Boxing club in the Big Time

Red Deer fans created a raucous background for a live TSN Sportscentre broadcast from the Collicutt Centre parking lot on Monday.

Red Deer Boxing Club members Drew Atkins

Red Deer fans created a raucous background for a live TSN Sportscentre broadcast from the Collicutt Centre parking lot on Monday.

TSN anchors Darren Dutchyshen and Jennifer Hedger were nearly drowned out by spontaneous shrieks and cheers from the crowd every time they mentioned this city in the introduction to their 4 p.m. broadcast. Their conversation sounded like this:

Hedger: The skies are so blue out here in Re(shriek, cheer)er.

Dutchyshen: The reason we came to Re(cheer, shriek)er is not only because this is a great city, but because of the Red Deer Boxing Club (more cheers, shrieks . . . )

Red Deer was one of only 10 cities across Canada, including Dauphin, Man, Watrous, Sask., Kingston, Ont. and Kaslo, B.C. to get TSN to broadcast its 4 p.m. show live from their city.

“It makes you feel we’re in the big time,” said Robert Friss, who came down to watch the show’s broadcast with his three children.

They were among 250 people who ate hotdogs, participated in boxing demonstrations, got autographs from sports celebrities, such as international flyweight boxing champ Scotty “Bulldog” Olson, and tried their hand at football throws at the Edmonton Eskimos booth.

“This is pretty awesome. It puts Red Deer on the map,” said Lorna LaGrange, who stopped to take part in the festivities while driving passed the Collicutt Centre with her husband, Bob.

The Piper Creek Optimists Club entered a TSN on-line voting competition to win $25,000 from Kraft Canada for improvements to a local non-profit recreational facility.

After interviewing many Red Deer sporting groups, the Optimists opted to make the Red Deer Boxing Club the subject of their prize-winning 500-word essay, which received 55,000 on-line votes in a 24-hour period.

“They were chosen because they needed a total refresh,” said Optimist Glenn Devereaux, who explained the boxing club was in need of “pretty much everything.”

The group that was formed 22 years ago operates out of a leased downtown site at 4916 Ross St. President Rob Carswell said infrastructure repairs are needed to the facility — so is a new ring, rubber mats and equipment for the club’s 80 members, who range in age from eight to adult.

He praised the Optimists, TSN and Kraft Canada for giving his organization this amazing opportunity.

“It’s unbelievable,” said the club’s past registrar, Cheryl Samuel. “It’s like pennies from heaven.”

Besides getting money for “desperately needed” renovations, the TSN publicity won’t hurt club prospects, she added. “I would suggest boxing registrations will be up quite a bit after this.”

“This is something for everyone to celebrate,” said Carswell, whose members were giving demonstrations to anyone wanting a primer in the sport.

Samuel likes to explain to skeptics that amateur boxing results in few injuries. “When people ask me ‘how can you stand there and watch your son box, I tell them my other son is a hockey player . . .

“In boxing, no one is hit from behind, there’s a doctor at ring-side, and no one ever get into the ring unless they are physically and mentally prepared.”

Club member Cameron O’Connell, a five-time Western Canadian champion and a bronze medalist at the 2008 Canadian Nationals/ Olympic Qualifiers, told a TSN interviewer that boxing gave him direction as a teenager. “If someone is a troubled youth, it gives them a purpose.”

He said he learned focus and intensity, which are beneficial for any sport.

Eleven-year-old Travis Salomons and his friend Josiah Deck attended the festivities around Monday’s TSN broadcast to gather autographs from sporting celebrities and to have fun.

Tayler Sankovic, 18, and Riley McCaig, 19, attended to cheer on the boxing club.

How about the attractive TSN anchor Hedger, who was broadcasting from an elevated stage?

“We’re here for her too,” said a smiling McCaig.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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