A date I will always remember

By Curtis J Phillips

May 14, 2000 is a date I will always remember. It was Mother’s Day.

With a hectic schedule here in Fort McMurray I did not have time to phone Winnipeg and wish my own mother, Noreen, a happy Mother’s Day. A few months later August 15, 2000 she would pass away in her sleep at age 74.

May 14, 2000 also remains clear as it was one of the rare times that I would shed a tear at a local sporting event.Sports writers and sports announcers don’t cry. You have to be objective. You have to be focused.

It was the final of the 2000 Royal Bank Cup, symbolic of Junior hockey supremacy in Canada, and the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons were up against the No. 1 ranked Rayside-Balfour Sabres from Ontario.  Having headed up the television coverage for 13 of the 14 games during the 10-day tournament, I could now relax and for a moment be a fan as the big fellas from TSN were in town to take over.

Standing against the glass beside good friend Guy Boutilier – one of the key individuals who landed us the event and also our then MLA – we watched as the clock tick down. The buzzer sounded and the Oil Barons were winners 2-1.  A quick high-five with Guy, smiles and then off to perform our duties; Guy presenting the Royal Bank Cup and myself up to the scaffold to start tearing down our mobile TV production unit.

Taking a break from pulling cables, I looked up and watched as the Royal Bank Cup was handed to the Oil Barons, skating around the home ice Cup held high and our loyal fans cheering.  A flutter of the heart.

Like I wrote above, sports writers and sports announcers don’t cry. You have to be objective. You have to be focused.  But this was my home.  Hometown pride tends to get one emotional.  A solo tear appeared.  Many of these young men would go on to professional or university careers – careers which were followed closely in this space.

Colin Murphy, Michigan Tech and then a stint in the AHL and Europe.  Scott Basiuk six years in the pros after four years of college south of the border.  Quinn Sherdahl and Scott McQueen five years at the University of Saskatchewan.  Jeff Drummond four years at the powerhouse University of Denver.  Dave McCulloch using his smarts to go to Harvard and then a cup of coffee in the ECHL.  Brent Zelenewhich tending goal four years in the CHL and now a coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

These are just a few from that championship season that would find hockey a main focus of their lives.  One other player from that team was a young man by the name of Scottie Upshall.  He would play only that one season in the AJHL scoring 26 goals and adding 26 assists for 52 points in 52 games.  The Barons would also set an AJHL record that year with 52 victories.

It would be nice somehow to incorporate another 52 into the equation as January 10, 2015 Upshall, now playing for the NHL Florida Panthers following an illustrious amateur career, will be the third player to have his uniform number retired at the Casman Centre when No. 7 joins that of Chris Phillips No. 6 and Richard Warwick’s No. 18.

Catch you on the rebound.