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Stealers settle for second place

Lantzville, Winnipeg win men's and women's Western Canadian fastpitch championships

Don Fennell, Sports Editor

After coming to grips with a second-place finish at the Western Canadian men's fastpitch championships, Steveston's Linus Software Stealers are already preparing for future challenges.

"We're continually challenging ourselves," manager Marshall Shields said after his team fell 3-2 to Lantzville in Sunday's final at Palmer field.

"We've played in the last two westerns, winning a gold and a silver medal. We've been competitive playing some of the same teams, but we want to see what else is out there."

That said, Shields said the Stealers would likely explore the possibility of playing in the International Softball Congress world championships next year in Fargo, North Dakota. He said the North American Fastball Association championships in Erie, Wisconsin are also a possibility. The locals participated in the NAFA tournament two years ago, going 1-2, but Shields believes the current team would fare much better.

The Stealers were unbeatable for much of last weekend's tournament, finishing first after the round-robin with a 6-0 record. That included an 8-1 thrashing of Lantzville in their final tune-up game for the playoffs on Saturday morning.

But Lantzville turned the tables on the locals in their playoff match-up later that afternoon, winning 8-4. Although the Stealers were able to earn their way back to the double knockout final (against Lantzville) by defeating the pre-tournament favourite Duncan Pipers 1-0 (Doug Miller's inside-the-park homer in the sixth avenged a 3-2 loss to Duncan in the provincials last month), they couldn't defuse the momentum Lantzville had built up.

"Hats off to Lantzville," Shields said. "They had to come through the back door in the provincials to qualify."

Shields dismissed any notion that the Stealers may have been over-confident. He said he wouldn't have done anything different, "other than find a way to win."

"I still think we were the better team, but the best team on paper doesn't always win," he said. "We left eight guys in scoring position and we just didn't get the hits where we usually do."

Shields say the Stealers will now turn their immediate attention to trying to secure the Lower Mainland Premier Men's Fastball Lague playoff title. They play host to the Port Coquitlam Angels in a best-of-three final series set to start with a doubleheader Monday at Steveston Park. First pitch is 7 p.m.

The Winnipeg Smitty's defeated the Saskatoon Steelers 3-2 to win the women's division.


Ex-pro Biafore embodies spiritof Open Ice Hockey Foundation

Don Fennell, Sports Editor

As a player, Chad Biafore had the good fortune to experience hockey from many perspectives. But he also had the foresight to realize his place in the game.

Drafted by the Hartford Whalers from the Portland Winter Hawks, he was a steady defenceman who played the game with passion. But after a few years in the minors he decided he wasn't going to make it to the big showthe NHL. So he headed for Europe.

"The opportunity to experience the world was a no-brainer," said Biafore, speaking at an Open Ice Foundation fundraiser Thursday in Richmond.

He was playing for a club team in Italy when he was asked to join the Italian national team at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. He was 29, and it proved to be an experience he won't soon forget.

"With Italy, just to qualify for the Olympics for me was my Stanley Cup," said Biafore, now 36. "It was a dream to be able to play against the very best in the world."

There are just over 2,000 days until Vancouver has the honour of hosting the world at the 2010 Olympics, and Biafore is anxiously counting down the days. He said the Games will leave a lasting legacy that will make us prouder than ever to be Canadians.

"Sport plays a role in bringing out community and international pride," he said. "It ignites passion and celebrates the best of what humans have to offer."

Fair play is one of the cornerstones of the Olympics. And around the world Canadians are lauded and respected for being a nation of people that exemplify that spirit while also celebrating diversity, he said.

In Canada, ice hockey occupies a special place in all our hearts. And it's because of this bond we have with the game that makes it a perfect arena for promoting our cultural diversity, and our harmony as Canadians regardless of ethnic origin.

Led by Brad Kielmann, the Open Ice Foundation is a non-profit group that believes all young Canadians should be able to play the game. That's why every August, for a week, 30 children are invited to participate in a hockey camp at Minoru Arenas. Kielmann and his wife Natalie, along with other board members Jordan Thorsteinson, Vina Sayson and Mike Slinger, feel strongly that fulfilling a child's desire to play hockey teaches them life skills such as team play, communicating, and anger management as well as the opportunity to make lasting friendships.

The camps are open to aspiring young playersboys and girls aged eight 12who might not have the opportunity of going to a hockey camp due to financial circumstances. Their fees are paid by the generosity of individuals and organizations, who have also agreed to subsidize their minor hockey registrations for the upcoming season.

