Tournament about so much more than winning

Christopher Cameron
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Pictou County Bulldogs excited to travel to Truro tourney this weekend

NEW GLASGOW – It may be an off year for the Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games, but every member of the floor hockey team can’t wait for their tournament in Truro.

Things are a little different off the court for the team because they aren’t attending a full Winter Games event, but on the court it’s business as usual for Pictou County Bulldogs coaches and players.

“It doesn’t change things at all,” said Bulldogs head coach Luke MacDonald. “We get just as much practice in, usually once a week. We’re prepared the same as we would be for the Winter Games and everyone looks forward to it just as much.”

Today until Sunday the group will be in Truro for the Cobequid Floor Hockey Tournament, which they won silver at in 2011. MacDonald said the biggest thing for the team will simply be getting away from home.

“Getting away from home for a few days is honestly the biggest thing for everyone on the team,” he said. “The other thing they really look forward to is playing the games. We get to play scrimmages against other staff, coaches, parents and the (Weeks) Crushers. Some of them don’t have that chance or opportunity to get away often so they look forward to that, but everyone enjoys the games and love playing.

“Seeing their friends they don’t see outside of tournaments or events from different counties is also really special.”

Coordinating multiple events a year is difficult for the groups from around the province, so this is the major event of the year for the Bulldogs floor hockey team.

“This is the event and this is what we practice for,” said MacDonald. “You’re away for a couple of nights and they treat it as a big deal. We actually have a coaching course that head coaches are expected to attend Friday night. I also believe that floor hockey is the big draw in our regular Winter Games, so everyone looks forward to this just as much as qualifying years.”

Winners of the gold medal at the 2013 Nova Scotia Provincial Winter Games, the Bulldogs are a talented group according to MacDonald, having also won Gold at the 2010 provincial games. During their practices they try to focus on strategies to a certain extent, but also try to identify who plays best in each position.

“We do try to have some strategies, but can only go so far,” he said. “We do certain things with certain players and they all listen so well and do whatever you ask. They want to do well and enjoy going out to try to beat opponents, but in a sportsmanlike way. One thing we like to look at is their strengths. If they’re playing defence that’s cause their strength is defence. Guys that have better puck control or shots play forward.

“Although they always want to do well and win, if we happen to win that’s awesome, but if not that’s fine too. They look forward to it so much and it’s a lot of fun, so the result doesn’t always matter cause they’re having fun.”

In January the group was also recognized as the Special Olympics Nova Scotia 2013 Team of the Year at the Special Olympics Festival in Halifax, an honour that meant so much to all involved.

“It was a pretty awesome experience having the Premier present us with the award in front of a big crowd,” he said. “All the athletes enjoyed it and it was really special to them, which makes it really special to us (coaches and volunteers). We were pretty thrilled too.”

When asked if it was an award like team of the year or winning gold at the Winter Games that kept MacDonald coming back to the sport as a coach, he said that is part of it, but far from the main reason.

“That’s part of it (enjoying seeing the players excitement), but winning the gold last year and being competitive is part of it too,” he said. “We look forward to it just as much as they do. I know a lot of these guys personally from working in group homes so I get to know them and know they look forward to coming to practice every week and playing games with us. There’s a good group of coaches this year just because they enjoy the atmosphere and keep coming back. It’s always fun and they enjoy it (players). They always let us know that.

“I’m pretty pumped to go out (to practices and games) too. It’s always fun and we all get into it.”

MacDonald said they don’t expect to play Friday night unless they have a seeding game, but that they will be in action all day Saturday into Sunday. He hopes anyone from Pictou County interested in taking in a game, makes the trip to Truro as the team and coaches love having hometown fans.

“We’re looking forward to having a chance to win, but at the same we’re just excited to be together and make the most out of the weekend,” he said. “Whether we win or lose we’ll definitely have a good time.”

 

Bulldogs attending

Stacey Saunders                                 

Harry Haroutunian                             

Derek Saunders                                                                            

Chase Cameron

Allister MacLean

Darryl Smith

Ian Smith

Duane Saunders

Craig Boyd

Daniel Jorgensen

Greg Massaro

Justin Barnett

Norma Paris

Michael Edwards

Joey Rhodenizer

Eric Redmond

Organizations: Pictou County Bulldogs, Olympics Nova Scotia 2013 Team

Geographic location: Truro, Halifax, Pictou County

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