By Cecil Wright, Sports Columnist
Alex Stephen and I first were introduced back in 2001, his first year as a member of the Saint Francis Xavier basketball team. At that time, X was in the middle of an incredible run of success under the legendary coach, Steve Konchalski. The team had just captured what was then known as the CIAU national championship in Halifax the previous year led by the silky-smooth Fred Perry Jr, and the expectations were high in Antigonish.
However, Alex was not a player who was notable for filling the stat sheet. He was the teammate who was out there sacrificing his body by taking a charge right in the chest. By coming over from the weak side and surprising an unsuspecting opponent with a clean block in support of a beaten fellow X-man. He’d emphatically snare a contested rebound or dive for a loose ball skinning both knees in the process, all while displaying a joy for the game that was infectious.
He was so energetically enthusiastic about praising his fellow players after they made a nice play, well…I simply became a fan of his style of play. He also did it all by wearing an ever-present smile, deceiving opposing big men into thinking he was just happy to be there, which he was thrilled at the notion, however, he was far from a pushover which he proved time and again for Coach K.
As the seasons passed, we got more familiar. He would be the first player to greet me when we arrived at the gymnasium with that smile. I would look forward to games involving X knowing that in addition to his teammates that I already knew and coached myself like Perry and Jordan Croucher, I would have a few moments to catch up with Alex.
Now, some twenty years later, we recently got an opportunity to re-connect, but not on the hardcourt. These days, you’ll find Alex and his lovely wife, Heather, as the proprietors of a popular coffee shop at 833 Sackville Drive known as Apartment 3 Espresso Bar.
When asked about the name, Alex explained that when he and Heather lived in Toronto, they lived in a row house that was Apartment #3. They very much enjoyed their experience there which included great times with friends, so when they decided to open their own establishment, it was easy to settle on the name.
Heather has her own unique sports achievement as a former nationally carded athlete, however, not in a sport which may attract enormous numbers like the major team sports. She is a former member of Team Canada’s World Cup Bobsleigh team.
She says “It’s a sport that now provides great opportunities for track athletes. They’re being recruited and learning the skills and technique required to become proficient in the sport.” Heather went on to say that she “enjoyed the experience even though I sustained an injury which prevented me from enjoying my third, and final year, to the max. Earning a spot on the World Cup team, however, was so exciting. Representing Canada, even though it was not during an Olympic year, was an enormous thrill in itself.”
After they married, they decided to take a trip to Nova Scotia where Alex still had many friends from his university days in Antigonish, and Heather, who is from Edmonton, fell for the East Coast. They decided to re-locate and settled within the Sackville community where they’ve been for three years and are still loving every minute of it.
Alex says “It’s everything we’ve hoped for and more. We’ve made great friends here in Sackville and we love the trails, rivers, and lakes in the area. It’s so beautiful and the culture of Sackville is growing. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be part of it.”
In addition to his duties at Apartment 3, Alex is also the frontman for a Christian band named “Life Support” and adds that “We’re still together but the last few years have been extremely challenging due to Covid-19. We’ve had some web-related appearances, but the reality is it’s not the same as performing live and feeding off the energy of the audience, but we hope to hit the stage again in the near future.”
I recommend this band as well as the coffee, atmosphere, and the owners of Apartment 3. Drop by and see for yourself how the Stephens have dropped a jewel into the Sackville community.