Saturday, 9 July 2016

Nothing beats being there

The party starts for the Roughriders win in the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina.
    Every time I step inside Mosaic Stadium in Regina I still see images of that chilled Sunday night on November 24, 2013.
    That of course is the night the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the Grey Cup at home with a 45-23 stomping of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I can still see the people that were around me in the stands of the north end zone as we stood and watched that whole contest. I can feel heat from the pyro pots from Hedley’s performance at halftime.
    On the field, the images of a fumble by Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant going high in the air and getting pulled down by teammate and running back Kory Sheets is still there. Sheets rumbled off a magical 39-yard gain. You can see him running with power and authority piling up a game record 197 yards and two touchdowns.
    Geroy Simon’s crazy diving touchdown catch that occurred just under me in the north end zone is also burned in my mind. It helped give the Roughriders a 7-3 lead in the first quarter. I can also see Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris coming unglued due to the relentless pressure of rush end John Chick and the Roughriders defence backed by the noise of the 13th Man.
    You can still feel the frenzy in the crowd as the clocked ticked to zero and people were hugging their neighbours all around them. That image of Durant hoisting the Grey Cup with a huge smile will also live on forever.
    At times, you would expect following an event on a television, a live stream or checking various updates on social media is as good as being there. It isn’t.
    When you are actually there for the Roughriders only home Grey Cup win, it is something that is beyond the bucket list. You have a better appreciation for the moment.
    In sports, it is always better to be there and soaking in the moment and being unplugged from everything else. It is something television, the Internet and social media streams can’t duplicate.
Rush captain Chris Corbeil raises the Champion's Cup.
    Enjoying the magic of being there is something the Saskatoon based Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team has mastered. All nine of their regular season home games were a party.
    When the cold winter days of January turned into the warm spring nights of May for playoffs, the experience of being there took another couple of big jumps. Before the Rush’s last two playoff games, people were out enjoying the day tailgating outside the SaskTel Centre. Inside during game time, it was a rock and roll atmosphere.
    The best night by far was of course Saturday, June 4, when the Rush captured the National Lacrosse League championship. Sitting in the SaskTel Centre, I could feel the heart pumping as Rush forward Mark Matthews opened the game’s scoring with an incredible diving goal.
    One will never forget the delirium that ensured when Rush defenceman Jeff Cornwall scored the winning goal on a breakaway with 12 seconds to play in the game breaking a 10-10 tie to give the Rush an 11-10 victory. The crowd at the SaskTel Centre roared like they never have before, when Rush captain Chris Corbeil raised the Champion's Cup.
    The appreciation for being there can also be felt in following an amateur squad like the Saskatoon Stars midget AAA girls hockey team. The Stars two biggest wins came on the road, backed by a healthy contingent of family and friends that followed them.
The Saskatoon Stars celebrate an SFMAAAHL title win.
    On March 26 in Swift Current, the Stars claimed a second straight Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Diamond Energy Wildcats. Being at the Fairview Arena that night, I can still see young 14-year-old forward Grace Shirley blasting home the winner at 4:08 of the extra session. Her goal celebration was of NHL caliber with her Stars teammates piling on top of her.
    A week later on April 2, I was in Shoal Lake, Man., when the Stars claimed the Western regional title with a 3-1 victory over the host Yellowhead Chiefs. I can still see the focus of Stars goalie Emma Johnson as she made save after save, and the joy of 18-year-old defender Rayah DeCorby, who wired home the game winner from the point with 6:41 to play in the third.
    Feeling the enthusiasm of the Stars players after both those banner winning games was priceless.
    In Canada’s shrinking mainstream media, there is less and less emphasis on being there for big sporting moments. Outlets basically hope these big wins happen in the centres they are located in. The emphasis of capturing what it felt like to see these moments unfold in person is a lost art, which is too bad.
    Events at the professional level outside of the NHL in all reality aren’t covered like they used to be, and amateur events are at times hardly covered at all including national championships.
When you are there in person, you realize what is being missed.
    For me, one of my greatest sports memories always flashes before my eyes every time I step inside The Arena in Medicine Hat, which was the Medicine Hat Tigers home rink for their first 45 seasons of existence.
My Medicine Hat News story of the Tigers 2007 WHL title win.
    I was there on May 14, 2007 when Brennan Bosch scored his famous double overtime winner to deliver the Tigers to a 3-2 Game 7 victory in that year’s Western Hockey League championship series against the Vancouver Giants.
    Bosch had the puck near the blue-line in his own zone, and he was tapped by a swinging stick of a Giants player. The Tigers talented centre went down to his knees, quickly got up and a 3-on-1 break ensued.
    The Martensville, Sask., product skated two to three strides past the Vancouver blue-line and wired home the winner low stick side on Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith. The sellout crowd of 4,006 spectators exploded like they never did before.
    I remember taking the time to be in awe of what I saw soaking in the experience. Nothing truly does beat being there.

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