Let’s Have A Toast, A Toast To Me


I hope you are here for the right reason.

mecuteI was first published when I was 17 years old in an online e-zine called Truth.Explosion.Magazine., a e-zine for photographers and writers that collaborated together to have their work seen worldwide. I ran with that feeling, you know, the warm fuzzy feeling that sticks in your stomach when you first get published.

But after that, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I ran around like a headless chicken at Guelph University for a year looking to get my degree in English. After a year I realized I was more interested in writing, rather than reading. I left Guelph, and attended J-School at Sheridan College. I was taught the ropes of journalism by an amazing cast of professionals who hailed from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.

While I was at Sheridan I became involved with a magazine called TRAVIS, which ended up being the best college magazine in Canada. Seriously, find a better magazine, I dare you. TRAVIS took over my life, I lived and breathed magazines and I fell in love with feature writing and the art of storytelling.

They put me to work over at TRAVIS, and I wrote endless print and online content suited for students who loved culture and entertainment. I managed writers and edited content for this publication that was published six times a year. When I graduated I won an editorial excellence award from the college itself. I was excited, really damn excited.

TRAVIS life was amazing. I ended up becoming the Editor-In-Chief of that magazine for a year. We even won an Applied Arts Young Blood award for our efforts.

During my college days I also interned at a magazine called Chill, writing sports and family-friendly features for this magazine that is distributed through the Beer Store. It’s a slick magazine  and I even contributed as a freelancer. Through Chill I also trickled my way into a magazine called Golf Canada. Through GC, I picked up my first national byline, with my words showing up in golf clubs in British Columbia, all the way over to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

On the side, I wrote news for Oakville’s best online news source Oakville.com.

I ended up enrolling in York University’s Professional Writing program, with a double major in Communications. After my first year, I wound up throwing my resume into a hat at Excalibur, and was hired as their managing editor, or EEO, as they call it.

It was here where my passion for newspaper grew tremendously. I came from a magazine background but was born once again within these pages. I edited, wrote, reported, and offered up my experience to volunteers who had zero writing experience.

This year, I had the privilege to become the paper’s second two-year Editor-In-Chief after a 50 history. I shouted, directed, edited, and overall had the time of my life bringing my unique passion to this weekly newspaper. It’s been an honour, and I wish it could last forever.

Now I look to bigger and better things as my degree is about to finish, and am set to take on any challenge that I may face.

That’s my story, let’s chat if you need to know more.


Seeing Red- Toronto FC

Picture 1

In just six short years, the Toronto Football Club has grabbed hold of Ontarians and turned us into crazed soccer maniacs – and thank goodness for that.

A sea of red. It’s what you see at a Toronto Football Club (TFC) home game. With over 21,000 fans packing into BMO Field, there’s something in the air that unleashes pure passion from the everyday person.

Flags are waved, fans jump up and down in unison and the entire stadium claps and chants together as one entity.

Strangers hug each other and supporters paint their faces – some even have the TFC logo tattooed into their skin.

But, one must wonder, how did we get to this point? How did people from all walks of life become frenzied football supporters? And why has Major League Soccer (MLS) in Toronto taken off like this?

Well, the most obvious answer is that, in Toronto, professional sports are more than a big deal. With the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the Rock, the Argonauts, the Marlies, and the Blue Jays having strong followings in their respective leagues, it just might be our destiny to wholeheartedly embrace professional soccer. But what we have now goes beyond a mere embracement. Fans are exceeding expectations, and may potentially create the best type of problem for executives: growing pains.

The amount of fans that have taken interest in the TFC has been so great that there’s talk that they might soon out-grow BMO Field – a facility that already holds 21,140 fans. To put it in perspective, the Air Canada Centre only holds 18,819 for Maple Leafs games.

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“I don’t think this fan base was handed to us,” says Paul Beirne, Senior Director of Business Operations at the TFC. “I think it existed, and we were the catalyst for groups of like-minded people to find one another, allowing them to express themselves together.”

Regardless of how it all came to be, the organization is certainly grateful. That’s why they focus their efforts on listening to their fans and considering their feedback.

