Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Malcolm Subban- The Middle One
There are many sports fans in the Quinte area who keep a close watch on former Belleville Bulls. For only one game in the 2009-2010 season, and for only thirteen minutes, we had a look at Malcolm Subban.
The following year, and for three years after that, Malcolm Subban was a regular in the Belleville goal. Mind you, we had previously seen his brother on many occasions. He now plays for the Nashville Predators, following a stint with the Montreal Canadiens. He calls himself “PK”.
And then we got to host their younger brother, Jordan, in Belleville. Shortly thereafter, the plug was pulled on the Belleville Bulls, and they were relocated to Hamilton. Starting in November, there will be another brand of exciting hockey at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, with the arrival of the Senators. But that is another story, for a future column.
A couple of weeks ago, Malcolm received a piece of good news. He had been picked up on waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights. Mind you, they had an excellent goaltender because they had selected the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury, who had been unprotected when the Golden Knights selected team members. Last Friday night, Fleury received a concussion in a game against the Red Wings.
Subban got the call to start on Sunday. He was directed to start against the team that had originally drafted him, the Boston Bruins. Subban had been with the Bruins organization for four seasons, but had only played in two games for the Bruins. He had played 127 games for the Providence Bruins. You might almost think he might have had something to prove to the Bruins' management.
On Sunday night, the Golden Knights defeated the Bruins 3-1. The Bruins' lone marker was scored with just 30 seconds left in the third period, a lucky goal that went in off the Vegas defender. The Knights had an empty net goal at the end of the game. The Knights have an excellent record for a new team in the league. Goaltending has played an important part.
Naturally, Subban was thrilled after his first NHL victory. He emphasized the importance of focus in NHL games. But he also played really well, cutting down angles, sneaking up to the edge of the crease for shots from the blueline. He did not leave any sloppy rebounds for easy goals. He earned the first star for the game.
He also commented, “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to play here.” Having chatted with Malcolm a few times when he was with the Bulls, that is very typical. He is a modest, unassuming, relatively quiet person. Somewhat different from his brother!
I am certain that Malcolm would cherish the opportunity to stay with the parent club. That remains to be seen. In the meantime, with a few games like last Sunday's game, he will remain anNHLer.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
October-A Great Time for Sports Fans!!
Toronto Blue Jay fans are now recovering after a disappointing season. Lockers have been cleaned, meetings held, and next year's starting lineup will be a mystery for some time to come.
And now, the same applies to the Boston Red Sox. They lost their game yesterday against the Houston Astros. That ended the Divisional Series with the Astros winning three games to one. Dustin Pedroia grounded out to Jose Altuve for the final out to seal the deal.
Both teams relied on the ace starting pitchers to get the job done. The Red Sox called Chris Sele in from the bullpen, and the Astros gave the nod to Justin Verlander as the game wore on. Both pitched effectively, but Sale got touched up for a home run by Bregman to ruin his day.
David Price, Pre Season.
It was the first post-season series win for the Astros since 2005, and they now proceed to the American league Championship Series, which starts this Friday. They will face the Yankees, or the Cleveland Indians.
Altuve continues to show that he is a cut above. Standing at 5 feet, 6 inches, he is dwarfted by most Major League Baseball players. Over the last few seasons, he has shown that he is one of the best second baseman in the game today, and he continues to pave his way to Cooperstown. In the past four seasons, he has had more than 200 hits, a milestone. He is now a perennial all star. He has won Gold Gloves, and has been a Silver Slugger. He has won several batting titles in the last few years, while also leading the league in stolen bases.
Signed as a free agent by the Astros in 2007, when he was 17, he made his debut in 2011. The Venezuelan native brings a magic to the game that is worth the price of admission.
The Yankees dropped their first two games against the Cleveland Indians, but caught a break in their first game. Edwin Encarnacion has been unable to play due to a sore ankle. The Tribe misses his bat in the lineup. They win be back at it on Wednesday night, with Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees, and Kluber for the Indians. Winner moves on, loser goes home.
