Saturday, 15 March 2008

Andy Watson's Article on Ottawa hosting the Nationals

Nation's capital a fitting and worthy host, proving critics wrong as host in first of three consecutive CIS Final 8 tourneys

By Andy Watson

Hey Ottawa: Right On.

As the snow falls outside and St. Patrick’s Day festivities kick off two days before the actual holiday, one could think they are in Halifax.

The nation’s capital has performed admirably in replacing Halifax as the host of CIS Final 8 men’s basketball national tournament.

In some ways, they’ve done better.

First, let me reveal my bias.

I am a Carleton grad. I work at the University of Western Ontario in media relations in the athletics department.

I loved Halifax.

Some of my fondest memories as a student reporter stem from that tournament and the thrilling games, the tremendous hospitality and the great touristy atmosphere in the city.

But Ottawa earns my respect for putting on a great show and this is only after observations from Day 1 of the CIS National Tournament.

The media coverage, which had been absent for the most part in the OUA Wilson Cup championship, is red-hot for this tournament. Saturday’s papers are filled with pages on the games, the future of the tournament and most importantly the student-athletes.

The Ottawa Citizen, which thanks to Wayne Kondro has established itself as the premiere high school and collegiate basketball newspaper in Canada, has been fantastic all year round and continues its rich tradition in supporting university athletics.

But even the not-so-supportive Ottawa Sun and Le Droit newspapers had previews and sent reporters to cover the event. Sun Media was well represented with the London Free Press, The Standard in St. Catharines and the Niagara Falls Review ( the latter two both formerly of Osprey Media, now owned by Quebecor and Sun Media).

CBC Radio, CBC Television, CJOH Ottawa (CTV), Rogers Sportsnet and The Score, which covered the third and fourth quarter-final games, all had beat reporters. TSN would presumably take the CTV footage.

Then there are the extremely dedicated student media.

Take for example Western’s campus radio station, CHRW. The official voice of Western athletics for 27 years drove through last weekend’s crazy-mad blizzard to cover the OUA Wilson Cup game at the Ravens’ Nest because they are dedicated and committed to delivering the game. They drove up after one of the reporters, play by play man Russ Courtney, finished class on Thursday afternoon to be in Ottawa for the game on Friday morning.

Student reporters from The Gazette, The Ubyssey, the Brock Press and The Charlatan were there, along with CUP star photographer Jon Purdy of the Gazette.

CKCU, Carleton University’s campus radio station, and Howard Bloom were there broadcasting the action, while SSN Canada continued its dedication to university sport by covering all of the opening round games. They will, upon completion of the Final 8 tournament, have covered all the games.

Mark Wacyk of and Dale Stevens of the CIS Basketball Discussion list were there, and Neate Sager doubling duty with the Ottawa Sun and his blog Out of Left Field continued their tireless (and often thankless) efforts giving everyone around the nation timely updates.

The fans were also out in full force, including 2,000+ crowds for the three non-Ottawa quarter-final games. Over 73,000 tickets were sold for the championships going into the opening day.

Speculation of better numbers, soaring over 80,000 thanks to good weather and favourable walk-ups (thanks to the media for helping with this) will set new tournament marks. And we’re not even on championship day yet.

The organizing committee will have its work cut out to help equal the post-game atmosphere so famous in Halifax.

But Ottawa’s downtown core has so many good restaurants, pubs and night spots – for varying crowds whether they be students, parents, families, administrators or the student-athletes – offering everything for the various palettes.

The volunteers were doing a fantastic job on the opening day, and following Halifax in being friendly and hospitable is a tough (perhaps impossible) task to follow or equal. Ottawa was doing just fine with so many enthusiastic and educated volunteers making everything easy for the student-athletes, the coaches, the media and the fans.

So bravo and hats off to Ottawa.

For the first of three years hosting this tourney, I think you’ve silenced the nay-sayers and those who questioned moving the tournament around.

It’s only fair for the entire country to see the quality product that is Canadian university basketball.

So Bytown, keep up the good work.

I’m sure over 80,000 fans will return again next year and that you’ll build on the success in years 2 and 3 and be a favourite to be a host in years to follow.

If you could only do something about the snow, things would be perfect!

No comments: