LOOK­ING BACK

1987 Jeux Canada Games staged in Cape Bre­ton 30 years ago

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY T.J. COLELLO sports@cb­post.com On Twit­ter: @cb­post_s­ports

The 1987 Jeux Canada Games were held here 30 years ago.

Lyn­nette Kokocki Chiasson will oc­ca­sion­ally flip through the pages of the 1987 Jeux Canada Games pro­grams she has and still feels the pride of rep­re­sent­ing her prov­ince.

Chiasson was the lone Cape Bre­ton ath­lete on Nova Scotia’s women’s vol­ley­ball team that com­peted at the event staged in Cape Bre­ton, Feb. 14-28, one of the big­gest sport­ing events ever held on the is­land. Close to 2,000 ath­letes from across Canada com­peted in 17 dif­fer­ent sports.

“Es­pe­cially be­ing here in Syd­ney, it meant the world to me,” said the 47-year-old Mira res­i­dent, orig­i­nally from Whit­ney Pier. She coaches girls vol­ley­ball both at Syd­ney Academy and with Vol­ley­ball Cape Bre­ton.

Chiasson started play­ing vol­ley­ball at Whit­ney Pier Ju­nior High School. Af­ter suit­ing up for Syd­ney Academy, she played a year of se­nior vol­ley­ball be­fore try­ing out for the Canada Games team in Hal­i­fax when she was 18.

“It was long trips back and fourth to Hal­i­fax ev­ery week­end,” she said. “My mom would take me, my grand­mother — who­ever would take me, would take me. If not, I’d get the Aca­dian Lines bus up.”

The Nova Scotia vol­ley­ball team didn’t medal at the event, but Chiasson said her fond­est mem­ory was the time she spent with her team­mates at the ath­letes’ vil­lage at Bre­ton Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre.

“We did ev­ery­thing to­gether. We went ev­ery­where to­gether. There was never a mo­ment that some­body was by them­selves,” she said. “Within our team, there was my­self and a girl from Bridge­wa­ter who were kind of the out­siders be­cause ev­ery­one was from the Hal­i­fax/Dart­mouth re­gion, but the team just wel­comed us with open arms and never had any prob­lem with bil­let­ing ei­ther one of us out if our par­ents couldn’t take us. It was great.”

Some sports high­lights in­cluded the Nova Scotia men’s bas­ket­ball team that pulled off a 91-76 up­set win over Team Que­bec in the gold medal game in front of 1,200 fans at Bre­ton Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre gym. The Nova Scotia squad in­cluded Keith Dono­van and Charles Ike­jiani of Glace Bay and Scott Bor­den of Syd­ney. Also, weightlifter Jim Dan Cor­bett of New Water­ford cap­tured a bronze medal in the men’s 52 kg class.

Dr. Carl (Bucky) Buchanan, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Games, said the idea to host the event in Cape Bre­ton started with Dr. Don­ald Arse­neau in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor in the Cape Bre­ton Post. Arse­neau sug­gested some­thing spe­cial should be planned with Syd­ney’s bi­cen­ten­nial ap­proach­ing.

Dr. Don- ald Camp­bell, pres­i­dent of the then Univer­sity Col­lege of Cape Bre­ton, Judge Al­lan Sul­li­van and then premier John Buchanan asked Carl Buchanan to at­tend the 1981 Canada Sum­mer Games in Thun­der Bay, Ont., and put to­gether a bid to host the sum­mer games. He found out later that the ro­ta­tion had changed, and Cape Bre­ton put a bid in for the win­ter games in­stead.

The Cape Bre­ton bid won out over other bids from Hal­i­fax, the An­napo­lis Val­ley, Amherst and Truro.

“When I look back on it, I think we gave the com­mu­nity some­thing to be proud of and the

com­mu­nity should have been, be­cause all of our events were sold out,” said Buchanan. “You couldn’t get a ticket for curl­ing. The Canada Games Com­plex was used for hockey and box­ing and it was jammed ev­ery game. The bas­ket­ball was in New Water­ford and was sold out and Nova Scotia won the gold.”

Three lev­els of govern­ment shared the fund­ing for the Games, and the event had a bud­get be­tween $17-18 mil­lion. A group called Friends of the Games helped bring in $3.5 mil­lion from cor­po­rate spon­sors and en­sure a fru­gal oper­a­tion in the end.

When the Games were over, the area was left with Cen­tre 200 in Syd­ney, which would even­tu­ally be a cat­a­lyst in get­ting an Amer­i­can Hockey League team, the Cape Bre­ton Oil­ers. Also, count­ing equip­ment and funds, more than $1 mil­lion was given as a legacy to the univer­sity, along with the Canada Games Com­plex. Other fa­cil­i­ties like lo­cal high schools re­ceived new hard­wood floor­ing for their bas­ket­ball courts, glass back­boards, and bleach­ers. Other sports equip­ment is still be­ing used to­day.

An­other legacy was the ex­pe­ri­ence gained by the vol­un­teers. About 6,000 peo­ple lent their time to the Games.

“Our vol­un­teers, with­out ques­tion, ben­e­fit­ted greatly,” said Buchanan. “We went on to host the world ju­niors and dif­fer­ent events of that mag­ni­tude that even to this day, most peo­ple would be on a ros­ter some­where or peo­ple you’ve met, that if you called them to­day to vol­un­teer for some­thing, that’s the con­nec­tion that we had.”

JOEL AL­LARD/CANADA GAMES

The fig­ure skat­ing com­pe­ti­tion at the 1987 Jeux Canada Games at Cen­tre 200 in Syd­ney. A to­tal of 17 dif­fer­ent sports and close to 2,000 ath­letes from across Canada com­peted at the event.

JOEL AL­LARD/CANADA GAMES

The Canada Games Com­plex hosted both hockey and box­ing events dur­ing the 1987 Jeux Canada Games.

JOEL AL­LARD/CANADA GAMES

A packed house at the Syd­ney Curl­ing Club watches women’s curl­ing.

JOEL AL­LARD/CANADA GAMES

Team New Brunswick and Team New­found­land com­pete in the men’s bas­ket­ball event at Bre­ton Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre gym in New Water­ford.

Chiasson

Buchanan

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