All of this leads to the World Series which will start in a week or so. There is always talk that there is a lack of interest in baseball today. I investigated the purchase of a ticket for one of the games at Yankee Stadium. Almost $ 200 in American funds, (plus transaction fees, of course) to sit in the grandstand, so far away that even Aaron Judge could not hit one to me.
I read this morning that former NFL great Y. A. Tittle passed away. He was a popular name when we played sandlot football on the campus at Belleville Collegiate in the early sixties. He was a great quarterback, especially for the New York Giants.
And yes, Leaf fans have unfurled their flags, with good reason. They have a strong young team, a fine coach, and should do well this year. A step at a time.
October 10, 2017.
-- James Hurst 613.399.2278 sportslices.blogspot.com
By the time that this newspaper gets into your hands, the Toronto Blue Jays are expected to jettison Jose Bautista from their roster. It is all a matter of dollars and cents, There is also a little bit of...”Well, what have you done for us lately?” thrown into the equation.
Admittedly, Bautista has not had a great season for the Jays. There are always many factors that contribute to a lack of success for any athlete. Jose is getting a little long in the tooth, now 37 years old. But he is in remarkable physical condition, and he has worked extremely hard the past several years to keep himself in the game. He is forever bending and stretching, curling and twitching, in order to maintain his physical status. Too often do we see older players pulling up lame on routine ground balls.
He works very hard. Most of the discussions from the pundits from Toronto indicate that he does not shy away from game preparation. In that regard, I am reminded of Jaromir Jagr. Jagr spent many hours before games with incredible physical workouts. Old guys like he and Jose know that there are plenty of young bucks on the sidelines ready to take their place.
They know that the younger players are often bigger, stronger, faster, and likely more fit. It just drives the older guys to work that much harder. But with all athletes, in all games, there comes a point of diminishing returns. Quite often there are teams which need these older athletes, for a variety of reasons.
One of the reasons I hear is that “They are good in the clubhouse”. That is now always the case. There are older players who have always been jerks their entire careers, and they likely won't change. There are others who have difficulty communicating, either because of their nature, or because they do not have a strong command of one of baseball's languages. That could be English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, or a few others.
Several years ago, baseball opened up the doors for older athletes with strong batting skills. The American League adopted the “Designated Hitter”. Teams could hire these big boppers to stride to the plate, whack the cover off the ball, and then return to the dugout. They do not have to catch flies, field grounders, nor run into fences chasing foul balls. They are paid to hit, especially with power. No such role exists for hockey players. Consequently, no one has picked up Jagr, at this point in time. He still remains as one of the top five players of all time, truly phenomenal.
I was most impressed with the way the Toronto fans expressed their feelings toward Bautista during his final series against the Yankees. He played hard the entire series, batting well, chasing balls in the outfield. He still has the skills.
But the powers that be have indicated that they do not wish to bring him back next year. It would be an expensive venture for the team. I believe I heard the approximate number of $17 000 000. If he gets picked up by another team, he may be able to make between 2 and 5 million dollars, That is just a wild guess.
I am sure the team consulted with him before the season, and asked him about doing something similar to Big Papi's sunset tour last year. I can see Bautista indicating he would have no part of that. Even in his last on=field interview in Toronto, he hinted that he would like to be playing, possibly in Toronto.
He expressed his feeling that he loved the city. All players do that when they are being shuttled out the door. Jose sounded more genuine than many of the others. He has always been a class act, a great player, and should be remembered as one of the top Blue Jay players in the short history of the team.
Mucha suerte, Jose.
October 2, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Notes From Mr. Wilson's Basement-Part Two
Last week I featured one-third of the famous Kid Line that helped put hockey on the map in Toronto, It was in the early 1930s, and the Leafs were in the process of moving into Maple Leaf Gardens. It was to become a crowning achievement for Leafs owner, Conn Smythe.
