Busy times for Western Capitals

Joe MacIntyre
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Paying tribute to late builder of sports in Summerside

The Summerside Western Capitals are busy these days making plans for the coming season.

The organization made a real good move this week with the addition of Trent Birt as vice-president of business operations.

Birt served in a similar capacity with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the experience gained there can only help him and the Caps going forward.

It was mentioned during a media conference to introduce Birt on Tuesday that the Caps have a budget of about $500,000 annually. Yes, it costs a lot of money to operate a team in the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).

However, Birt is no stranger to big numbers as he was the front man in helping keep major junior hockey in Charlottetown a couple of years ago after the former P.E.I. Rocket was put up for sale. His efforts were instrumental in getting local ownership together at the last minute to buy the Rocket, and Birt can take a great deal of credit for the success of the Islanders since.

Birt will have his hands full with his new position, but has great support from Caps’ ownership. The organization is certainly being aggressive in the early going, announcing this week a great deal on season tickets as well as slashing walk-up prices for individual games.

The new prices are certainly affordable with great family rates. A big crowd on a regular basis is the best fundraiser a team can have. A winning team translates into big crowds, and there is no doubt general manager Pat McIver will continue building a winning team.

The Caps made great strides in last season’s rebuilding year, thanks in large part to McIver making some great player moves on the fly that should result in a very good team in the coming year.

Caps’ ownership deserves credit for trying to make things happen and ice a good product for fans to watch. We can do our part by going to the games.

The Caps will open training camp in just over two weeks on Monday, Aug. 25.

Old Home Week

Old Home Week harness racing is underway in Charlottetown, with the first of two Gold Cup and Saucer trials set for Saturday. Trial 2 goes on Monday night.

Only 12 horses are entered – six in each trial – and the top four in each race advance to the 55th running of the Gold Cup and Saucer on Saturday, Aug. 16.  

It may be a small but certainly impressive field as eight of the 12 horses have records of under 1:50. Could history be made over the next week with P.E.I.'s first-ever-sub-1:50 mile? 

Lee Drake, Red Shores marketing and sales manager, calls this year's entries the best field in the history of the Gold Cup and Saucer, so that magical mile is a real possibility.

Last year's race went in 1:50:4. With the added speed in this year's field, one would think they may go at least one second faster. A lot can happen in a horse race, but if weather conditions are perfect they will at least have a shot at history.  

Benny Grady

Islanders were saddened with the recent passing of Benny Grady, a man who was a very fine athlete as well as a significant contributor to the youth of our community.

Grady was one of Summerside's premier athletes, says local historian George Dalton. Grady was a real good hockey player, and was captain of the 1959 Maritime intermediate champion Summerside Aces.

Grady was also a very fine baseball player, notes Dalton, and he played a significant role on that very strong Curran and Briggs team that won a Maritime junior championship  in 1950.

Grady was a Korean War Veteran who sacrificed his time when he was in the prime of his sporting career. He would later become a strong advocate for war veterans, and liked to help as many veterans as he could with pension issues or anything they needed help with.

Grady spent a great part of his working days at the old Civic Stadium, where he served as an assistant to Charlie Hogan, and would later become manager of that same facility. He was involved with Summerside minor hockey for a lot of years, serving as a coach, manager or whatever needed to be done.

Dalton says that Grady had a very kind attitude toward our youth, and he would always make sure the kids who did not have the resources and wanted to play hockey could play. He would always find a way, says Dalton.

I did not know Grady personally, but one doesn't have to talk to many people to find out that he was a kind, gentle and very caring man. He was a difference maker for many, both young and old, and the Summerside and area is a better community because of Grady’s contributions.

He will be missed. Condolences are passed on to his family and many friends. 

Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every second Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to j-mac@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Maritime Junior Hockey League, Islanders

Geographic location: Summerside, Charlottetown, Capitals Maritime Civic Stadium

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