“There are hundreds of devoted individuals who are working until midnight before a game preparing banners and flags,” Beirne says. “It had to happen in Toronto because of the makeup of our city. So many people in Toronto are from somewhere else, and everywhere else is a football nation. The script writes itself.”

Fans come from all nationalities and all walks of life. Housewives and businessmen, soldiers and retirees – they all come together for the sake of football in Toronto.

“That’s the beauty of football,” Beirne exclaims. It creates a common vocabulary across generations and cultures. The TFC unleashes something in people that allows them to be louder and more vocal than they’ve ever been.”

Supporters raise red TFC flags against the beautiful Toronto skyline night in and night out. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder and bounce up and down to the beat of a bass drum coming from section 113. You can even smell the fresh cut grass as the ball clunks against the players’ cleats. Needless to say, it’s a unique sporting experience – one that’s only in Toronto. And, the best part is, it’s all organic.

“We don’t pipe in crowd noise,” Beirne says. “We don’t hand them the flags and banners. We don’t tell them what songs to sing or when to sing them. We’re well known for our atmosphere. We have an atmosphere where fans can be comfortable unleashing whatever sound or visual that they want to unleash.”

And that’s just what TFC fans do – unleash. They’re creative, too, evolving into four different divisions of fans. These supporter groups, or ‘ultras,’ as they’re referred to by hardcore devotees – are recognized as official supporter groups by the TFC. Each has different duties and roles during home games. Oftentimes, they compete with each other to be the loudest, but, at the end of the day, they’re all there for the same cause – to support their team.

The enthusiasm that TFC fans share has grown and branched out far beyond BMO field. Bobby Brasz is the leader of the U-Sector group of fans (see sidebar), and he goes the distance. Literally. He’s adventured to Columbus, Ohio with 2,000 fans to help cheer on the TFC. More recently, he travelled to Montreal with close to 1,000 fans to watch the TFC play against the Montreal Impact.

“Toronto will always be known as the big bad dog in this country,” says Brasz. “I think that Toronto fans embrace that, as much as Montreal fans might hate it.”

Brasz has been supporting the TFC since day one. He won a TFC dream job through a competition put on by the club. Today, he works full-time with the TFC and, on game days, he’s a die-hard supporter of his club. He says that Canada has followed in the footsteps of Toronto after TFC success, and stimulated the expansion of MLS into Montreal and Vancouver.

“We were the first professional club in Canada and that’s just another thing everyone else is going to hate on us for,” he says. “Vancouver and Montreal have now had a chance to see how it’s done here, and improve upon what we’ve done. TFC soccer is a different beast than some of the sports in North America. Football fans tend to be a lot more passionate towards the game. They feel a lot more connected to the game, so, when you come down to the stadium, you feel like you’re effecting the play and what’s happening on the pitch. That kind of connection really brings people out.”

And that’s what it really comes down to. The TFC has provided a unique and passionate sports experience. They’ve created a lasting bond with their fans, and given them endless amounts of reasons to cheer, wave flags and shout until they lose their voice.

There’s no reason not to get excited about the TFC. With the passion seen by thousands of TFC fans, it’s just a matter of time before TFC-mania becomes the next big thing in Toronto. So, get your game face on – and paint it red.

– See more at: http://www.chillmedia.co/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=325:seeing-red&catid=11:sports&Itemid=378#sthash.px11CM1l.dpuf

York Takes Legal Action Against Toronto Life

Fall issue of Excalibur. Our editorial board was tipped off that York was planning on suing Toronto Life for their feature entitled Fortress York.

The gloves are off, sort of.

York is considering taking legal action in response to an article entitled “Fortress York” published in the October issue of Toronto Life.Written by Katherine Laidlaw, the article provides a timeline of sexual assaults at York over the last 10 years and claims the Keele campus is a “hunting ground for sexual predators.”

Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president and vice-chancellor, said during a visit to the Excalibur offices that the university has to stand up when they see an article like the one in Toronto Life.The meeting was intended to increase dialogue between Excalibur’s editorial board and the president about issues on campus, extending into the topics of safety on campus and the article published in Toronto Life. The cover of the October issue of Toronto Life includes the jump-line, “Why There Are So Many Rapes at York U.”

“The article treats York as if it is a place where there are uncontrollable events of rape,” says Shoukri. “The statistics don’t support that.”

Laidlaw writes in her feature that York has become a nightmare for students and staff. Laidlaw writes she interviewed dozens female York students, and “every one of them blamed the campus’s problems on its design and location.” She also mentions that the school is bordered by “seedy” strip malls and the Jane and Finch community, all cited as potential trouble spots.

York takes a hit in the October issue of Toronto Life with the feature entitled Fortress York.
Shoukri responded to the article publicly on YFile on September 17. He writes in his response that the article “presents a wholly distorted picture of women’s safety on the campus of York University.” Shoukri also claims the article uses out-of-context statistics that will foster an atmosphere of fear within the York community.

“York is safe,” he adds in his response. Shoukri also writes it is false to categorize all of the incidents at York as rape, and that sexual assault under the Canadian Criminal Code is broad and covers an extremely wide range of sexual offences.

According to York, the university’s media relations team worked with Laidlaw over several months.

Joanne Rider of York media says the school also provided statistics that demonstrates York is safe within the context of the broader city and other universities. Rider also notes that several other sources provided perspectives for the Toronto Life piece, including the Toronto Police Services, who were not included within the published article.

Toronto Life did not respond to multiple email requests from Excalibur for comment.

Michael Burton
Executive Editor (Online)


Oakville.Com Portforlio

Hey there. I’ve freelanced a ton for this really wicked news site called Oakville.com. I’ve also appeared in Mississauga.org and Burlington.net, but most of my reporting work was in Oakville. It’s news, and I learned a whole lot by writing for this website.

Thunderhawks Feature

Small town boys with big time dreams.

Thunderhawks – five talented Georgetown boys who play an addictive mix of pop, punk and rock and roll.

What sets them apart from your typical band? Well they have a bit more on their minds than settling down and jumping into the 9-to-5 grind.

Sitting still is the last thing this hard-hitting Georgetown pop-punk band wants to do.

“I would like to push this as hard as I can,” said Jeff Richards, lead singer and frontman of Thunderhawks. Richards passes an acoustic guitar to bandmate and longtime friend Mitchell Dunn, and chats about where he’d like to see Thunderhawks go.

“I personally need a backup plan because that’s how I was raised. If Thunderhawks did get ‘picked up,’ I’d leave school no problem,” he said leaning back in his chair, staring at the sun through his jet black Ray Ban sunglasses. He is 22 and attended George Brown College for hospitality, and is now applying for York University.

Richards explained that getting “picked up” would be support from a major music label. It could include a recording and distribution deal, as well as the services of a professional booking agent to help organize concert tours. The problem? Record deals don’t come easy since there are so many great bands across Canada.

The band has gone through member changes but have kept the same stylized pop-rock sound they’ve become known for. The band first began recording and playing shows in 2008 after contacting now current lead singer Richards. Many of the members were already playing together – they were just on the hunt for the perfect singer. They found Richards through friends, and Thunderhawks became a full band.

On this warm Saturday summer evening Thunderhawks are preparing for a gig in Cambridge. They toss jokes to one another and goof off just like any group of boys should. They are cool bunch of friends – very hip, but relaxed. All the members are handsome yet scruffy, with most of them letting their five o’clock shadow grow into patchy beards. They have effortless style and a general likability attached onto their attitudes, something that pairs well with being in a rock band.

Drums, amplifiers, guitars and cabinets are carefully loaded into their trailer. They then relax in the backyard of their jam-space in downtown Georgetown to talk about their music, and the future.

“I’d love for Thunderhawks to go all the way,” guitarist Mitchell Dunn said while slowing strumming his caramel coloured acoustic guitar. “It’d be the best job ever.”

Dunn has been with the band since it’s inception in 2008, originally playing drums and then switching over to guitar in 2010. He’s 21 now and played his first drum kit when he was just 8 years old.