"Not so long ago I was attending a summer hockey camp (like the one being organized by the Open Foundation this week)," said Biafore. "I was a house player until I was 14, when I made my first rep team. My experiences provided me with integral skills at a young age that makes up a large part of who I am today."

Locals strong at Beach Blast

A pair of Richmond youth soccer clubs kicked their way to first-place finishes, and a third won bronze, in the Beach Soccer Blast held last weekend at Spanish Banks.

The Whitecaps, an under-12 girls' team, scored 22 goals while allowing jusdt three in four games. They topped the Maple Ridge Strykers 5-1 in the final. Rachel Berg, Erin MacKinnon, Hana Mildenberger, Sydney Morrison, Jacqueline Mortlock, Alex Narduzzi, Natasha Steblin and Lauren Tasaka, who normally play up one year, played in their own division for the first time this summer

"It showed," said coaches Norm Mortlock and Rob MacKinnon. The girls have been on quite a roll this summer wining three of the four tournaments they have entered. They hope to cap it off with a win at the Langley tournament Labour Day weekend.

The Rage won a bronzse medal after falling in the third-place game to the Burnaby Clam Diggers. Coaches Dave Monk and Doug Gordon were proud of the performance of Lindsay Bjornson, Larra Borbely, Caitlin Gordon, Alicia McAteer, Allison Monk, Lydia Pengilley, Natalie Sczerkowsky, Merit Thorson and Alana Zerbe.

The Richmond boys' under-12 select team won their division for the third straight year. Richmond defeated Grandview 4-0 in the final. A very even match saw the two teams tied 0-0 at halftime. The second half started off just as tightly contested until Richmond managed to score the first goal off a kick-in. Two minutes later, Richmond was awarded a penalty shot for a rough tackle. Caleb Clarke, Declan Rodgriguez, Hans Fast, Jacob Quail, Jason James, Joel Tomlinson, Jordan Coblin, Kevin Berna, Matthew Graeme, Tanner Robertson all played well for the local squad, coached by Clive Clarke.

Rapid swimmer headed to 'Oz'

Jordan Hartney makes Canadian junior national team

Nick Greenizan, MetroValley Sports

It's a good thing nobody got Jordan Hartney a watch for his birthday. He's doing a fine job collecting them on his own.

Hartney picked up three gold medalsand three Swatch watchesat Club Nationals in Winnipeg Aug. 5-8, just 10 days after his 16th birthday.

His three timepieces bring his two-year total to ninewatches are awarded along with each gold medal.

Hartney's first-place performancesin 400 metre individual medley, and 200 and 100 m butterfly were more impressive considering he was the youngest swimmer in his age groupthe timing of his birthday bumped him up a division.

"At first it was a little scary, with everyone being bigger than me and all, but once I got in the water and raced, it was fine, everything was pretty much the same," the Richmond Rapids Swim Club member said.

His medal-winning times earned Hartney a spot on Canada's National Youth Swim Team which will compete in Sydney, Australia in January.

"I knew going into it I had a good chance of making the team, but I thought it was a small chance," he said.

"I'm really happy, I had trained really hard for it. As soon as I heard about the team, I made (making it) my goal."

A course for the horse

Peter Holmes shares the A-B-Cs of designing a show jumping ring

Don Fennell, Sports Editor

Spectators, and competitors too, have probably wondered how a show jumping ring comes together.

What factors come into play? And who ultimately decides the layout, and how?

"The perimeters to start with are determined by the schedule and the type of competition," explains respected veteran course designer Peter Holmes, who has been saddled with the responsibilities at this weekend's Twin Oaks Derby in Richmond.

As a rule, the rings become larger and more demanding as the level of competition increases.

Holmes says generally nine to 11 obstacles are strategically placed throughout the ring. The main grand prix ring at Twin Oaks is 350 by 500 feet-much larger than most in North America, and equivalent to a full international-sized ring.

Past practice and spectator appeal are also primary considerations in the course design, he says. And the equestrian world is trying hard to promote its appeal to the general public.

The time it takes for a rider and horse to complete the course is an important consideration for a couple of reasons. Holmes says most people are only able to maintain their focus on the ring for about 90 seconds, and many shows in North America are also keen to get as many competitors through as possible in a relatively short period of time.

