PROFILE PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERELY KUFAAS PHOTOGRAPHY Sports Talk with Tyson is a column exclusively here at the North Island Gazette that covers all things sports related in the North Island. Have some thoughts about Sports Talk with Tyson? Email a letter to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish it online and in print.

A message for the Eagles before the Championships

Before I sign off here, I have a quick message for the players.

With the Tier 3 Bantam BC Championships coming to Port Hardy next week, I’m going to admit right here and now that I’m nervous.

Why am I nervous, you might be wondering?

Well, this tournament is a really big deal for the North Island, and it’s up to me to deliver the goods when it comes to coverage.

I’m pretty good at my job, I have the awards hanging on the Gazette office walls to prove it, but this tournament is definitely going to be a challenge and then some, especially due to the fact that I’m currently understaffed and I have no one else here to chip in and help me if push comes to shove.

As the French like to say, c’est la vie.

I’ve always performed well under pressure with my back against the wall, and this time will be no different as I’m going to give the North Island the best possible coverage I can muster up, because above all else, the kids deserve it.

That’s a promise from me to them and one I aim to keep.

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about what I’m most looking forward to.

I personally cannot wait to see the bantams go out there on home ice next Sunday and show everyone in the stands who they really are as a team.

They had an excellent regular season, finishing with a perfect 10-0 record, and then hit a bit of a rough patch and underperformed during playoffs.

To be fair, they were guaranteed a spot in the Championships regardless of if they won playoffs or not thanks to Port Hardy hosting, so I think the motivation to compete as hard as they could have wasn’t really burning that deep inside of their chests.

That’s a real tough spot to be in as an athlete.

If you’re already promised something and you don’t need to go out and earn it, then why would you feel like you have to compete to the standards necessary to win?

To me, it’s perfectly understandable why the team didn’t come through like they could have in their playoffs games against Powell River and Alberni Valley.

Another theory is that maybe they had just burnt themselves out emotionally after their epic comeback win at the end of the season against Juan De Fuca that saved their perfect season?

It’s pretty tough to tell if either theory is correct, or maybe it was actually a combination of the two?

One thing I do know for sure about the bantams is the coaching staff won’t let them quit on themselves on the biggest stage of their minor hockey careers.

Don’t get me wrong, the bantams may very well lose during the Championships, but I’d bet every single dollar I have it won’t be due to a lack of effort, or from them rolling over and letting the other teams dominate.

Ryan, Glenn, Thor and Steve are more than ready to lead their squad right into the battlefield known as the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena, and regardless of how the chips may fall after that, the team is going to come out of the Championships with their heads held high and proud of themselves as athletes.

Because that’s the North Island way. You work hard for everything you get up here, there’s no easy roads or side paths you can take to reach the finish line, and that’s why we produce a grittier type of player than other places.

Before I sign off here, I have a quick message for the players on both the bantam and peewee teams who are going to compete at the Championships this year.

Go out there and leave it all on the ice every single shift you get and play every single game like you have nothing to lose and you have no fear of the outcome.

This could potentially be your only shot at the big dance, so you want to make the most of it while you have the opportunity to do so.

Also, while winning is certainly important and will make you feel good about yourself, don’t forget that you play the game because you love it.

Go out there and have fun and enjoy everything about the experience, like hanging out in the dressing room with your teammates, the talks with your coaches, and the crowd cheering whenever you make a great play.

And just know that win or lose, the North Island communities are all proud of you.

Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy.

His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: editor@northislandgazette.com

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