Huge Sportz » Your Sports Source

Huge Sportz

Huge Sportz User Accounts
Create a Huge Sportz user account to post in the Forums or comment on recent stories and blogs!
Create new account
Request new password


  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/sportmag/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 149.

No Need For Disappointment In Otter Land

By John Williams

Hey Otter fan!!!!!

Don’t be ashamed that the Niagara Ice Dogs have done in one season what your predecessor the Niagara Falls Thunder failed to do in eight

– and that is successfully market an OHL team in the Niagara region.

There’s still solace to be had despite your team’s dismal .389 regular season winning percentage over the last six seasons

– en route to four playoff misses

– including three consecutive playoff misses

– one overall last place finish in league play

– and five last place finishes in divisional play.

While the Otters captured only one playoff series during their first four years in Erie

– their overdue expectations finally materialized early in the new millennium

– courtesy of three Mid-West titles based on a .627 regular season winning percentage

– a post-season conference championship en route to an OHL crown

– and a 2002 Memorial Cup Tournament berth

prior to falling in overtime in the Cup semi-final.Yes Otter fans, your organization – which failed as the Niagara Falls Thunder to qualify for the Memorial Cup dance – nearly enjoyed the last dance in Erie.

So don’t let a trail of mediocrity over the last six seasons sully your passion for the team.

When you examine your team’s 20-year odyssey from 1988 to 2008, you can remain forever proud of your stellar 1999 to 01 campaigns.

After purchasing the Thunder in the fall of 1988, owner Rick Gay created the daytime drama ‘Buy a Ticket or We’ll Leave.’ It was an afternoon smash for four years.

Gay went primetime in the winter of 1992 when he demanded 1,500 season tickets be sold or the team was moving on.

After four successful seasons under coaches Bill LaForge and George Burnett, Gay had a point despite his refusal to spend money on quality marketing.

Once again, simply look at the marketing success of the Niagara Ice Dogs in their inaugural season of play in St. Catharines.

Niagara Falls hockey fans adhered to Gay’s demands by purchasing 1,600 tickets.

But how were they rewarded over the next four years?

With a dismal on-ice product spawned by – incompetent ownership, questionable management, at times sub par coaching and a non-existent marketing strategy!

Sherry Bassin, the clown prince of junior A hockey, joined the Thunder cast in the fall of 1994.

Heralded as the Thunder saviour for the 1995-96 season, Bassin claimed to be doing everything he could to keep the team in Niagara Falls. As it turned out, the so-called franchise saviour was actually the “devil in disguise.”

Bassin’s coaching staff partied until 3 am. the night before a road game in early October, after the team had earned a top-flight ranking in the league’s weekly poll.

Educate me Otter fan but isn’t the Memorial Cup won in May?

Bassin’s incompetent marketing department was threatened by the local cable channel to have the team’s TV coverage discontinued if they didn’t pay the bill.

In February of 1996, Bassin himself could have garnered an Emmy Award for his performance honouring paraplegic Ian Strathern from Niagara Falls.

His dramatic speech brought tears to the large gathering as he promised Strathern he would drink from the Memorial Cup in three years.

Five weeks later, the cowardly Thunder snuck off to Erie making room for the Burke family to set up shop in St. Catharines 11 years later.

How appropriately the team renamed itself the Otters. An otter is actually related to a weasel.

And the primetime drama continued. Despite great expectations every year, the Otters won only a single playoff round during their first four years in Erie.

But in the spring of 2002, the Otters nearly brought their 14-year, soap opera to a happy ending when they fell just two wins shy of a Memorial Cup triumph.

And despite missing the playoffs four times over the next six seasons, the Thunder/Otter drama has boasted many happy moments since 1988.

Former executive producer and majority team owner Rick Gay, who relinquished ownership of the Otters in 2000, made good money in Erie – courtesy of the stronger American dollar – after losing half a million dollars in Niagara Falls.

Gay, who passed away in 2006, may forever rest in peace.

Tap and dance man Sherry Bassin, who, as GM of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, rode the coattails of legendary coach Ted Nolan and super scout Frank Jay to a Memorial Cup triumph in 1993, came so close in 2002 despite Jay’s departure from the Otters in 1999.

I wonder though if Bassin’s dismal track record of late coincides with Jay’s departure?

I also wonder if Bassin’s success in the junior ranks over the years may be more attributable to Jay rather than himself?

As well, do you think Bassin would have kept his promise to Ian Strathern had the Otters prevailed in 2002?

Probably not in light of the way he kept the Thunder’s relocation a secret in 1996.

Thank goodness Bassin’s attempt to purchase the Buffalo Sabres (and naturally with someone else’s money) fell through in the fall of 2002, otherwise the team may have left for other pastures.

But it’s no secret Otter fan – some dreams do materialize!!

Prime time star and former Thunder GM Randy Hall – who was as qualified to run a junior A hockey team as the Boston Strangler was a tie factory – eventually became the vice-president of hockey operations – of the East Coast Hockey League.


Can a World Series title be very far off for the Chicago Cubs?

Leading man and former Thunder head coach Larry Marson quit coaching altogether to operate an arena in Toronto. After helping the ‘blind lead the blind’ in Niagara Falls, Marson eventually found his rightful place in the hockey world.

Can a cure for blindness be very far away?

Longtime cast member and Thunder co-coach Chris Johnstone, who quit as the Otters head coach partway through their inaugural 1996-97 season, returned to Niagara Falls only to find great success in the minor junior ranks.

Despite his opportunistic ways of finding a “can’t miss winner” every year, Johnstone is living proof the Leafs’ long Stanley Cup drought will soon be over.

And finally, to former St. Catharines Standard sportswriter Mark Jeanneret. He publicly advocated the Thunder’s inevitable relocation to Erie in 1996 so he could become the Otters’ play-by-play commentator.

By stealing the position from stalwart radio announcer Phil Lester – instead of earning it – Jeanneret is still living proof ‘dreams do come true.’

When examining the Thunder/Otter 20-year odyssey – which exuded such promise from 1988 to 1992 before plummeting and then rebounding in 1999 to nearly reach the mountain crest in 2002 – I wonder if world peace is actually possible?

And despite the team’s last six seasons of playoff futility

– to equal seven, sub par .500 regular season campaigns during 12 seasons in Erie to equal an overall franchise (regular season) winning percentage of just .485

the “so-close yet so far away” Erie Otters of 1999 to 2002 are living proof anything is possible!

And the Niagara Ice Dogs have proven just that in 2007-08!!


© 2010 Sports & Leisure Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Phone: (716) 555-1234

Website by Luminus Media