Summerside has hosted a lot of sporting events over the past 30-plus years, and there is little doubt that the efforts of John Brown played a very significant role in a number of those.
Some would even say that John Brown is the reason that Summerside went on to be called Canada's “Tournament Town” by The Sports Network (TSN).
John Brown passed away last weekend at the age of 73. Over the last few days I have talked to a couple of John's friends, who gave me some insight into the special person he was and what he was able to accomplish for the sport of softball, for Summerside and for all of P.E.I.
It all began as a dream for John back in 1981, when he was involved with a junior softball team called the Richmond Dairy Bar Juniors. That team hosted a successful Maritime championship that year, and that is where John Brown began to think of bigger things ahead.
He, along with his father Clifford and good friends Irv Sonier and Dave McNeill, took in the 1982 Canadian junior championships in Ottawa, where they did a lot of lobbying and made some very valuable contacts. Brown got Softball P.E.I. president Cecil MacPhail on his side, and then ventured off to Newfoundland and Labrador to attend the Softball Canada meetings and present his bid to host a Canadian championship.
Brown was successful in getting the bid, and then came to realize it would be hard to host such an event in Richmond. That is where Summerside comes into the picture, and we all know what followed.
“John Brown loved softball and was a dreamer who thought big,” says McNeill. “He was great at lobbying and getting people on his side, a real salesman who was very persistent in his efforts.
“He would not take no for an answer.”
Ken Noonan was another good friend of Brown, and worked with him on many of the host committees.
“John was relentless and stubborn in the pursuit of what he wanted,” said Noonan. “His heart was always in the right place and what he did was always for the benefit of the community.
“He was a modest man who shied away from the limelight, but was very sharp in selecting the help of people who he knew could get the job done. You never looked at John as the boss, but simply as one of the gang who wanted to get the job done.
“He treated everyone the same and did things in a way that you could not say no to him.”
When one looks back at all the great memories that have been created on what became known as the VIV Field at Queen Elizabeth Park, we can thank John Brown for many of them. VIV means Very Important Volunteer, and there is little doubt that John Brown was a very important volunteer.
I think it is fair to say the attracting of national and international softball events to Summerside started with John Brown, and we are a better community because of him.
John Brown may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. To his wife Norma and family, I know I join with many across this Island in passing along our deepest sympathies.
Summerside native and general manager Grant Sonier has certainly made big changes with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It is patience, patience and more patience for major junior fans in Charlottetown, but it does seem a bit different with the local ownership and Sonier steering the ship.
Fans are still enthusiastic about this team as evidenced by over 2,000 fans for a game against the Halifax Mooseheads on a cold Wednesday night after all the dealing was done.
Halifax did the same with their team four years ago, and they built all the way to winning last year's Memorial Cup. This year's Islanders got off to a great start, going 10-2-1 (won-lost-overtime losses) in their first 13 games, but have been very average since. Obviously, Sonier feels he should rebuild the team and the process has begun. This is how you build a winner at the junior level, and fans must continue to be patient as it looks like Sonier has the Islanders in the right direction.
Canadian Olympic team
The Canadian Olympic team selections this past week has some second-guessing as to who should be on the team. There is little doubt that Canada could have a second team and still compete with the best of them, but that will never happen.
What a tough time to pick this Canadian team. When you look at just how solid they are right through their lineup, one wonders who can beat them?
It will take one heck of a team to do so.
It was a December to remember and all the snow and bitter cold temperatures in January has people thinking ahead to warmer days. Spring training in Major League Baseball is only one month away as pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13.
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.