En­joy the mo­ment, coach urges

For­mer com­peti­tor Neil Shute back in Games in dif­fer­ent role

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY KENN OLIVER TRANSCON­TI­NEN­TAL ME­DIA

Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace — Above the lit­tle cot inside the class­room he called home for four days last week, Har­bour Grace na­tive Neil Shute proudly dis­played a lit­tle piece of New­found­land and Labrador Sum­mer Games his­tory.

There, hang­ing be­tween charts and chalk­boards, was his 1992 Sum­mer Games ball hockey jersey and the gold medal he won as part of the host team.

Twenty years af­ter the fact, Shute was back at the Games, coach­ing not the host team, but the Avalon en­try from Up­per Is­land Cove.

“All the guys were ad­mir­ing it,” he said last week of the medal, which to­day looks more bronze than gold. “I told them, ‘This is what it’s all about, this is what you’re play­ing for.’”

On the morn­ing of Tues­day, Aug. 21 inside S.W. Moores Memo­rial Sta­dium, the very rink where Shute claimed his gold, the Hawks struck their own gold, shut­ting out the Eastern team 2-0 in a spir­ited match.

“I would have liked to see us and the host in the gold-medal game,” said Shute, whose squad dis­patched the host team in the semi­fi­nals, “but the chips fell where they did and when it came down to it, I just wanted my boys to win and they did, so it’s great.”

Shute lives in Up­per Is­land Cove, where he is the town man­ager.

When he heard about the pos­si­bil­ity of a team be­ing put to­gether for the Games, he threw his hat into the ring to coach, partly for a love of ball hockey and partly to en­sure kids had a pos­i­tive Games ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I stressed to my guys that this is a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence, you only fit the age cat­e­gory once, so try to make the most of it,” Shute ex­plained.

In 1992, even though they could have slept in their own beds, Shute and the rest of the host team stayed in the ath­letes’ vil­lage at St. Fran­cis El­e­men­tary.

“For the kid, it’s the best part, it’s like a mini-Olympics,” he said. “For those four days, you stay to­gether, eat to­gether, and travel to­gether, all as a team. We stressed that to the boys from the start this week.”

That plan, and a tal­ented ros­ter, which in­cluded a young Danny Cleary — “he was feisty, that’s for sure,” re­called Shute — re­sulted in an over­time win over Labrador in the cham­pi­onship game.

“I re­mem­ber be­ing here in this Sta­dium and it was full to ca­pac­ity. As a kid of 15, it was amaz­ing,” Shute said. “For me play­ing sports, it was one of the high­lights, no doubt.”

Shute, who wore his ‘92 gold dur­ing last week’s fi­nal game, said he felt more pres­sure as a coach than he did as a player.

“The pres­sure is on to have the right kids on the floor at the right time and you have to try to be as fair as you pos­si­bly can to ev­ery­body, hop­ing you don’t make a mis­take,” said Shute, who could be seen pac­ing the bench and rub­bing his head anx­iously throughout the game, re­lax­ing only when the fi­nal buzzer sounded.

All the guys were ad­mir­ing it. I told them, ‘This is what it’s all about, this is what

you’re play­ing for.’

“At 15, you don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on, you know you’re play­ing for a medal and you’re hop­ing to win.”

ko­liver@thetele­gram.com

Photo by Kenn Oliver/the Tele­gram

Neil Shute (right) and his son Ri­ley, dis­play the two New­found­land and Labrador Sum­mer Games ball hockey gold medals Shute has won in his life­time. Ri­ley has the gold his fa­ther won last week as coach of the Avalon team, while Shute dis­plays the one he picked up play­ing for the host team at the 1992 Games in Har­bour Grace and Car­bon­ear.

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