Popular sports columnist passed away seven years ago Monday
It will be seven years on Monday since John (The Realm) McNeill passed away at the age of 87.
He may be gone, but he is certainly not forgotten. He was considered by many to be a legend in local sports reporting, and he authored a popular column in this newspaper for 56 years. The "Realm of Sport" debuted way back on May 17, 1945. His last column was published in 2001, and over that 56-year period his column touched the lives of many Islanders with his thoughts and words.
The “Realm of Sport” was the only sports in this newspaper for McNeill's first 10 years on the typewriter. McNeill said himself that he was not a great athlete, but he did participate in the sports of hockey, rugby, curling, bowling and golf.
However, McNeill was an excellent administrator and manager of various sport teams and organizations over the years. He served as the first secretary-treasurer of the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1992.
In 1988, Summerside City Council dedicated a room in his honour at the Summerside Recreation Centre, and named it the "John (The Realm) McNeill Nostalgia Room.”
I often think of The Realm when doing this weekly column, and have gained a ton of respect for McNeill since I started doing it. Some weeks it can be a real chore to come up with something to talk about, and I have the use of the Internet as a very valuable tool. McNeill, who did multiple columns on a weekly basis, did not have that luxury and had to depend on his own sources to get information with daily deadlines. I would think it would be a lot harder to write a column in those days than what it is today.
No wonder he would write about anything and everything, and quite often would get into the family history of many athletes across the Island. Local historian George Dalton supplied me with a box of The Realm's columns, and there is some pretty good reading there that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I kind of forgot about some of the characters he referred to in his column, such as Honest Harry. McNeill certainly had a very unique way of writing, and many read his column. His picture in the column, with the fedora hat on, is an image that will be etched in the minds of many for years to come.
McNeill died on Feb. 25, 2006. He would be 94 today.
Big hockey games
Summerside Western Capitals’ fans are looking forward to a couple of big home games this weekend.
Saturday, at 7 p.m., the Caps host their arch-rivals from Woodstock while the Yarmouth Mariners visit Eastlink Arena in a much-anticipated matchup with the Capitals on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The game against Woodstock will be a good one, and tomorrow's game against Yarmouth should be even better. Woodstock may be the only road block the Caps face to get out of the Roger Meek Division in the upcoming playoffs, and many are predicting a Kent Cup final featuring Summerside and Yarmouth.
It looks like the Caps and Mariners are the two best teams in the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League), and Sunday’s big game should provide a playoff-like atmosphere. The game will likely draw the biggest crowd of the season for the Caps.
Sunday’s game will carry a little extra significance for Summerside native Chase Gaudet, who could get the start in goal for the Mariners. The soon-to-be-19-year-old is the son of Marc and Nicky Gaudet, and he has been putting up some impressive numbers since rejoining the Mariners in January.
In seven appearances with the Mariners, the six-foot-two and 181-pound Gaudet has a 6-0 (won-lost) record, a sparkling 1.56 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.
Gaudet started the year in Shawinigan, appearing in nine games with the defending Memorial Cup-champion Cataracts.
Whoever starts in goal for the Mariners will have their hands full as one would think the Caps will be up for this one, and will be on top of their game for both games this weekend.
It was not the start the UPEI Panthers were looking for in the best-of-five semifinal series against the UNB Varsity Reds in the Atlantic University Sport Men’s Hockey Conference.
The Panthers were whitewashed 7-2 in Game 1 in Fredericton, N.B., on Thursday night. Game 2 was also played in Fredericton on Friday night, and it was an almost must-win situation for the Panthers. If the Panthers return home to MacLauchlan Arena for Game 3 on Monday night down 2-0, it will be a tall order to beat UNB three straight games.
Many in the Panther camp thought UPEI had a good chance of upsetting the powerful Reds in this series, but that 7-2 win may be an indication that UNB, coached by Bedeque native Gardiner MacDougall, has shifted into overdrive now that the playoffs have started.
Forward Colby Pridham of Montrose earned two assists for UNB and was named the second star of Game 1.
It seems that a lot of Maritime communities are building new recreation facilities. Truro, N.S., is the latest with a brand spanking new facility that is opened, or about to be opened.
It will be the new home for the MHL’s Truro Bearcats, who will host the Fred Page Cup there beginning on May 1. The beautiful facility has 2,500 seats, an NHL-size ice surface, an aquatics centre climbing wall, fitness centre and meeting rooms.
The price tag on the newly-named Rath Eastlink Community Centre was $48 million. The Bearcats will play their first game there next Saturday against the Metro Shipbuilders.
I do not think that Credit Union Place in Summerside had quite that high of a price to build, and it has almost 1,500 more seats and two rinks. There is little doubt that Summerside made a great move building its facility when they did.
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.