Monday, November 24, 2008

Greater Victoria and sports

This is a long way off of the topics I have discussed for the last few months - Victoria and sports teams.

In Victoria there has been a patchy level of support for sports teams. When I was at UVic in the 1980s this was the era of the mens' basketball team winning year in and year out, seven years straight. I was at UVic at the time but never went to watch a game.

HOCKEY:
Victoria had a team in the Western Hockey League, the Victoria Cougars. The played here from 1962 to 1994 before moving to Prince George. People did not show to watch the games. Go even further back and we had a major professional team in Victoria that won the Stanley Cup in 1925, the last time any team on the west coast of North America did that.

Currently we have the Salmon Kings hockey team in the ECHL. They are marketing themselves but have lackluster attendance. I think it would help if the games were broadcast on radio or TV.

We also have the Victoria Grizzlies that play in the BCJHL - a junior A league. Once again no broadcasting and no buzz in the city. We also have a Major Midget team, the South Island Thunderbirds.

We also have five teams locally in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, though this is junior B. Junior B does not produce a lot of players that go onto more of a hockey career.

There is a lot of hockey to watch in this region, but no one really paying attention to all of it, and certainly no buzz about any of the hockey other Cleve Dheensaw at the Times Colonist.

I think it is time for UVic to start a varsity hockey team and to build several sheets of ice out at UVic for the campus community and Gordon Head. It strikes me as a great thing for Saanich and UVic to partner on.

BASEBALL:
Next spring we are supposed to see a new team playing, the Victoria Seals of the independent minor Golden Baseball League. In the last 30 years there have been four attempts to have a minor league professional team here and each one failed very quickly.

SOCCER:
We currently have the Victoria United of the PCSL, a third tier league. We did have a team in the Canadian Soccer League, but that is no more. UVic does well in university soccer most years.

We have a lot of people playing in a lot of sports at an elite level, but the public seems uninterested.

We have numerous athletes that live in this area that have won Olympic medals. The Pacific Sports Institute at Camuson has an amazing set of people that train there, the best in the world.

There is no talk about the teams on local radio, there is no local radio call in show for sports and no local broadcast. There are no forums or online groups that deal with Victoria sports teams.

We are short of facilities to watch the teams. Watching Vikes basketball at UVic is not the greatest spectator experience I have gone through. I was there watching the Vikes play the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday night and it was not full, it looked like less than 1000 people.

Royal Athletic Park and Centenial Stadium are 'alright' to watch sports at, but not great. Langford is now talking abtuo adding a stadium with 1600 seats and the velodrome in Colwood will make way for a larger stadium than that. Still, none of them can play host to a large crowd, not that we get them. Maybe better facilities will help, but I am not certain.

If you go to Kamloops, you can not help but notice the Blazers of the WHL. The Blazers sell out 6400 seats in a town 1/3 the size of our city. In Victoria you could miss all of the sports, including the best the world that train on Elk Lake.

I know that a lot of you will think that sports are not important to us at all. I disagree, sports are a way for a community to build a common idenity. So much of our society is beamed at us from the rest of the world. Bars are full when Canucks play, but they are not a team from here. Take a look at Regina and the Rider Nation - they can support a CFL team and they build a social capital between people in the community through the football games. Victoria has more people than Regina, but no one talks about having a CFL team here.

UVic is a Canadian university that constantly has winning teams. The univeristy does very little to encourage the students to take part in this as a community - the games are free for students to go to!

At the summer olympics, a lot of Victoria residents won medals. Why did we not have a parade down Government street for them to laud their efforts?

Support of our local sports teams is a sign of how healthy our community spirit is. I see Victoria's community spirit on life support.
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