Story By: Jason Simmonds, Journal Pioneer, TC Media
A big week of professional basketball will begin here at Eastlink Arena on Wednesday.
The Storm hosts the Halifax Rainmen in an important Atlantic Division matchup in the National Basketball League of Canada at 2 p.m. The Storm then hosts Moncton on Friday at 7 p.m., and the Montreal Jazz visits for a New Year’s Eve contest at 7 p.m.
“I think with some of the moves we made we are going to be really good on the court,” said Duncan Shaw, who co-owns the Storm along with Darren MacKay.
The Storm brings a 9-8 (won-lost) record into the game while the Rainmen are 7-9. It will be Halifax’s first visit to Summerside this season.
The Storm recently posted back-to-back wins at the Halifax Metro Centre – 113-90 on Dec. 16 and 103-92 on Dec. 21.
With a recent hot stretch and some big-name acquisitions by Shaw, MacKay and head coach Joe Salerno, Storm-mania is starting to build.
“We are spending a lot more (money this year),” admitted Shaw. “It does come down to that sometimes in pro sports.
“We are not that far from the ($150,000) salary cap, which wasn’t the case last year. We’re giving Joe the money to go pick up a Brandon Robinson when he becomes available. You want to be able to make those moves. . .
“Last year, we didn’t spend the money to make that move. At the same time you turn around and really push on the business side when your goal is to break even.
“It’s a small market with all the things that come with it. It’s interesting the league has announced a franchise for Ottawa now (for next year). You go Ottawa, London, Halifax, Summerside.
“The demographics are really tough, and everything has to fire on all cylinders to have it to happen. P.E.I. loves to win, you have to spend the money and you have to work. Part of it is spending money, but the biggest part of it is just an awful lot of work.
“We did a ton of stuff this summer to find the players we wanted. I don’t think Joe took a week of vacation all summer. He was on the road looking for players.”
While the Storm is committed to putting a strong product on the floor, the team has also set a goal of raising $50,000 for P.E.I. charities this season.
“Darren and I run a bunch of businesses that we are very business-focused,” said Shaw. “The Storm, for us, is much more about the community stuff we love to do.
“The $50,000 is a big part of that, and I want to beat that (standard). I want that to be the floor.
“It’s a chance to engage people. There are so many good causes out there, and you would like to be able to support them all. This is one way we can help an awful lot of people.
“It’s not just the money, it’s the engagement. It brings new people to the building, it brings new people in contact with us and really makes the players’ experience better because they get to know the community and get involved.
“I told them (players) at our opening-night banquet that they are going to walk with some of the most challenged folks we have in the province, and they are going to walk with some of the most successful because they are going to be involved with everything.”