CJ Sports on patrol

Freelance reporter Gary Moskalyk, right, joins a local media scrum during St. Louis Blues defenceman Robert Bortuzzo’s Stanley Cup celebration in Thunder Bay last summer. Gary is one of several key contributors to your sports section in The Chronicle-Journal.

Most people are making the best of a tough situation.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive changes to our day-to-day lives, I’ve seen more than glimmers of hope that we’re in this together. Teachers from Holy Cross School strung together a video dance party. Husbands have sung to their quarantined wives outside retirement homes. Grandchildren have been visiting grandparents through glass windows with birthday greetings in tow.

Various sports teams, such as the Thunder Bay Chill under-12 girls squad, are sharing videos of their best ball-handling stunts. Even the Lakehead Thunderwolves women’s hockey team has taken up singing online as a collective hobby.

On Sunday, the Thunder Bay Minor Hockey Association held an online gathering to announce its season-ending awards in each division. Winners were each named on social media.

It must have been a very cool experience for all those involved. Of course, it pales in comparison to the completion of playoffs and an actual banquet (also, you get fed!). These players will be back together on the ice in the near future — of this I am sure.

As we are now into this forced transition from winter sports to the (hopefully) spring and summer sports seasons, I would like to thank all my contributors to the CJ Sports section. Sometimes we move so fast in a year that I rarely get a chance to publicly acknowledge and thank them for their phenomenal work.

Our weekly and regular columnists are Tom Annelin, John Rider, John Cameron, Diane Imrie, Johan Vass and Lincoln Galbraith. The freelancers who write in-depth stories and take the beautiful action photos you see in these pages every day are Gary Moskalyk, James Mirabelli, Dan Ventrudo, and Janet Fuchek. Special contributors include Kevin Cleghorn and Ronn Hartviksen.

Gary is our lead reporter on most of our major beats such as the Thunderwolves, the SIJHL and high school sports. A retired millworker and an accomplished photographer, Gary has blossomed into a solid writer in his unofficial second career. Tireless effort results in timeless accounts.

Being a columnist or freelancer isn’t easy. For instance, Lincoln somehow juggles his family, his career and his duties as a coach with the TBMHA in addition to penning his weekly column. Nearly every player in the association has seen their name grace the space of Lincoln’s Minor Hockey.

On the curling scene, John Cameron has been our man for over four decades now. The In The House column is one of our more popular fixtures.

From World Curling Tour cashspiels to local junior camps, there isn’t anything curling-related in Northwestern Ontario that John misses.

Next year, Cameron, who is a Tourism development officer for the city, will be extra busy as he’s on the organizing committee for the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s curling championship to be held at Fort William Gardens.

John Rider delivers the goods on all things soccer as a hard-working coach and administrator of the Beautiful Game. His support has helped bolster the sport in town to new heights of popularity.

Tom Annelin has been at the helm of the venerable Net Shots column for nearly 20 years. Tom, who is also the media relations officer for the Canadian Junior A Hockey League, is our go-to guru as far as Thunder Bay hockey is concerned.

Like Tom, Diane Imrie’s Where Legends Live On delves deep into the history of our sporting culture and how it connects to current events. Diane is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and has access like no other to information about our story as a city and region. While I was born and raised in Thunder Bay, I learn a thing or six every time I read Diane’s column.

Johan Vass and Janet Fuchek have been covering sports in the city when I was still going to high school. Their experience and sense of history and community shines through in every piece they submit.

James and Dan are our ace photographers. These gentlemen are among the quickest to deliver photos on request.

Yes, the days of full-times sports staffs at newspapers in the size of this city are long gone, but as you can see it still takes a full team of different pieces to give our readers the best local sports package possible.

More of our local content on these pages are produced and submitted by our readers through Your Stories.

Coaches, managers and even athletes are welcome to share their stories on their club or team at an event or a wrap-up on how the season played out. Since we started Your Stories, it has been a regular fixture.

In these quiet times on the fields, rinks and gyms, we are inviting coaches to send us their year in reviews or look-aheads for their teams, clubs or athletes. Email your photos and write-ups to sports@chroniclejournal.com and we will publish them in the CJ and post them on social media.

We still have plenty of stories to tell this year. So do you.

Reuben Villagracia is the sports editor at The Chronicle-Journal. Contact him at rvillagracia@chroniclejournal.com.

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