Sunday, September 25, 2016


Senators Preparing for 2017-2018


Whether or not the hockey faithful in the Quinte area will subscribe to this move is anybody's guess. It will be good for the city. There are always spinoffs from such a venture. But there is a little cloud hanging over the move. The Senators are preparing to move downtown, in Ottawa in the not-too-distant future. That would leave their current location free for the Baby Senators. The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoy having bot the NHL and AHL teams in the same city, for obvious reasons.Would that happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

The city should certainly try to get a long-term commitment out of the Senators. That would help smooth the feathers of those who are opposed to paying for the renovations at the Yardmen.

"The Ottawa Senators have called a news conference for Monday morning at 11 o’clock at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre. A Press Release states the NHL team and the City of Belleville will make a signifcant hockey announcement. Dignitaries will include Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Senators Assistant General Manager Randy Lee as well Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher.
The Senators American Hockey League affiliate has been located in Binghamton New York since 2002," as reported by Quinte News.

Furthermore, it was reported that, "Belleville Council will meet in open session tomorrow morning at 8 to consider a 20 million dollar upgrade to the 39 year old Yardmen Arena. The most significant changes include reducing the ice surface from Olympic size (200×100) to a regulation NHL size of 200 x 85 and adding 1400 seats to bring the total to 4200." 

The relocation of the Belleville Bulls to Hamilton last season was a real kick in the head to the hockey public in the city. It came completely by surprise, and was obviously done for financial gain.

There are many truly bitter fans in the city who will have to be coaxed back to the Yardmen.

Personally, I am excited by the prospect. AHL hockey is a small step below the NHL. That just happens to be the best hockey league in the world. Quite often, players are called up to the NHL from AHL affiliates. Without question, this will be the best hockey ever played on a weekly basis in the city of Belleville.

Agreed, the McFarlands' brand of hockey was superb. but there was an American League  when the Macs played, and it was also superior hockey.

I can't wait for the puck to drop.

Where: Main foyer of the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre, 265 Cannifton Rd., Belleville, Ont., K8N 4V8.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Late Summer Hockey 2016  

It is always a bit of a shock to see the Boys of Winter on the ice pads when there are still people flocking to our beaches; however, that is exactly the case now as many leagues are now underway, and the World Cup is in full swing in Toronto.

Some of the pundits have labeled this the “Money Cup”. Shame on them! Do you really believe there are a few coins involved? I believe you can count on that. Big Time. Promotions, television revenue, product sales. I cannot imagine anyone even thinking about purchasing a “Team North America” jersey. But they will do it, and in big numbers.

There have been a few games played up to this point in the tournament. If you happen to think that you know the names of the teams that will participate in the final series, I take my hat off to you. From my perspective right now, it is a dog’s breakfast. The Russians were written off a couple of days ago. Then they scored four goals in the second period to defeat the ‘Wonder Kids” with the “NA” on their ugly jerseys. That changed everything.

It is certainly a wonderful showcase for the new kids on the block. I am not alone when I say that I believe Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game today. His performance last year in the Stanley Cup was remarkable. He has even stepped it up a notch, in this tournament, thus far. Mind you, he has had some time to recharge, and gather some energy after a tough season.

You will recall that he spent some time in “quiet rooms” last season. That’s the term they use when a player gets bonked on the head, usually when he is run into the boards from behind. It is one of the most gutless things a player can do on the ice, and yet some players continue to play that way. The management of the Florida Panthers is now collectively holding their breath as their star defenceman, Aaron Ekblad, is being watched for a potential concussion. They call it “an upper-body’ injury. I am certain all precautions will be taken before he hits the ice again.

All of the best players in the world are in Toronto. So….the best players from the best game. For Leaf fans, it is an exciting time. Their coach, and Team Canada’s coach Mike Babcock, is almost smiling. Their number one draft pick Auston Matthews will fit nicely into the plans for the upcoming season. But in a year or two, when they decide to hold another World Cup, Matthews will be wearing a jersey with USA on the front. That will not be popular. Can you hear that chant? “USA, USA.”  Certainly a moral dilemma.

The game tonight will be most important. Coach Tortorella knows that the games between Canada and the U.S. are battles. This one will be no exception. The American team has emerged, over the years, as the prime opposition for the Canucks. Have the Americans played well thus far? Not according to Brett Hull. He said that he would have scored a hat trick in the first game!

Some things never change!!

September 20, 2016  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


A Very Long Struggle 2016

There are four teams in the American League East Division that are virtually deadlocked as we approach the final weeks of the season. Following tonight’s game, the Toronto Blue Jays head west to take on the Los Angeles Angels and the  Seattle Mariners for their last western road trip of the season. Traditionally, western road trips have never been too kind to the Jays. They finish up the season with three games in Boston.

From here on in, there will be a lot of scoreboard watching for the Blue Jay Nation. Of course the team must do well. But its fate also lies in the hands of the Red Sox, the Orioles, and the New York Yankees.