"In some places like California, Florida and New York the physical cost of land is huge and kind of dictates a bit, which is why so many (facilities) are built in smaller areas," Holmes explains. "What drove the horse market in North America was commerce, and with the increasing population they've had to shrink the rings to accommodate all the competitors."

That's not the case at Twin Oaks, where show chairman Trevor Graham and his team have put an emphasis on quality instead of quantity. Equestriennes rave about the wide open spaces and the opportunity to challenge themselves and their horses in a unique natural setting, reminiscent of show jumping's historical roots in Europe.

While many competitors welcome the chance to get back to nature, it also has potential drawbacks. Good footing is critical in show jumping, but in a natural setting the more horses are asked to jump from the same spot the more that spot begins to resemble a pit.

"Here, you're trying to do different things than indoors for instance," Holmes says. "(Indoors) it becomes a different sport."

Holmes seems confident the Twin Oaks Derby has a very bright future.

"It's very young as far as shows go," he says. "It's only four years old and the biggest challenge in the future will be holding people back. Everyone wants to do this because of the attention to quality."

Sockeyes trading their sticks for clubs

Don Fennell, Sports Editor

Green Acres is the place to be, where golfing is the game you'll see.

It's also where the Richmond Sockeyes Alumni are heading Aug. 30, having traded in-albeit temporarily-their hockey sticks for sets of clubs in preparation for their first annual golf tournament. And they're inviting current players and a few guests to tee it up as well.

"This gives us a two-season dimension," says Doug Paterson, who is heading up the organizing committee.

"We want to keep up our involvement in the community and this is another source of revenue for the scholarships we hand out."

A few months ago, organizers began putting out word about a possible golf tournament, and the chance to tee it up has been met with swift response. Paterson was hoping for a field of least 130 players, and so far close to two-thirds of that number have signed up.

"A lot of people see hockey and golf going together," says Paterson, who along with good friend Eric Goodwin started an annual alumni versus current Sockeyes' hockey game two years ago.

Last year's game at Richmond Arenas sold out, with close to 1200 fans enjoying the action and more players already expressing an interest in participating in next year's game.

Paterson hopes to golf tournament becomes almost as popular.

"I hope this enhances the cameraderie started with the success of the hockey games," he says.

If you're a current or former Sockeye and haven't yet signed up, there's still time.

Contact Paterson at 604-241-4438 or Maurice Lambert at 604-276-2765.

Kigoos pool resources to place second in region

Don Fennell, Sports Editor

Swimming in the toughest region in the province has its drawbacks, but the Richmond Kigoos are also better for it.

The Kigoos, who finished second in the Fraser South regional championships, and won the B section last weekend at Watermania had to be at their best to go on to provincial Aug. 20 to 22 in Burnaby. A top-three placing at regionals is needed to qualify for the provincials, but the time has steadily increased over the past five years. Swimming at the Fraser South zone (which has produced the B.C. champion in each of the past six years) though has consistently kept the Kigoos on their toes.

Last weekend, Mackenzie Summers, Leo Lui and Luke Reilly set the pace for the Kigoos with each winning multiple events.

Competing in the girls' Division One, Summers set a meet record in winning the 50-metre butterfly. She was also first in the 50-metre backstroke, 50 breaststroke, and 100 individual medley.

Lui won the boys' Division Three 50-metre backstroke, as well as the 50 breastroke and 100 freestyle. And Reilly captured top honours in the Division One boys' 50-metre freestyle and 50 backstroke and was second in the 100 individual medley and 100 freestyle.

Other results included Jennifer Cool winning the Division Eight girls' 50 freestyle, Kevin Hobbs topping the Division Six boys' 50 freestyle, William Noble taking top honours in the 50 backstroke, and David Loretto placing first in the Division Five boys' 50 butterfly, second in the 50 freestyle, and third in the 50 backstroke.

Elliot Smith was second in the Division Six boys' 50 butterfly and third in the 100 freestyle; Brooke English second in the Division Five girls' 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly and third in the 100 freestyle; Liam Finlay third in the Division Four boys' 100 backstroke; Matt Gerard third in the Division Five boys' 100 butterfly and freestyle; Elain Chan third in the Division Five girls' 50 butterfly; Luka Kawabata and Niko Monachini both placing third in the boys' 100 breastroke; Chris Gerard third in the 50 backstroke; Andrew Christine second in the Division Three boys' freestyle; Howie Cameron second in the Division Two boys' 50 freestyle; and Spencer Roberts capturing the bronze medal in the Division Four boys' 50 freestyle. Christine De Nobrega was second in the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke among the Division Four girls.

