From one holiday extreme to the other
Sports Santa began his week on a high, and not because he was under the influence of illegal substances.
Brainerd Warriors alumnus Carl Sneep, one of the top hockey players ever to come out of town, made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins Dec. 17 and promptly collected an assist.
SS projected a bright future for Sneep the first time he met Carl, who was then a 15-year-old pitcher for the Brainerd VFW team. SS could tell Carl was destined for greatness. He had size, skill, brains, athletic ability. Even though his NHL career has consisted of only one game (he was returned to the minors Dec. 18) there should be more.
SS thanks Joe Cloutier for the call and Dino Grillo for the email that “Sneeper” had been promoted by the Penguins.
The week included a downer. As much as SS likes ball he was sad to see the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers fold. SS maintains the reason the Northwoods League doesn’t fly here is because this area’s No. 1 industry is tourism. Tourists don’t come to Brainerd to watch baseball. They come to go boating, to fish, to play golf.
SS’ wish is that independent minor leagues and the Northwoods don’t consider Brainerd for another franchise. Two independent and three Northwoods baseball franchises have failed here. SS doesn’t know how much more of a track record you need to realize wood-bat baseball is never going to be viable here.
Now, it’s time for SS to unfurl his 2011 Christmas wish list. For the first time in the history of his award-winning column, SS hopes an all-star lineup of local coaches, and one fan, receives the following in 2012:
A winning season. The interim head coach of the Brainerd Warriors boys basketball team has his team off to a 4-1 start, Brainerd’s first since the 2007-08 season. Incredibly, since the 1995-96 season, the Warriors have had three winning seasons. Here’s hoping Stan and the Warriors attain No. 4.
A section championship. The Warriors’ boys hockey program has never won one. Archibald’s team might have it all this season — scoring, defense, goaltending, depth. Are there more skilled offensive players in the state than Matt Pohlkamp, Mitch McLain and Aaron Rich?
A national championship. His Central Lakes College Raiders men’s basketball team is unbeaten through 13 games and ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division III. CLC leads the state in field goal shooting (49.9 percent), scoring (92.1 ppg) and defense (58.7 ppg). Defense is the name of the game for Russell teams. SS envisions a parade winding through downtown Brainerd and wrapping up on the west bank of the Mississippi.
Chris Hanson and Mary Claire Ryan Snow. Brainerd’s Nordic skiing coaches and the Warriors, somehow, have skied in two meets, at St. Cloud Dec. 6 and at Mt. Itasca in Coleraine Dec. 20. A meet Dec. 13 was cancelled. Meets this Tuesday and Friday, scheduled in Deer River and Brainerd, respectively, have been moved to Coleraine. Six more weeks and the Nordic season is over.
A dauber. SS never knows what awaits when the red light on his phone is illuminated. Is someone going to rip him a new one? Is someone calling with sports information?
Last week a nice lady called and asked, “What station will (last Thursday’s) NFL game be on?”
SS replied that it would be on ESPN.
“Good,” the lady replied. “We get ESPN. Now we can watch the game and still play bingo.”
SPORTS SANTA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.