Harvey “Busher” Jackson also played on that famous line. His nephew was on hand to tell us about his uncle, and about his father Art, who also played in the NHL. He talked about his uncle with an air of reverence. “Busher's” career was certainly chaotic. All in all, he did earn a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with his teammates.
He told the audience in the basement that his uncle wore number 18 for the Bruins. With that, he proceeded to dig into a plastic bag, and displayed his uncle's jersey, and his father's as well. Art's dad told his son that no one in the NHL possessed a backhand shot as hard as Busher. He also said the Busher was “as tough as nails”.
The Jacksons had a summer place in Bobcageon. As was often the case in those days, Busher would have the entire hockey team head north to his town to play a little softball in the summer. In the winter, the boys often skated in Toronto on the Grenadier Pond.
Busher had a tough time following his hockey career. To put it gently, he lived in the fast lane while playing, saving very little for a rainy day. There is even a story that he could be found selling broken Leafs sticks to fans outside the Gardens to get a little pocket money. When the time came for the committee to induct him into the Hall of Fame, Conn Smythe blocked his nomination. Five years after his death, Jackson was inducted into the Hall. Smythe resigned the next day.
Joe Primeau was the third member of the Kid Line. His granddaughter was on hand to share tidbits from his life. Primeau was a classy guy, and was considered to be the “brains” of the line. In his first five years on the line, he led the NHL in assists three times. Primeau retired from hockey in 1936, when he was just 30 years old. He determined that he could be more successful with his business interests off the ice. But once he had those businesses up and running smoothly, he got back into the game, coaching. Over the next ten years, his teams won the Memorial Cup, the Allan Cup, and the Stanley Cup. He was the last surviving member of the Kid Line.
Another participant that evening was Richard Levinsky, son of Alex Levinsky. Levinsky played for the Leafs in the 1930s, with “Hap” Day as his defence partner. He was later traded to Chicago, and was a popular player with some of the well known characters in the city at that time: ”Bugs” Segal, and Meyer Lansky, in particular. Levinsky was Jewish, as were those gentlemen. When Levinsky was traded from Chicago, they were furious. In their typically suggestive way, they asked Levinsky if he wanted them “to take the coach for a short car ride”.
Terry Clancy was on hand to talk about his father, the legendary “King” Clancy. He told the group his father never talked about his games, from a personal standpoint. As a coach and observer later in life, he realized that players continued to improve each year. Terry was a fine player in his own right, playing for Canada in the 1964 Olympics in Austria.
“King” retired in the 36-37 season, then went on to referee in the NHL for 15 seasons. He returned to coaching, and was behind the bench 1n 1967 when the Leafs won the Cup,
September 26, 2017
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Notes from Mr. Wilson's Basement
Notes From Mr. Wilson's Basement
A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend a hockey function in Toronto. It took place in a basement in a very nice part of town, but it was no ordinary basement. For hockey memorabilia fans, particularly Leaf fans, it was an extraordinary cellar.
Mike Wilson used almost one thousand square feet of space to display his collection. Since that time, he has sold the bulk of the collection to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa. Wilson spent many years amassing the material. Each item that he obtained had a history, sometimes an emotional attachment. He wanted to share his knowledge of the game, keeping the history alive. With that in mind, he often hosted different groups to his basement. A series of “Hot Stove League” chats.
The evening I attended was devoted to hockey history from the early 1930s. The Toronto Marlboroughs won the Memorial Cup at that time, and the Leafs won the Stanley Cup a short time later. Descendants of the players were on hand to share a memory or two of their famous relatives. I was invited to the event by Pete Conacher, who played for the Belleville McFarlands when they won the World Championship.
Pete, in a recent photo in Mr. Wilson's Basement
Pete represented arguably the most famous family in Toronto sports history. His dad was Charlie. His uncle was Lionel. His cousin was Murray Henderson, whom Pete calls the “unsung hero of the Conacher family”. His Uncle Roy played several years in the NHL. Then there are several other grandsons and nephews who played at higher levels of hockey.