He explained that it isn’t easy for small town bands to get recognized in a very big market.

“Labels want to see that you have a good tour schedule, and that people want to see you. In the end major labels want to know that you can sell records,” he said.

“We roll with the punches, especially since we have something here that we enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis,” Dunn said. “I always have a good time with my boys and every show is another adventure.”

The entire band piles into their grey and brown Ford Club Wagon. Although the aroma in the van is a little stale, once they hit the road there’s a feeling that maybe what these boys have together is truly special.

This adventure to Cambridge is one of the many shows the band is playing in Ontario to help promote themselves, and their new record Tongues.

Thunderhawks bassist Jake Lowen is driving, carefully turning the van and trailer into a parking space outside the 515 Concert Club in Cambridge. He first started playing guitar when he was ten, and has been playing in Thunderhawks since the beginning. He’s 21 now and explains that although this show is important, it doesn’t have the same feeling as a hometown show in Georgetown.

“My first show was in Georgetown at the Pine Cone Music Battle of the Bands. I came in second and it was great,” Lowen said laughing.

“It’s a big community feel and there is always new music here. There’s more pressure in Georgetown. It’s where all my friends are from and I don’t want to put on a bad show for all my friends.” Lowen is working on his mechanic apprenticeship in Georgetown, but still wants to pursue a career with Thunderhawks.

“Every show we’ve played recently people have sang a long, and it’s pretty cool feeling. We’ll take this as far as we can,” he said.

Drummer and newcomer to the band Dylan Warskett has been playing in Thunderhawks since September 2010. He’s performed in bands within the community since he was 14 years old and is the youngest of the band at 20 years old. He had wanted to join Thunderhawks years before he was asked to play drums for them.

“Ever since Jake and I were friends I’ve wanted to play in Thunderhawks. I always offered, but never had the chance,” Warskett said.

“One day we ended up jamming with myself on drums. After we played, the guys asked if I wanted in.”

“If it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t have anything,” he said. “I wouldn’t do anything. Music is my life. It’s something that has to be in my life for it to be complete. It would feel wrong if I wasn’t in a band and I’ll play music forever.”

Thunderhawks makes some final adjustments before they head on stage. Voices are warmed up, strings are tuned and drums are set up.

Rory Gaskill, the second guitarist of Thunderhawks sits on a bench outside the venue in Cambridge, tuning his dark red Gibson Les Paul. He explains how he joined Thunderhawks just after the release of their debut EP in 2009. He began playing guitar when he was 11, and is now 21.

“I was nothing but a huge fan of the band,” Gaskill said. “Honestly it’s been really exciting. When the spot opened up I was hoping they would ask me to play guitar. Since then I’ve just seen a steady rise, especially since the new record. It’s just consistently more and more exciting.”

“As a musician I’ve had to keep up with Jeff and Mitch who are both great singers. I’ve really had to step up my game to stay on par with these guys. Musically I’ve gotten better, and as a person I’ve just learned to be a littler more balanced with myself.”

The band walks on stage and the excited crowd waits eagerly to see Thunderhawks perform. They play a seven-song set with songs off their first self-titled record, as well as the songs “Tequila Mockingbird” and “No Killin’” off their newest record Tongues.

Every member of the band faces the crowd to reveal smiles across their faces. The energy they give off overflows into the audience, and the audience smiles along with them. It’s nothing but pure bliss from five natural-born performers, who clearly feel more comfortable on stage than in their own skin.

Thunderhawks live is clean and crisp, with a good mix of creative hooks and fast leads. Richards has a blend of soft singing and throaty yells that works with the fast-paced music. They play like clockwork, and run a professional and entertaining set of music. Both Dun and Gaskill contribute singing and shouting melodies while playing guitar. Lowen and Warskett keep rhythm and time closer to the back of the stage, keeping an eye out for swinging guitars and microphones.

Thunderhawks closes out their set with a song called “Kiss My Grits” a tune the band has been playing for three years. Richards stands centre stage and the entire audience claps along in unison to their finale.

