The Year of Sports for Fort McMurray kicks off March 5

by Curtis J Phillips

Of the literally thousands upon thousands of stories I have written over the last 35 years I have only kept a few.
One was a column on the passing of my mother Noreen in 2000. She was an amazing all-around athlete winning championships in a bevy of sports from basketball to volleyball to speed skating. It was said that she could outplay most of the neighbourhood boys on the hockey rink in Winnipeg’s west end. In fact I just found out last week that along with my father George, they were Winnipeg badminton mixed doubles champions for several years back in the 1950s. While my father introduced us to the main stream sports, my mother always made sure we had a chance to try the peripheral sports whether it was speed skating or fencing, something she took up as an adult. But her main claim to fame was as a youngster where she toured with her twin sister Kathleen performing Yo-Yo and Paddle Ball tricks.
A second column close to home was on my best friend Wes “Greyhound” Herbert who died in a car accident along with his wife Cheryl and son Brendan nearly 25 years ago. Wes followed me from Winnipeg to Fort McMurray in 1984 and was a fixture in local sports, coaching and playing, gaining all-star status in basketball and flag football. He would return to post-secondary education as an adult and in 1989 lead the Lethbridge Kodiaks men’s basketball team to a silver medal at the 1989 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships held in Edmonton.
That brings me to a new column of personal note.
My father in law Laurie Parker passed away Saturday after suffering a stroke Tuesday Feb. 17, 2105 at his residence of Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida. His wife of three years Linda and his seven children – including my wife Diane – were by his side when he took his last breath and then a little while later his heart had one final beat.
An avid golf player, Laurie lived in Fort McMurray in the late 1970s working in the oil sands industry. His claim to fame here may be that of initiating the annual Syncrude Lobster Boil. He is also the individual that introduced me to the sport of golf. Although I do not play that often, whenever I do, I can hear his instructions in my head. “Point your feet this way. Hold hands this way. Keep your head down.”
His late wife Lenore was not as avid a golfer but when she scored her first hole in one, the family got their mom a huge trophy to celebrate. A few years later when Laurie finally achieved his hole in one status, the family, with his good natured humour in mind, got their dad a small trophy. His main legacy is that of his children and grandchildren in which he imbedded the wealth of family first and independence. A strong man. A loving man. Also an opinionated man and I will miss our many good natured debates.
The Year of Sports for Fort McMurray kicks off March 5 with the Keyano Huskies hosting the 2015 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s basketball championships down at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre with the top eight teams, including the Huskies, hitting the hardwood for 11 games and three days with the finale March 7, 2015 at 6 p.m.
Many interesting athletes including NAIT Ooks Donny Moss who leads the North Division in scoring at nearly 23 points per game and Concordia Thunder’s Ryan Coleman who leads the North Division in rebounds at around 12 per game.
Moss, from the Bahamas, found the doors to NCAA hoops in the states closed to him due to misrepresentation from one of his former coaches but in turn opened doors to Prince Edward Island as one of the first student/athletes from his country. After playing two years of college ball followed by two years of university ball before heading to Edmonton for his final year of eligibility, he now guestimates that there are “about 30 Bahamian student-athletes in P.E.I. playing volleyball, baseball, football or basketball.” Coleman is the son of a respected Alberta basketball official Brad Coleman, who travels frequently to Fort McMurray for business.
Ryan admits that he has overcome a lot of obstacles to get where he is currently and credits his dad, “Honestly, he is a big help to me. One of the things he has taught me is to shoot for my dreams and don’t let anyone take that away from you. Everything you do in life you should just go for it. Yes, you might have critics, but the greatest enemy you have to deal with is yourself. We can choose to quit but we can choose to keep going.”
Catch you on the rebound.