd that big at Cahill Stadium, and I don't recall any more at Eastlink Arena.
Obviously, the great deal on season tickets had a lot to do with it, and continued promotion throughout the coming year should result in more fans going to the rink than ever before.
The Caps are back home on Sunday against Miramichi at 2 p.m.
Great time of year
The fall is usually a great time of the year for sports fans.
Today is the first day of fall, and we have some great Major League Baseball pennant and wild-card races, football season is in full swing and most years NHL training camps would be opening this weekend.
Armchair athletes love this time of year, but will have to deal with the void of no NHL hockey. As the NHL heads into its second week of the current lockout, there does not appear to be an end in sight.
As is always the case, money is the main issue as the NHL and its players try to find a way to divide $3.2 billion in annual league revenue.
A lot of teams are losing money under the present system, and richer teams are swimming in dough. As the old saying goes, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer and under the present system, that is about the size of it.
The richer teams want to remain that way and they also want the poorer teams to get richer. That is where the NHL thinks its players should take the hit and that is why we have the standoff that we have.
A perfect solution would be to get rid of some teams and in fact if the league folded five present teams, what a great league it would be. Atlanta did not support the Flames when they were there before, and the same held true for the Thrashers. Thus, the team moved to Winnipeg.
Fan and corporate interest in cities like Florida, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Long Island, Carolina and Phoenix is just not there.
Fold those six franchises and have a 24-team NHL, and it would not be long before all teams were swimming in cash. The product would be that much better, which would likely lead to more lucrative television deals for the league.
It sounds so simple but yet is so complicated. Millions of dollars are being lost on a daily basis, and a lot of jobs are at stake. Teams have begun the process of laying off employees, games are already being cancelled and players are taking off to Europe and other places to play.
It’s hard to be optimistic as a fan, especially with Gary Bettman in one corner and Donald Fehr in the other. We all know how Bettman digs in his heals, and Fehr was the player rep when Major League Baseball cancelled the 2004 season. Two very tough negotiators sometimes lead to a long drawn-out process.
NHL fans can only hope for a speedy solution.
Facts and figure
Facts and figure from major league sports bring out some interesting numbers.
The NHL has a couple of national television deals. They have a 10-year, $2-billion deal with NBC Sports while the CBC pays $100 million annually to televise NHL hockey. All teams share the revenue.
This is the fourth work stoppage in the NHL in the last 20 years. There was a players’ strike in 1991-92 that lasted only 10 days in early April, and no games were lost. The 1994-95 lockout lasted from Oct. 1 until Jan. 11, and that resulted in a 48-game season. The 2004-05 season was cancelled as the lockout lasted from Sept. 16 until July 22 of the following year. During the lockout, teams can't have any contact with the players or use them for promotional purposes, and players can't use team facilities except injured players who are not cleared to play.
The players do receive eight-per-cent of their salary taken from last year's escrow account. It is interesting to note that NHL commissioner Gary Betman has an annual salary of $7 million. Since we are talking money, the average salaries for players in the four North American sport leagues are the following: NBA $5.15 million; Major League Baseball, $3.3 million; NHL $2.4 million, and National Football League $1.9 million.
Have a great week!
Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to email@example.com.