“We’re Thunderhawks,” frontman Richards says through the microphone. “Thanks for watching,” he says with a big smile. The lights dim, and they receive a round of applause.

Five boys who started playing music in Georgetown. Who knows where they will go from here.


Walking Over Winter: Snowshoeing In Halton Hills

It’s time to walk over winter, literally.

With all the great sports and winter activities available in Halton Hills, one Canadian pastime is making a comeback.

Snowshoeing is the best way to stay fit and experience nature this winter.

“Snow shoeing is a really easy activity,” said Kari Sattler, the Education Coordinator with the Credit Valley Conservation. Sattler has been snowshoeing for years and encourages everyone to lace up their snowshoes and start crunching all over our snow covered backyards.

“It’s easy to pick up, it’s straightforward and the only equipment required is your two snow shoes,” she said. “You can access so many different places that you usually wouldn’t be able to in the wintertime. And as for the learning curve, it’s pretty straightforward. After your first venture out you’ll be feeling pretty confident.”

The Credit Valley Conservation is offering snowshoeing programs at the Terra Cotta Conservation Area starting in January. They are offering two programs, one for beginners and one for those who are more comfortable with the sport. Both programs cost $8 for adults, and $5 for children and seniors. Costs for the program include gate fees, snowshoes and a cup of hot chocolate.

“There a couple different areas that we go snowshoeing around,” she said. “One of the areas is a frozen wetland, but we go through a number of different fields and semi-forested areas. It’s spectacular throughout all the seasons. It’s a beautiful place to go and explore and is very scenic in the wintertime.”

“There is so much to see while snowshoeing” Sattler said.

“It’s kind of like a storybook that’s out there. You can see where bears and rabbits have been and follow their tracks. You don’t even need snowshoes to take part in our program. We supply traditional snowshoes with a wooden frame and leather binding.”

“People far and wide have thoroughly enjoyed the program,” she said. “It often is a very new experience, and I think people step away having learned a lot and enjoyed their day and experience.”

Sattler recommends those who are snowshoeing for the first time to bring along some enthusiasm, curiosity and energy. As for those who fall in love with the sport, it might be a good idea to invest in their own personal pair of snowshoes.

Evelyn Abercrombie has been working at Ollie’s Cycle And Ski in downtown Georgetown for the past three years. She recommends the brand Tubbs for those looking to buy their first pair of snowshoes.

“Generally what we sell is something that accommodates your weight,” Abercrombie said. “The more you weigh the bigger the snow shoe. Getting the proper fitting and sizing is important. Snowshoeing is becoming more popular, and we’ve been lucky to have great snow these past seasons.”

For a pair of brand new snowshoes at Ollie’s, expect to pay upwards of $100. But despite the high price tag, those who pay will be receiving a quality product.

“From a consumers point of view we don’t have to worry about quality issues anymore,” Sean McSweeney said ¾ manager of the Mountain Equipment Co-op at 400 King West in Toronto.

“Anybody still left in the manufacturing business of building snowshoes are building a good product. It’s a great scenario for the consumer, they can reach out and grab any product out there on the market and have a good experience with it.”

McSweeney has tried many of the snowshoe brands available on the Canadian market, and recommends purchasing the correct snowshoe based on how frequently it will be used.

“At the lower price points you have snowshoes that are designed for more recreational use,” he said.

“That means occasional use in the season six to ten times a year on flat to undulated terrain. But as you move up in the price point generally the snowshoes will tend to start adding features that will make them more suitable for extensive use up to 40 to 50 times a year. They could be used in much steeper conditions like alpine terrain, and that’s where you see the changes of price on the higher end products.”

Mountain Equipment Co-op carries a variety of different snowshoe brands including MSR and Atlas, as well as a Canadian brand called GV. McSweeney suggests budgeting between $100 and $200 for a quality pair of snowshoes from his store.