Last Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays were at the Rogers Centre. In these situations, the Rays could be classified as “spoilers”. They cannot win any championships this year. But they know they must take the field, they have to dig in at home plate to face the pitching. There is always pride on the line. There are quite a few younger players looking for jobs next year, and they are showcasing their talents. And yes, there are contracts to be signed!

Jose Bautista hammered his first home run this month. We are almost half way through September, and he has rarely experienced such a drought. Another Jay, Josh Donaldson, is having his troubles at the plate. He has gone hitless several games. As they say, he can’t buy a hit. Anything he crushes ends up in a glove. Sharp ground balls cannot find gaps in the infield, and get registered as routine outs. Such is the nature of the game.

With all opponents in the division, no lead is safe. The Jays went ahead near the end of the game, with a slight amount of breathing room. Evan Longoria and Brad Miller smacked back-to-back home runs to silence the patrons right smartly. A few key strikeouts, and a fine catch by Michael Saunders snuffed out any hope for the Rays. Unfortunately, the Red Sox knocked off the Orioles to stay two games ahead of the Jays.

David Ortiz homered for the Red Sox Monday night. He had moved ahead of Jimmy Foxx on the all time list with that dinger in Toronto, and now is tied with Mickey Mantle. Ortiz is in his final year of major league baseball, and has a couple of weeks to move ahead of Mantle. I would suggest that he will have no trouble entering the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in five years.

Although the Minnesota Twins have had a dismal season, second baseman Brian Dozier has not been affected by the malaise. He hit his 40th round tripper this week to put him in select company. The only other Twin to hit that many home runs in a season is Harmon Killebrew, who did it several times. Killebrew entered the Hall of Fame in 2000, and stands 11th on the all time home run list, just below Babe Ruth.

It will be an interesting, perhaps nerve-wracking couple of weeks for the Jays and their fans. September baseball, with all the trimmings. Pass the mustard!

September 13, 2016.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Labour Day 2016

Last week, I gave you an update on the Canadian Football League. I trust you enjoyed the annual Labour Day Classics, in both the East and the West. For those of you more attracted to the American game, the NFL breaks camp this week and gets the season underway. They will battle until the Super Bowl next January.

Patriots’ fans will have to wait four weeks for the return of their quarterback Tom Brady. He was given a brief suspension with regard to the amount of air in the footballs used in an AFC Championship game. It became yet another occasion when lawyers received buckets of money.

Tennis fans are following the U. S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. All Canadians have been eliminated this year. Genie Bouchard had nasty blisters that affected her game. Milos Raonic could not get his first serves into the court, and that is his bread and butter.

For the next month, most of our attention will be focused on Canada’s only Major League baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I do hope you are neither surprised nor disappointed with their current play. I have warned you several times in this column not to expect this year’s edition of the Jays to run away with the pennant. It will be a struggle to the end. Some say that now is the time that the games really count. I advised that the games count just as much in April as they do in September.

For the Jays to be successful, they must get good pitching, both from their starters and their relievers. That is not rocket science; however, along with good pitching efforts there must be run production. Lately, that has been a weakness for the Jays. There are no Blue Jay starters currently batting above the .300 mark. They do have their good power hitters, but run production increases when there are men on base for the sluggers.

The Jays have been fortunate with some of their mid-season acquisitions. Jason Grilli brings good emotion and good pitching to the mound almost every time he gets the call in the bullpen. But some of the starters are becoming suspect, and struggle to finish five innings. Dickey, Stroman, Estrada, Happ, and Sanchez must deliver the goods in order for the Jays to get into the post season.

The Jays will rely heavily on Francisco Liriano, if Brett Cecil continues to falter. Melvin Upton Jr. is beginning to find his stride, finally, after coming over from the Padres.

They will battle the Red Sox, and the Orioles, and possibly the Yankees, who are getting stellar play from their rookies and call-ups. For the month of September, every team is allowed to increase the roster to 40 players from 25. There are many reasons that the game allows this, primarily for the bottom feeders to have a look at their younger players, under the Major League spotlight.

Rest assured, it will go down to the wire!!!

James Hurst

September 5, 2016. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Breakfast of Champions: The CFL 2016

Most of the teams in the CFL have played half their games at this point in the season. As is often the case, the teams from the West Division have done a little better than the teams in the East.

Calgary Stampeders have lost just once in the nine games thus far. The British Columbia Lions are in second place in the West, with three losses. It has been a tough season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, with just one win. Last Friday night, they lost to the Edmonton Eskimos, by the close score of 33-25.

Of the four teams in the East Division, three have four wins. Montreal sits in the basement, but with three wins. As is always the case with the CFL, things can change dramatically. One of the prime reasons is because of the cuts in the National Football League.

The NFL is in the throes of completing its pre season contests, and there are exceptional players that just don’t fit with certain teams. Many of those players know about the CFL. They are competitive, and want to play the game. Hence, they fly north in hopes that they can catch on with a team before rosters are finalized. The CFL scouts are scouring the practice fields of the NFL in hopes that they can pick up a few key players.

