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Billy McGuigan-coached junior squad was destined for deep playoff run
By March 1, it had been quite obvious the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Caps, under head coach Bill McGuigan and GM Pat McIver, were likely to win the Maritime Junior Hockey League crown.
Being ranked second in Canada, their chances of making a strong run at the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship were strong. The Caps had finished in top spot in the Maritime loop and their lineup featured a host of top players and up-and-coming young talent like first team all-stars Brodie MacArthur, Kallum Muirhead and goaltender Dominik Tmej. Defenceman Zach Biggar and forward Colby MacArthur made the all-rookie team, while another young defenceman, Ed McNeill, got better with every outing. Even more important, 17 of the players were Islanders.
But it wasn’t to be. The playoffs were cancelled earlier this month due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).
It is indeed heartbreaking for McIver, who played a big role in constructing the team, and for McGuigan, who has made quite a name for himself in the coaching ranks. Let’s take a quick peek at McGuigan’s resumé.
His impressive credentials prior to this year included winning the Maritime title and earning a silver medal in the Royal Bank Cup national championship with Summerside in 2012-13. In his six years with the Caps, he has never had a losing season and in his last five campaigns has posted a 173-59 record, topped off by a Maritime-best 42-7-1-2 this year. McGuigan also posted a 40-win season in 2018-19, arguably the only coach to ever post back-to-back 40-win seasons in the Maritimes.
Bill’s playing background with the Charlottetown Abbies, plus two years in the Ontario Hockey League with Peterborough and Kitchener and a couple of years minor pro, have been valuable experiences.
McGuigan looks back at his assistant coaching stint with the Regina Pats, who finished first in the Western Hockey League’s East Division in 2013-14, and his three gold medals with Hockey Canada’s para ice hockey team as helping shape his approach.
“Attending seminars, presented by some of hockey’s best coaches, opened up new ideas on how to get the most out of players (and) have made me a better coach,” said McGuigan, who is more than disappointed with the end of the season.
With a young family of three, he, like everyone else, is more worried about the health of his family than about hockey right now, but the abrupt end to the season was painful.
What I admire about McGuigan is he didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had nothing passed his way. He earned it.
In addition, I know he did not have much public speaking training in his schooling days, but one wouldn’t know that, as he handles himself in a professional manner with the media.
McGuigan has fashioned a great career for himself in the coaching ranks, and 2019-20 could have been his finest hour. Let’s hope he and McIver can put together another strong Caps club next season.
Most of today’s Guardian readers may not be familiar with the name Billy McKinnon, but he was a big name on the sports scene in the 1960s, and his passing on Sunday brings back fond memories.
McKinnon was a track star, P.E.I.’s finest until a youngster named Jared Connaughton hooked up in the Olympics against the world’s greatest-ever sprinter Usain Bolt. McKinnon burst onto the Canadian track scene by winning the 1967 Cape Breton Highland Games 100-yard dash in a blistering 9.8 seconds and, two summers later he won the 1969 Canada Games gold medal in the 100-yard sprint, a first for P.E.I., at the Games in Halifax/Dartmouth, N.S.
In the late 1960s there were many track and field competitions across the Maritimes, and McKinnon was a top gun for the Abbies track and field team, which included sprinters like Gary (Nick) Nicole, Ken Foley, Ian (Tex) MacDonald and Jack MacEachern and long-distance guys like Andy Arsenault. The squad also included Fran Whitlock, Rhoda MacLeod and Ramona Taylor. Summerside’s 200-yard speedster John Beer was the provincial record holder at that distance, Alf Groom was the perennial Island pole vault champ while Adele Marchbank starred in the field events.
Track and field was big back then with numerous meets on the Island and throughout the region and McKinnon was the biggest name of all. He was one of Canada’s very best 100-yard sprinters.
After graduating from Saint Dunstan’s University and St. FX, Bill taught school in Montague and coached track and field and unior A hockey in Montague when the Island junior league and high school hockey were hot-ticket items. He also played hockey with P.E.I. in the 1967 Winter Games in Quebec City. Bill’s older brother, Mike, was the GM for the Islanders Allan Cup and Hardy Cup champs and was a longtime organizer of senior hockey in the province. Another brother, Alan (Doc), played hockey with Bill MacMillan at Queen Charlotte.
In recent years, Bill and Adele Marchbank were close companions, and I last saw them about a month ago at Maurice Murphy’s funeral. Billy’s passing is painful for the family and for Adele. My condolences to all connected to this gentleman.
The P.E.I. sports community lost another of its colourful figures with the passing earlier this week of Reg (Junior) Flanagan, better known as Sweet Reggie.
Reg was a major player, pitcher and hitter in the old City Fastball League and was good enough to play in five or six national senior fastball tournaments. For years, he was with the Sportsmen Club but was often picked up by the Fawcetts when they won the provincial senior A crown. He worked for UPEI security and later transferred to the Charlottetown Police Services, where he stayed until his retirement. It was only a few months ago we said goodbye to his younger brother, Alf, so sad. My condolences to all connected to this great guy.
The harness racing game has come to a standstill with all tracks shut down until we get control and subdue the coronavirus. We are, however, in the midst of the breeding season with mares foaling and owners deciding what stallions to match with their mares. We are fortunate on P.E.I. because there’s a strong cast of quality stallions. We will look at some of them in next week’s column.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.