“It’s really a fantastic accessible outdoor winter activity,” he said. “I think a lot of people are looking for things they can do in the wintertime. The great thing is that once you have the snowshoes there are no fees, or places that you have to drive to. If you have snow in the park, you can go snowshoeing.“

“It’s extremely affordable when you think of other sports out there like down hill skiing. Your minimum entry point for skiing would be anywhere between $700 to $1000, plus the fees and transportation to get you to a downhill ski area.”

“Snowshoeing doesn’t take any special equipment,” McSweeney said. “Its real easy to do and you get to see some things in the winter that you normally wouldn’t have access to. It’s a great activity and we’re really happy to see it getting back on the map.”

“We rent snow shoes here in the store,” McSweeney said. “They are one of our most popular rental items for folks who just want to try out the sport for the first time. It doesn’t take any special equipment. You can wear your regular winter boots and you’re ready to go.”

Snowshoe rentals are available to customers at the Mountain Equipment Co-op starting at $20. McSweeney also encourage first timers to try out and rent a pair before purchasing.

A winter adventure is just around the corner, and snowshoeing is one of the many ways to enjoy your own backyard without breaking the bank. Make sure to get out and enjoy nature this winter. Lace up those boots, keep warm, and enjoy the winter scenery.

A Historian Profile: Mark Rowe

“What’s my story?” Mark Rowe asked.


Sitting in a black leather chair in the Silvercreek Café of downtown Georgetown, Rowe paused to reflect on the question.

It’s a bit loud in the small coffee shop. It’s bustling with students and shoppers ordering espresso and grabbing a bite to eat.

“I’ve always been interested in history,” he said over the buzz of the cafe.

“I was supported by my community growing up and felt it was important to give back. That got me into being a part of the community, sharing history and teaching people in the community about their own history.”

Rowe sipped on his coffee in the centre of the bustling coffee shop. He spoke slowly about his 31 years of teaching, his community involvement and his healthy obsession with local and Canadian history.

He moved to Acton from Toronto when he was just three years old. After finishing high school he attended the University of Guelph receiving his bachelor’s degree in history. After that he completed teacher’s college at the University of Toronto.

“I joined the Esquesing Historical Society shortly after I started my family in Georgetown. I’ve been involved since the early 80’s and held lots of different positions,” Rowe said.

“Several years later I joined heritage Halton Hills as the Esquesing Historical Society representative, and I’ve been on it ever since.”

Rowe showed up at his first Esquesing Historical Society meeting in 1982. Now he is a part of the Historical Society that advises town council on heritage matters.

“I really enjoy researching buildings and houses,” he said. “We provide information to council so that they can make a decision on whether places need to be put on a heritage register, or whether they need to be designated.”

“I’m the archivist at the Historical Society now. We work to establish the archives at the Georgetown Public Library.”

“Our job is to collect local history including documents, papers and photographs related to our local heritage. But we also educate the public and share the information with them,” Rowe said.

He’s an honest and kind man who speaks softly while leaning forward in his chair.

During his involvement with the Historical society, Rowe began writing articles for The Georgetown Independent in the 1980’s.

“I learned different things. I wrote brochures and smaller booklets before I got into the bigger projects of book writing.”

Rowe has penned three books including Acton: The History of Leathertown in 2003, Georgetown: Reflections of A Small Town in 2006, and most recently Bats Balls And Sticks in November of 2011.

Each of his books are available at Coles in the Georgetown Marketplace and Reeve & Clarke Books in Glen Williams. His book on Acton can also be purchased at What the Dickens in Acton.

“Each book is usually a two year commitment,” Rowe added.

He has used archived issues of The Georgetown Independent to research his books prior to writing them. “Also the documents and photograph collections that the Historical Society have collected over the years have been invaluable.”

“I like being a detective,” he said. “I like being a sleuth and looking for information. I like putting the pieces together and figuring out who is responsible for what and what families were important.”

“I love history so much because I have a very interesting family history myself. So that’s what got me interested in history in the first place.”

Rowe once read in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as a student a story of a tree trunk being sliced open at a sawmill in Acton. The massive trunk was cut open, and a single toad hopped out.

“I read that as a child and when I did my research for my Acton book I came across that in the local papers. That actually happened,” he said laughing.

