Cape Breton West Islanders advance to Telus Cup. Community support and passion on display.
The Cape Breton West Islanders are champions of Major Midget hockey in Atlantic Canada. Just after 2pm on Sunday April 2, the Islanders defeated a formidable opponent in the Moncton Flyers, 3-2.
You would be right to say that they’re on a roll.
Not since they began play at the Atlantic Midget Championships this past Thursday.
Not since they began play of the NSMMHL playoffs.
Not since they won the fifth annual Ice Jam tournament in January.
They’ve been on a roll since puck drop to open the 2016/17 season. During that opening weekend, they defeated the Valley Wildcats 10-0 and 11-1 in back-to-back games.
This should have been our first clue that we could be watching this group of young men be crowned Atlantic Champions in early April 2017.
There have been very few bumps in their road to glory which has lead them to Miramichi, New Brunswick on this Sunday afternoon in April.
Gloves, sticks and helmets scattered across the Miramichi Civic Centre ice.
One thing that may escape you, but is also scattered across this ice, is pride.
16 and 17-year-old kids beaming with pride. Not because they’ve reached the pinnacle of midget hockey, something that so many quality editions of Islanders teams of years past failed to do. But rather pride in representing the crest which adorns the front of their grey, orange and black jerseys. Specifically, the communities that crest represents.
From Port Hood to Pomquet.
From Mulgrave to Margaree Forks.
And everywhere in between.
Place’s that maybe you have never seen, or even heard of. Places where even past Islander players have called home, Havre Boucher, Whycocomagh, Gaspereaux Lake or Troy.
This is a championship won by a group of teenage young men, but also by the communities they so proudly represent.
Next. Prince George, British Columbia for the National Midget Championship, the Telus Cup.
When the Islanders step off their plane onto the softened spring soil, Prince George won’t know about Pomquet, Nova Scotia and Logan Chisholm. They won’t know about Mulgrave, Nova Scotia and Avery Warner. They won’t know about the goal tending tandem of Colton Ellis from River Denys and Ewan MacDonald from Anitgonish.
Teams that have had the honour of representing Atlantic Canada at the Telus Cup in the recent past such as the Saint John Vito’s, Dartmouth Steele Subaru and Halifax McDonalds have been under dogs. No team from Atlantic Canada has ever won a midget national championship. One team in 2002 even had a 14-year-old under-aged player named Sidney Crosby on their team. They finished 2nd, losing the then Air Canada Cup final to the Tisdale Trojans from Saskatchewan.
So, are the Islanders going to be underdogs?
But that’s the way they like it. That’s the way Port Hood likes it, that’s the way Pleasant Valley likes it. Heck, even Antigonish which is referred to as “town” in many of the surrounding areas, they like it that way too!
Hockey in Nova Scotia, and more broadly, Atlantic Canada is beginning to bubble under the surface of the national hockey consciousness. Am I bold or brave enough to call my shot, and say that this Islanders team can do what Sidney Crosby’s Dartmouth team could not?
No. I don’t think that expectation is fair for any team in a tournament that will boast the quality of competition the Telus Cup will.
But a team like the Cape Breton West Islanders are dangerous. Dangerous because you don’t see them coming, dangerous because it’s easy to overlook:
Beaver Meadow – Okay wait, even I’ve never heard of Beaver Meadow! Home of Islanders defenseman and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles draft pick, Ryan MacLellan.
So, very shortly the Islanders will be off to the Telus Cup to represent:
The crest on their jersey.
The province of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. (And of course Cape Breton island!).
The names on the back of their jerseys because without those families, the Telus Cup is not a reality.
But maybe most importantly for these hockey players, from places you haven’t heard of, their communities.