Mike Wilson, in his basement
Pete told the group assembled that his father “never talked about the games” when he got home form the Gardens. His dad played on one of the first lines in hockey to receive a nickname-the Kid Line. Other players on that line were Joe Primeau, and Harvey “Busher” Jackson. Pete remembered that his dad was not a fan of the “dump the puck” style of hockey. His dad said that it slowed the game down to the extent that “they could have played the game in galoshes”.
Pete got called up to the Black Hawks from his Junior team in Guelph. His Uncle Roy was retiring that season, and Pete got a chance to skate with him. Pete played on a line with Bill Mosienko and Jim McFadden, against the leafs. He remembered that the Hawks won, 1-0. Pete was credited with an assist on the goal. He maintains that he did not touch the puck.
Charlie's son Brad took the floor for a few questions and answers. He said that he followed the game listening to Foster Hewitt. Naturally, the Leafs were revered by most Torontonians. That reverence went back to those early 1930s days, when the Kid Line dominated play, and won Stanley Cups. Remember?
Pete was also asked about Nicholson Island, of all things. He told the group that his dad sent their dog down to the island to be trained. His Uncle Lionel often went to the island to hunt pheasant. There is a strong Toronto Maple Leafs connection to the island, which I will research in days to come.
Mike Wilson reported that the last of the items he sold left his place about a month ago. But he has an agreement with the Museum, indicating that he has “curatorial control, naming rights, and an emphasis on preserving and displaying his collection's history”.
September 18, 2017.
Friday, September 15, 2017
Jose Abreu-White Sox
As I get older, I tend not to focus on the negative aspects of life. I know they are out there. It is easier to pay more attention to sport, and the good things about it.
Jose Abreu has a lot on his mind, nowadays. He was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, roughly translated as “One Hundred Fires”. It lies on the south coast of Cuba, roughly one hundred miles south of Havana, as the crow flies. You may have seen footage of the disaster brought by Hurricane Irma on the north coast of Cuba in the past few days.
Most of the Caribbean Islands have been ravaged by the storm, some islands completely flattened. As I write, Irma is making her way through northern Florida, and into other southern states. I have seen estimates of hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. I have no idea how much that would be. Quite a bit, I assume.
So ...Abreu is playing baseball for the White Sox. He is a very talented player. He was the “Rookie of the Year” for the American League in his first season, 2014. After his third season with the White Sox, he joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to hit 25 home runs, 175 hits, and 100 runs- batted-in in that time span.
His career batting average is .300, and he has 30 home runs so far this season.
While playing against the San Francisco Giants recently, Abreu accomplished a rare feat. In baseball jargon, he hit “for the cycle”. It means that he had a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in one game. It was the way he accomplished the cycle that made it remarkable.
In his first three plate appearances, he had banged out a home run, a double, and a single. When he came to the plate for the fourth time, the crowd began to stir. Abreu dug in at the plate, and fouled the first pitch off his shin. Down he went, and the trainer rushed out to check on him. He waved off all assistance. He had something else in mind, as did the fans. He smacked the next pitch into the gap belween the outfielders in right field. He peeked over his shoulder as he rounded second base.
He slid safely into third base, reording his first “cycle”. A remarkable feat, considering the fact that he likely had a lot on his mind. Only five other White Sox have hit for the cycle, the last one seventeen years ago. Ray Shalk, Jack Brohamer, Carlton Fisk, Chris Singleton and Jose Valentin are the only other White Sox to hit for the cycle.
He has returned to Cuba a couple of times, since he defected in 2013. He went on a good will trip with Major League players in 2015, and also last October, when he had a chance to visit with his family in Cienfuegos.
I am sure he will want to go again this year, especially after seeing the damage left by Hurricane Irma. Another fine athlete to keep an eye on for the next few years, as he has the potential to become a super star in the great game of baseball. And he just may have opened the door, slightly mind you, to a place in Cooperstown.
September 12, 2017.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Kevin Bailie-Moving On!