“That was so cool. That was a connection between my childhood in Acton, and writing that book.”

“My latest book on sports history I learned so much about sports and of course how important it was in peoples lives. Even from the earliest days when the pioneers had a lot of work in the summer, they didn’t in the winter.”

Rowe’s book cites curling as one of the earliest sports to be played in Halton Hills.

“I was surprised that organized hockey didn’t get started until the turn of century,” he said. “They played shiny but there was no organized hockey. As you might expect, baseball is the one sport that more people have played than any other sport in Halton Hills.”

While sports are such a big part of the history of Halton Hills, Rowe also loves the natural beauty and scenery our community provides. He cites Glen Williams as one of his favourite spots in Halton Hills.

“I’m into the man made history but I also really enjoy the nature and layout of the landscape in Halton Hills,” he said.

“It’s so well preserved. Part of being well preserved is that Glen Williams is off the beaten track. Naturally I also love the escarpment and Hickory Falls.”

Now retired from his teaching career, Rowe spent 31 years teaching grades three thought eight at both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Brigid. He’s happy to have had the support from his wife Kelly and his four children throughout his career.

“I was ready to retire,” he said slowly.

“When I retired from teaching, elections were coming up and I was elected as the trustee for Halton Hills in the Halton Catholic School Board. I am doing that and I enjoy seeing education from another point of view.”

Halton Hills Councillor Moya Johnson sat on the Heritage Committee with Rowe and has known him for more than 30 years.

“Mark ‘lives’ the history of the town,” Councillor Johnson said.

“His gentle manner is a striking characteristic. He doesn’t ‘spout off’’ or sound like a know it all. He just talks very quietly and is a wealth of information.”

“He is highly respected for his knowledge and integrity in the heritage field and for his volunteer commitment to the community,” she said.

Dawn Livingstone is the current secretary of the Esquesing historical Society and has known Rowe for close to 25 years now. Livingstone said Rowe is a treasure to this town and community.

“Mark has had a very great influence on all the communities of Halton Hills, but especially Georgetown, Acton and the Glen.”

“As a devoted and much loved teacher, I am sure he’s had a great influence on the many children he has taught over the years.”

“His research and writing has helped raise an awareness of our history, and through his work as Archivist is helping preserve that history for future generations.”

Adding on to his impressive resume, Rowe is currently the President of the Glen Williams Town Hall. That keeps him busy on a day-to-day basis and is glad to be heavily involved with his own immediate community.

After receiving the Ontario Lifetime Heritage Award in 2007, Rowe has rounded out an impressive career as a teacher, author, role model and historian.

But for those looking to follow in Rowe’s footsteps, he urges all residents to volunteer their time, and appreciate the history behind their community.

“Appreciate the town. Appreciate the history behind the town and all the families that contributed to make it what it is today. Appreciate your community and whenever possible help out.”

“You need to get involved. That’s what helps shape you as a person and gives you experience,” he said.

Mark Rowe has made the community his priority, and is determined to spend his life preserving and sharing the history of Halton Hills.

“Just like any history it helps to understand where we came from, and therefore who we are right now. History gives direction of where we should be going in the future.”

“And really, that’s the story,” he said smiling.

The Success Of NCAA Sports In America

The NCAA’s Division I basketball tournament, affectionately nicknamed March Madness, continues to do what it does best – grab the attention of sports fans across North America and not let go.

With 68 different college basketball teams poised to challenge one another in the elimination-style tournament, throngs of fans will fill college stadiums across the United States to support their school.

Last year’s March Madness championship game between Butler and Connecticut drew over 70,000 people to the Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas. The average attendance of a Kentucky NCAA basketball game is over 23,000 – more than the average NHL game – while many Canadian universities fail to even report attendance statistics for their home games.

But, why is that? Why are college sports in America so successful? And why aren’t they in Canada?

“I think there are a lot of communities in the United States that don’t have professional teams to branch out to. They are much more prone to follow their college,” said Peter Tiernan of BracketScience.com, an online source for statistics and information on NCAA basketball.