Major Midget hockey gets thumbs up

Richmond throws support behind new league

Don Fennell and Rick Kupchuk, Staff Reporters

After years of meetings, debates and paperwork, the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League took to the ice for the first time last weekend in communities across the province.

"I think we were suitably impressed with the talent that was here," said Pat Ansell of Langley, head coach of the Abbotsford-based Vancouver South East team after a three-day camp at Langley Twin Rinks.

"We were skeptical at the start, but we were impressed. Of the kids that were present, 95 per cent of the kids will be back so we'll be in good shape."

The reaction locally from the Richmond Minor Hockey Association is equally positive.

"Our association is excited that (deserving) young kids are getting the opportunity to play at a higher level, without having to be along 19- and 20-year-olds," said Richmond Minor Hockey president Wendy Steadman.

"And the schedule is accommodating for their studies, with most games around weekends."

Steadman explained that the league is also seen by B.C. Amateur as a stepping stone to junior hockey, adding the players are still eligible to play additional games this season with a junior A and B affiliate.

Given the go-ahead by the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association at the June, 2003 annual general meeting in Vernon, eight Midget teams will take part in the inaugural season. Five teams will be based in the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, Ridge Meadows, Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond), with another three in Kelowna, Kamloops and Prince George. A ninth team in Fort St. John will not participate in league play, but will enter the provincial playoffs.

Thirteen draw zones were approved by BCAHA in June, 2004. The Northwest Zone, Kootenays, North Island and South Island did not form teams for the first season.

The league was formed to offer 15- to 17 year-olds a more competitive brand of Midget-age hockey. With 30 minor hockey associations in the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association district (which governs minor hockey from Whistler to Boston Bar), many Midget-age players looked for more competitive hockey with 20-and-under Junior A and Junior B leagues.

"The only place for kids to play at this level is in the Junior B ranks," said Ansell, before delivering good or bad news to the 60-odd participants at camp.

"This is the only province from Winnipeg west that has Junior B as a priority over midget hockey.

"These kids should play with their peers. You wouldn't send a Grade 10 student to go write a Grade 12 provincial chemistry exam. So why is everyone in such a rush when it comes to hockey?"

Rudy Bergmann, an executive member of the Richmond Minor Hockey Association and co-chair of the annual Midget AAA and B international tournament here every December, said he's pleased to see a program that enables the young players to "stay at home."

"There are no releases, no trades," he stressed. "And part of a manager's job will be to assure the players keep their grades up."

Bergmann also believes this league is a first step toward identifying young athleteds who may be Olympians when Vancouver hosts the 2010 Games.

It will likely take two to three years for the Major Midget League (MML) to become the main choice of 15- to 17-year-olds. A big boost could come next year when Hockey Canada considers a resolution to ban Junior A/B teams from signing players 16 years of age and younger, and limit the highest level of Midget hockey in a province to five 17-year-olds per team.

Ansel said the proposed age regulations and the new MML might create short-term confusion for players looking for options, but things will quickly sort themselves out.

"Canadian hockey, when they look at the 15- or 16-year-olds, they're trying to slow it down. It seems ludicrous we have 15- year-olds playing with 20-year-olds," he said. "The good kids will eventually play accordingly, and everything will make more sense in a year or two down the road."

Ansell short-listed his roster down to 26 prospects after Sunday morning scrimmages. Many of those will try their luck and upcoming Junior A and Junior B camps, but will still be invited to weekly on-ice sessions with the MML team. Some will likely stick with Junior B teams.

"I think right now there's a number of Junior B teams that have persuaded kids to go there. But the purpose of having the camp at this time is to give the kids the opportunity to go to the other camps and ply their trade," Ansell said.

"For us, it's important to identify the talent pool first. The next step is to expect the kids to come back and feel comfortable."

The eight teams in the MML will play a 28-game schedule-four times against each team. Tournaments and exhibition games could push the schedule to 50-55 games before playoffs in March.

The Richmond-based team will be coached by Rob Rogers of South Delta, with locals Warren May and Dave Klassen his assistants. The 19-member team will draw players from Richmond and Seafair, Vancouver Minor, Vancouver Thunderbirds, South Delta and the Arbutus Club minor hockey programs.

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