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Walling: Halifax put on quite a show for Canada Games

Alex J. Walling
2/27/2011 7:38:25 PM
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The 2011 Canada Winter Games are over. Two weeks plus of partying, frivolity and competition in Halifax have ended and looking back, this could be one of the best Winter Games ever contested.

These games were held in a big city.  Not a place as big as Toronto or Montreal where they play NHL hockey, but when you consider past locations such as: Whitehorse, Yukon in 2007, Bathurst, New Brunswick in 2003, Corner Brook, Newfoundland in 1999, Grande Prairie, Alberta in 1995 and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in 1991, it was held in a big venue.

In fact, these games may have been used as a test to see if they could be held in one of Canada's larger cities such as Calgary, Ottawa or even Toronto.

Just as the Olympics leave behind much needed infrastructure like the Saddledome for Calgary and the Commonwealth Games left a stadium in Edmonton, these games have provided a shiny new Canada Games complex, worth over $45 million, for Halifax.

This complex will be used as an Atlantic training centre for high performance athletes. This was the only region of the country that didn't have such a facility and now it does.

The Oval

An Oval on the Halifax Commons was the highlight of the games.  So much so that there is a big movement to keep it and make it permanent.  Experts say if the Oval remains in place, this part of the country will become a force in speed skating.

Look at what the Oval did for Calgary as a result of the 1988 Winter Olympics?

The ski resorts of Ski Martock in Windsor, Nova Scotia and Wentworth received upgraded facilities that will help in the future.

It was the Canada Winter Games and all but we only had one day of cold winter weather.  These days with Global warming showing up without warning, especially in the province that is the most southerly one, the weather, other, than one single day, was perfect.

"This is awesome for snow boarding and skiing," said one participant "It's nice and even cold. This is what winter ought to be," said another.

Quebec took first place in the over all medals standings earning 137 points for their hardware, 27 more than runner up Ontario.

Quebec which won these games in 2007 has more coaches and more importantly full time coaches than any other province.  Some say that is a factor in the final results.

In fact, since the 1975 games which were held in Lethbridge, Alberta, Quebec has been on the top of the medal board for all but one of the games.

Nova Scotia took the Centennial Cup, which is awarded to the team that shows the biggest improvement over their performance in the last Winter Games.  They were able to improve from zero gold medals to five and from seven total medals in 2007 to 12 this year.

A point to mention is that four of the medals that Nova Scotia picked up were in boxing but that sport is being removed from the Canada Games roster. This was the final time it will be contested for the foreseeable future.

The fights were held at the Halifax Forum, a building that is one of the oldest in Canada.   The Forum was built in 1928 and it was a sell out with 5000 people.   It's been decades since the forum had a sell out for anything and maybe 50 years since a sell out was recorded in boxing at any games.    Perhaps there were sell outs during the Blair Richardson era.

Some cute notes:  Katy Josephs the captain of the Alberta hockey team that took the gold had a good experience.

It was the first time since 1991 that the Prairie province won this medal.  Hayley Wickenheiser was a member that championship team.

She put all her gear in the same locker that Sidney Crosby used when he came to Halifax as a member of the Rimouski Oceanic.  I'm Amazed they would even know or keep record of stuff like that.

Jacqueline Simoneau the Quebec flag bearer took home three medals.  In fact on the short track, the province she led took 22 out of 27 available medals. That is simply amazing for any province.

These games will be the highpoint for many but according to one Canadian Olympic legend, for some they are a stepping stone to bigger things.

"Some of these kids will be in the Olympics come three years time," Catriona LeMay Doan told the national TV audience during the closing ceremonies.

Indeed some will and these games provided their first national exposure.

It was a good event and Halifax may have regained some luster it lost when it cancelled its bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

For TSN.ca, I'm Alex J. Walling

Alex J. can be reached via email at:  ajw@eastlink.ca

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