Tiernan resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan and holds season tickets for Michigan Wolverines games. He’s a freelance sports writer, and he’s been to his fair share of college games – including a few held here in Canada. In fact, after attending a game at Western University, he was really concerned with the turnout.

“They’re struggling to get a crowd,” he said. “At half time, you look across the stadium and there’s just not a lot of people there. It felt like a big high school game.”

In other words, Canadian college sports lack a major following. And without that following, they lack that fullhouse atmosphere. And without that, it’s almost passionless.

“Our passion goes so far back,” he said. “People affiliate with their college. They stick with that affiliation and I think there’s a lot of promotion and money behind college sports in America.”

And you can really see that passion shine through during March Madness. It brings students, alumni, employees and local residents together. It really is more than simply rooting for the home team.

“College basketball definitely rivals pro basketball,” he said. “College basketball is passionate. The games are much more intense, and some might even say that the NCAA tournament is better than the Super Bowl, as it goes on for three weeks. Even if you’re not really a sports fan, there’s still that culture. And, frankly, I like the college game. It’s more pure. Especially in basketball.”

Pure – it’s a good word, really. It perfectly describes the players and their mindsets. College sports take place well before the seven-figure contracts, the shoe endorsements and the lavish team travel. There’s no trade deadlines and no free agency. College athletes view their sports as exactly what they are – games.

“People look back to college and high school and there’s a purity with the game that they can affiliate with,” he said. “These people are close to something that you could maybe achieve, while the professional game is more of a business. College sports is a business too, but we can delude ourselves that it’s a little bit purer.”

It seems so simple. Go to school, express team spirit, stay in touch with your alma mater. Tiernan, though, insists that it’s not that straightforward – that there is actually no special formula for Canada to boost the public’s interest in a team or a league.

“It has to come organically,” he said. “It’s also a numbers game. There are 345 teams in Division I basketball, so Americans are bound to affiliate with one of them. There’s going to be a team within a 50-mile radius from where any American is. Is it that way in Canada? No. That’s part of it. There are just not a lot of teams.”

In 2009, Duke generated over $29,000,000 in revenue. CBS blogger and contributing writer for ESPN.com Eric Angevine feels that the identity that college teams possess helps drive interest, revenue and attendance.

“If you’re in Alabama, there’s a difference between someone who loves the University of Alabama and somebody who loves Auburn,” Angevine said. “They are both in the same state, but it’s a huge part of their identity whether they went to the school or not. I would actually bet that the majority of people who love Auburn or Alabama probably didn’t go to college at all. They just live in Alabama and identify with them regionally.”

Angevine also believes that this identification and support for NCAA sports goes far beyond school spirit.

“I think the game day experience has a lot to do with the specific school,” he said. “For one thing, college basketball is our feeder system for our professional sports. We never developed sport academies or developmental systems like they have in Europe. Our two most popular sports – football and basketball – are things that grew organically.”
Another belief as to why the sports are so successful in terms of viewership and attendance is that, with several teams making it, more fan bases are involved early. There’s also the fact that some of the not-so-great teams participate – something that all sports fans love.

“The NCAA tournaments are unusual because people tune in to the first couple of rounds because they want to see upsets,” Angevine said. “People like that ‘David Vs. Goliath’ thing. But after that, they really like to see it come down to traditional powers.”

While NCAA hockey, basketball and football become increasingly more popular in the United States, it will take time for the Canadian college markets to develop their own identity. And when we do it, it’s clear that we have to do it organically. However, with the right support from students and fans, time will shape Canadian college sports. With a little luck, our teams will, one day, rival college sports in America.

Steps That Canadian Schools Can Take To Boost Interest In College Sports

> Develop identity and learn from American tournaments like March Madness and Frozen Four.

> Be patient and let fan bases grow organically. Reach out to alumni and make an effort to tell the stories behind games and players.

> Reach out to students and hear feedback on ways to improve the game day experience.

> Invest money in promoting sporting events and let school spirit grow by putting together teams that win.

> Develop rivalries with other schools that create storylines and unforgettable game experiences.

> Encourage passion and invest in athletics throughout the entire school.