Top News

Column: 2018 Deer Lake Winter Games heat up after cold winter

Host goaltender Logan Burden makes a save during his team's 2018 Winter Games matchup with St. John's North at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake Sunday afternoon.
Host goaltender Logan Burden makes a save during his team's 2018 Winter Games matchup with St. John's North at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake Sunday afternoon. - Nicholas Mercer

It feels like the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Deer Lake snuck up on the province.

There was little fanfare on social media and outside of a kick-off event that featured

NHL legend Paul Coffey in late January ­— an event that was overshadowed by Hockey Day in Canada festivities because of proximity — you might not know one of this province's premier sporting events was in town.

There were no signs, save for a local fast food restaurant welcoming athletes to its community. Not even a cashier at the Irving Big Stop, a popular stop on the Trans-Canada Highway, had knowledge of the Games and what they entailed.

The Deer Lake Games will be the fourth time I've covered them. Each time, it kind of feels like they sneak up on you, to be honest.

One day you're wondering when the Games start and the next they've started and you're knee deep in them.

It felt like the build up to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. It went from non-existent to full Olympic fever in the time it takes someone to light the ceremonial flame.

For a while, Pyeongchang felt like it was going to be the Olympics with the least amount of fanfare, however, that changed when the first event started.

Deer Lake is the same, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The Games are here now and people are excited about them.

Host bowler Abigail Power Petten was battling some nerves heading into her opening match. With that out of the way, her energy is rising and she's looking forward to the rest of the competition.

"This is my first time bowling at the Winter Games … (the nerves) are all gone," said the 15-year-old Power Petten in the lobby of the Hodder. “I’m really excited now.”

As an athlete, she marveled at the number of people who were in the town on Sunday.

Organizer Brad Romaine got maybe four hours sleep between the opening ceremonies Saturday night at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex and the first athletic competition Sunday morning.

His phone rang close to 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning. It was someone at the cafeteria at one of the schools housing the athletes with a message that they had blown one of the circuit breakers.

This morning there wasn't going to be any toast.

Just after 2 p.m. Sunday his phone buzzed. It was someone at the cross-country skiing course in Pasadena. They needed someone to pass out medals to the winners of the day. Romaine left his seat at the stadium and headed towards to the doors of the stadium.

It's where Premier Dwight Ball was watching the game.

After a quick conversation, Ball was to be in Pasadena for 3 p.m. to hand out the hardware. After that it was a quick conversation with Sport NL's Troy Croft.

In the weeks leading up to the Games, he and other volunteers had to charge their phone three times a day.

It's busy being the man at the top.

Still Romaine is upbeat about the week to come. The Deer Lake group had just nine months to put this thing together, whereas most Games organizers get a full two years to put make sure everything is where it needs to be.

"We’ve been busy. Leading into this weekend, it ramps up considerably," he said. “We’re really happy about it and how busy we’ve been.”

Romaine recognized that the relatively short time he and his team had to prepare for this week prevented them from really jumping in with launch events and buzz-generating activities.

However, he still had daily questions about how things were going when he went to get his morning coffee.

“We’ve had to scale it back, but the buzz has definitely been building up slowly,” he said. “We’re definitely there now. Its constant.

“Everyone is quite happy with what is going on.”

Ethan Hoffe of the host male hockey team was one of the athletes that didn't get a helping of toast Sunday morning. Still he was all smiles, even after his team was drubbed by the crowd from St. John's North 10-0, when asked about his Games experience so far.

"It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’ll never forget it," said the 13-year-old. “It feels really good to represent our hometown.”

He spent the hours leading up to the opening ceremonies hanging out at the village and messaging his buddies until it was time to get on the bus.

Now he is in the midst of things and looking forward to getting his remaining games in.

There's also the week off of school that has him energized, and who wouldn't like that?

Indeed the Games are here. Get out and enjoy them.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

Recent Stories