Bailie sees action for Baby Sens; Ottawa wins rookie tourney
Belleville native Kevin Bailie of Queen's University saw action for the Ottawa Sens at the NHL rookie tournament Sunday in Toronto. (Kingston Whig Standard photo)
Ottawa Senators prospects claimed the three-team NHL rookie tournament title with a 4-3 shootout win over the host Toronto Maple Leaf hopefuls Sunday at Richoh Coliseum.
Baby Sens opened the round-robin event Saturday with an 8-2 clobbering of the Montreal Canadiens rookie team.
On Sunday, Belleville product Kevin Bailie of Queen's University saw action in the the Baby Sens net. The rangy goaltender and former Belleville Athlete of the Year signed a tryout form with Ottawa after 2017 NHL draft pick Jordan Hollett was bitten by the flu bug.
Down 3-0, Sens battled back on goals by Andreas Englund and Matteo Gennaro before Filip Chlapik notched the tying tally with less than three minutes to go. Ottawa would go on to win it in the shootout.
Bailie was reportedly a bit shaky in the early going but settled down nicely with a couple of big stops in the second period before being replaced by Marcus Hogberg.
Sens draft pick, forward Drake Batherson from Cape Breton of the QMJHL, was among a group of strong performers up front. He's the son of former Belleville Bulls forward, Norm Batherson.
Thursday, September 07, 2017
Labour Day Classics 2017
Traditionally, Labour Day is the halfway point of the Canadian Football League season. Rosters are pretty well set, players are adjusting to coaching methods, expectations become more realistic. The games that are played on Labour Day have been referred to as “Classics” for many years. Last Monday's game was an exception to the rule.
Mother Nature helped decide the outcome of the game in Hamilton between the Ticats and the Toronto Argonauts. At the start of the game, the winds howled from one end to the other, affecting the coin toss. Winners had to decide whether or not they should: A. Take the end with the wind at their backs. B. Receive the kickoff. C. Defer the decision to the start of the second half. It was a significant factor in the choice.
Once the first quarter was completed, the weather took over the game. The rains came, the winds continued to howl, the lightning flashed. The referee stopped the game and sent the players to their dressing rooms. The fans were advised to leave their seats, and find cover. (One consequence was that the concession stands did a booming business!) The game was put on hold for the weather to clear.
Officials stood around checking their smart phones every thirty seconds, hoping for a reprieve. Two hours later, the second quarter recommenced, and the fans were treated to yet another barn burner of Canadian football. The winds subsided, even changed direction as the game progressed.
When the referee signalled the end of the game, the Ticats emerged victorious, albeit by the skin of their fangs. Joy returned to Steeltown. It was their first victory of the season, after eight losses. Any victory against your arch rival is extra special. There was no love lost in the game, nor will there ever be.
The Ticats now cross the province to face the RED/BLACKS in Ottawa this coming Saturday. The Ottawa squad now sits in first place, due to the Toronto loss. Last Thursday, the knocked off the Montreal Alouettes 32-4 at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal. Also known as McGill Stadium, it is a wonderful place to watch a football game.
Unofficial RED/BLACKS Cheering section
The RED/BLACKS made significant changes after last season. The had won the Grey Cup, but sveral players left the fold, for many reasons. Trevor Harris took the helm at quarterback, and has spent the first half of the season finding a rhythm. He has a wonderful core of receivers to work with, and Moses Madu in the backfield to carry the load, when required. Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Jake Harty, Josh Stangby and Deonte Spencer can pull in short and long passes to keep the opposition busy.
David and Arty with the Cup
The RED/BLACKS host the Ticats on their final game of the season, October 27th. At that point in time, preparations will begin to dress up TD Stadium for the hosting of the Grey Cup. Shania Twain will perform at half time. A perfect combination of Canadian content.
Alice Loves the RED/BLACKS!!
Southside fans will be ready this Saturday, especially with their chant of, “Move those chains!” whenever Ottawa gets a first down. Buckle your seat belt for another half season of CFL football!!
September 5, 2017.