Storm Warnings column
It's time for the annual second season for the Summerside Storm.
The first season consists of all those games and players and fans and excitement and stuff. That season ended last Thursday, when the London Lightning beat the Storm here in the last game of the National Basketball League of Canada's actual playing season.
Now for the real season - it started as soon as the final buzzer went on Thursday. It's the annual "Let's Move the Storm to Charlottetown" season.
This is the one that's fun, because there is a multitude of expertise on the subject, so there's no shortage of opinions. Everyone in Summerside has been to Charlottetown at some point in their lives, so they know a lot about their friends to the east.
And of course there are simply dozens of Charlottetonians who have made the harrowing journey to Summerside at least once in the course of their lifetimes, so they know everything there is to know about the western capital.
And then there are the many Island sports experts who (a) have seen one basketball game in their lives and (b) have heard that the arena in Summerside is kind of nice, at least for hockey. Trust me, they have an opinion on everything.
What's behind this annual season of wonderment and eventual vitriol? Surely it's altruistic, with everyone with an opinion (and that's everyone, with some very flexible people having five or six differing opinions) simply wanting to make sure that the Storm draws enough people to be viable. Sure.
This past season, many people thought the Storm would have drawn more people than they did, because they were both established and good. Their home record was way over .500 and they provided great entertainment every night. Yet attendance languished under 2,000 for most of the season.
So, if they move to Charlottetown, they would draw more? Maybe, but the barriers to that move are mighty.
Firstly, there's no place to play. The Charlottetown Civic Centre is a horrible place to watch a hockey game, and it would be even worse for basketball.
A major issue to relocating to the Civic Centre is that only Summerside has a basketball floor, with appropriate baskets and clocks and such. A new floor would cost at least $125,000. Charlottetown wouldn't buy Summerside's floor at a discount, because it has "Summerside" written all over it.
UPEI might be an option, but they have two university teams playing there already. And it's not big enough. There is seating for 1,500 in its present configuration, assuming that bums are the same size as they were in 1990 when the Sports Centre was built (they aren't).
Summerside has the greatest facility and basketball set-up in Atlantic Canada, and it would be crazy to move. Prince County has become a basketball hotbed in the last two years, and the fan base is growing more committed. When Omari Johnson's jump shot is the topic of heated conversation at a table of matronly women at Samuel's, as it was earlier this week, you know you've made an impact.
The Storm and Summerside are an unlikely, but successful, match. The Storm are good for Summerside, and Summerside is great for the Storm. Let's hope both the Storm and the city can put their respective self-interests aside and come to an agreement that's good for everyone.
Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, and can be followed on Twitter @bgray5.