Best of the best

Matt Molloy
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2011 was a year of memorable sporting achievements in Central Newfoundland. From local Herder Memorial Championship stories to local Allan Cup stories to provincial championships to AHL hockey to hall of fame inductions to local athletes competing in marquee events, the year had more of its fair share of headlines.
Of the more than 300 articles that appeared in The Beacon's award-winning sports section in 2011, the sports department decided the following were worthy of being named the top-10 sports stories of 2011.
Making the final cut wasn't easy, which only proves how competitive local teams and athletes are on the regional, provincial, Atlantic Canadian, national, and international scene.
Without further adieu, here are the top-10 sports stories of 2011.

10 A metro move

Just a month before the 2011 Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Senior Volleyball Championships came to Central Newfoundland, Luke Harris, technical director with the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association, informed The Beacon of the NLVA's decision to contemplate moving the annual provincial tournament to the St. John's area beginning in 2012. According to Harris, because of other sport bodies hosting events on the same weekend as the provincial volleyball championships, hotel rooms have become harder to book, leaving the NLVA wondering if the move to St. John's would be better. Harris went on to say it wasn't the first time the NLVA thought about the move, but added uprising from the athletes have kept the event in Central Newfoundland.

9 The saga of Thunder Valley Speedway

In June, Jason Yates, administrator of Thunder Valley Speedway's website, told The Beacon the 2011 racing season would be cancelled because there was nobody to take over in the absence of Bob Hutchings, owner/operator of the track, who was out of the province due to work commitments. However, a few weeks later, Yates informed The Advertiser, The Beacon's sister paper in Grand Falls-Windsor, the track would re-open with a shortened four-race season.

8 The IceCaps cometh

When it was announced former premier Danny Williams was bringing an American Hockey League team to St. John's, hockey fans province-wide started talking about what the team would be named, and where they could catch a glimpse of the newest AHL team. After the team was officially named the IceCaps, it was announced the squad would tour Central Newfoundland for a set of exhibition games against the Norfolk Admirals, farm team of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. The IceCaps battled the Admirals in Grand Falls-Windsor Sept. 27 and again in Gander Sept. 30. The team also participated in a Beyond Words tribute dinner and silent auction in Gandet.

7 Hockey News publisher has Gander roots

Early in January, The Beacon introduced its readers to Caroline Andrews, publisher of the popular magazine, The Hockey News, known nationwide as the bible of hockey in Canada. However, the interesting angle of this story is Andrews' connection to Gander. Andrews lived in Gander on Brown and Grieve Crescent until she finished Grade 8, which is when she moved away. During the two-part series, Andrews talked about life in Gander in a military family, the friends she made in Gander, her favourite hockey players, and how she conquered uphill battles to sit in the publisher's chair in an industry typically dominated by males.

6 Using your ‘head'

With concussions dominating national NHL headlines, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador adapted a new head contact rule to try and eliminate contact above the shoulder. At its fall meetings in Gander in April, Hockey Canada Officiating Program instructors

were on hand to deliver the details of the new head contact rule, which focuses on player safety. Today, players will now be penalized for hits to the head, face or neck

areas. In October, Gander Minor Hockey's referee-in-chief, Sean Kinden, told The Beacon he's in favour of the rule. Although he believes it could take a while for referees, fans, coaches and players to catch on to it, he thinks it will pay off in the long run.

Organizations: The Beacon, Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association, Thunder Valley Speedway American Hockey League IceCaps NHL Tampa Bay Lightning The Hockey News

Geographic location: Central Newfoundland, St. John's, Gander Gandet Canada

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