Former Cape Breton West Islander Regan Spears, who was a third-year forward with the St. F.X. X-Men this season, was the guest speaker at the Islanders’ awards banquet on Friday.
-by Bill Dunphy
Banners, medals, and trophies do not a hockey season make.
It’s about growth – as a player and a person; it’s about learning – on and off the ice; it’s about hard work and determination – regardless of the outcomes; and it’s about making lifetime friendships – all from playing a game.
The Cape Breton West Major Midget Islanders wrapped up the 2018-19 season on Friday with their annual awards banquet.
Islanders coach Nick MacNeil said the team had a good attitude throughout a season that had its “ebbs and flows.”
“With 12 rookies, we were the second youngest team in the league. We didn’t win a game at the Early Bird tournament but after the first 12 games we were in first place. Nobody knew if we were in the round of 16 at the Ice Jam, but that didn’t matter when we made a nursing home visit.”
He said the team found out late that they were in, and the Islanders ended up being the only Nova Scotia team remaining by Sunday’s semifinals.
“You do good things and good things come back at you.”
He noted how the team lost the first game of playoffs to the Valley then came back to win the next three to take the opening series, only to be eliminated by Cole Harbour in the next round.
The Islanders’ season was about the process, not the result, which in many ways made Regan Spears into the player he is today.
Spears, who was a third-year forward with the St. F.X. X-Men this season, was the guest speaker for Friday’s banquet.
In introducing him, team president Brian MacInnis said, “Regan did it the way it should be done: working hard and always battling. He represents what it means to be an Islander; perhaps not being the best player, but working the hardest to become a better player.”
Spears played three seasons with the Islanders, from 2010 to 2013. From there he went to the Pictou County Crushers of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, winning a league championship in 2015-16. And in his third season with the X-Men, he was one of their leading scorers in the playoffs with three goals and four assists in 10 games.
“Ten years ago, I was begging for a spot on the Islanders,” Spears said. “I was cut every first year from Atom to Bantam, but Nick Muise kept me that year.”
He said he had no regrets playing his third year of Midget hockey.
“I had the chance to play in Pictou, but I didn’t even consider it. You don’t get these (Midget) years back and boy was it fun.
“It was a dream come true to play for St. F.X., even though I was coming from a team where I played a lot to fighting for a spot in the lineup.”
He said being in the best possible shape helped him in that fight.
“Off-ice conditioning – I work out every day. It’s something that I can control, which not only helps me physically, but also mentally.”
In closing, he credited the Islanders’ organization for caring about who you are as a person, and for the support he received from his mother, Carolyn MacDonald. “My mom and I make a good team. She always has my back, even when I make the national news.”
The awards ceremony began with a special recognition of former broadcaster Bob MacEachern, who recently sold 101.5 The Hawk.
The team sponsors were next to be recognized and included: Al MacInnis Sports Centre, Ron MacGillivray Chev, Buick GMC Ltd., Luke’s Lobster, Sandi’s Barber Shop, Colindale Business Solutions, Andrew MacDonald, David and Allana Beaton and family, Seaside Fuels, Albert MacDonald Construction, Zutphen Contractors and Ideal Concrete, Wetaskiwin Agencies, Tim Horton’s Baddeck and We’koqma’q, Mabou Freshmart, 101.5 The Hawk, The Inverness Oran, B&N Distributors, North End Building Supplies and Whycocomagh Home Building Centre, Al MacInnis, and Ceilidh Fishermen’s Co-op.
Individual player awards were next and included: Dave Matthews, top defensive player; Neil MacLean, top defenceman; Matthew Raike, playoff MVP; Darren Waterman, MVP; Sam Grant, top forward; Jason Johnson, coach’s award; Dylan Chisholm, most improved; Luke Hadley, unsung hero; Kenzie MacPhail, rookie of the year.
Waterman, Raike, and Johnson, who played their last season of Major Midget this year, were also thanked for their service and received a gift from the team.
The three players were also recognized for their academic achievements and received scholarships from various sources.
Darren Waterman was the biggest winner, receiving the $500 Screaming Eagles award, $1000 Diana Thornton Fund award, and $1000 Donnie A.B. MacIsaac award.
Matthew Raike was the recipient of the $1000 Ice Jam award.
And Jason Johnson received a $500 Cape Breton West Islanders scholarship.
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