The Lions head to Toronto this week to play the Argos. Toronto has moved to BMO Field from the cavernous Rogers Centre, which was always unsuitable for football. It was fine for Grey Cup games, but not for regular season games. Surprisingly, there are plenty of seats available for the Argo games. I thought the place would sell out quickly, as is the case in Ottawa.

The REDBLACKS play in Montreal on Thursday night. You will find the Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris on the front of the Sugar Crisp box, chased by The Alouettes’ Nicolas Boulay. There are five other boxes in the series, with quarterbacks on each one. Bo-Levi Mitchell is at the helm for the Stampeders, pursued by Marcus Howard of the Eskimos.

The Tiger Cats’ Zach Collaros is featured with the Argos Jason Vega, a preview of the annual Labour Day game to be held in Hamilton this year.

There is also a contest that will put you in great seats at the Grey Cup Game:  air fare, accommodation, dinner at The Keg, jerseys, and some pocket money.

Shreddies are on my diet, so I will keep an eye on Darian Durant from the Roughriders and Joshua Bell from the Stamps, as I chomp down on my breakfast.

On November 27, we will discover who, in fact, will be able to start the day with his own box as the “Breakfast of Champions!”

August 30, 2016     

Monday, August 22, 2016


The Next Olympic Games


Rio 2016 emblem 

For many years, I have been a strong advocate for the Olympic Games. Great memories flash through my mind when I reflect on past Games. The Games became an important impetus for learning in my classroom. A wonderful activity used to study geography, sport, culture, and many other subjects.

I will continue to follow many Olympic activities, to my dying days. I will follow the careers of great athletes. But I have had it with the extravagance of the games, and the cost. And the politics, and the cheating, and the drug factor, and all of the other negatives about the Games.


Before they ever raised the Olympic flag, and uttered the Olympic oath, there were serious doubts raised about the Games. Water activities were to take place in cesspools, some Olympic fat cats were accused of lining their pockets. Russian athletes were banned from the Games. Nations threatened to pull out for political reasons. What else is new?

The Brazilian authorities managed to get to the closing ceremonies without terrible repercussions. Apparently, thievery was rampant. Drunken American athletes had to apologize for staging silly behaviour. Coaches in a circled-ring event went bonkers after a result was announced, and stripped to their jockey shorts, to protest the decision.

With all of that in mind, I have a few suggestions in mind to help with the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. You are welcome to disagree.

All activities involving horses and boats are eliminated. Can you imagine how much money governments would save with that suggestion? No more hay burners in the dressage ring.

All team events are no longer welcome: basketball, (always a joke), volleyball, handball, water polo, soccer, tennis…it is a long list. One exception, naturally---beach volleyball. I knew you’d agree. Team sports have their own individual world championships, and do not need the Olympics to highlight their sport.

Most judged events will be history, especially boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, judo, gymnastics, and synchronized swimming. There will be one diving event, off the tower, for men and women. Just for fun, the tower will be 30 metres high…no, make that fifty. Like the Mexican cliffs or the mountain at Canada’s Wonderland.


That will leave us very few events: Archery-hit the target, you win. Period; athletics, with lots of running, jumping, and hurling of various objects; swimming, with the elimination of several unnecessary races; pentathlon and triathlon, and the marathon, of course, to determine the best athletes in the world.

I have even contemplated events for the next Winter Olympic Games, and the same conditions apply: no team sports, (we don’t need the Olympics, we have the Stanley Cup). Include: alpine skiing, ski jumping, short track speed skating, (with body checking permitted). That’s it! I know you will miss the skeleton events.

Kudos to all the Olympic champions. Good luck to the International Olympic Committee as they begin to disassemble the Games, according to my specifications. 

April 22, 2016.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Take Me Out To The Ball Game 2016

The refrain from that great song can be heard across North America on most sunny weekend days, throughout the summer.

A couple of weeks ago, Hunter whispered to his grandmother that he would like to go to a Blue Jays game. He gets to go to at least one game a year, and it is an exciting day for him. There are baseball traditions, and he holds steadfast to those traditions.

He loves to sit behind the bullpen. In Toronto, at the Rogers Centre, the bullpens are located behind the outfield fences. He prefers to sit behind the opponents’ bullpen, located behind the right field fence. Another bonus to that seating arrangement is that he can watch Jose Bautista when the Blue Jays are in the field. Yes, that is, unless Jose is in sick bay. He has had difficulties this year, and was not playing the day we went to the game.

I received a note from my friend Eric Chapman after I posted the photograph of Hunter and me, and he reiterated my feelings about taking family to the game. He was at the same game with his son Chris, and grandsons Adanai, Nate and Carter.

There are some baseball traditions not to be trifled with: hot dogs, (at least one jumbo dog, maybe two!), Cracker Jacks, cold beverage, and a keen eye on the catcher in the bullpen. Hunter often is the catcher on his team in Belleville, and he has always enjoyed the bullpen experience. They scurry around when the manager puts the call into the bullpen to get a pitcher ready when necessary.

We both love to hear the smack of the ball into the catcher’s mitt-“The Decker”- when the pitcher begins to throw smoke. He notices the arm movements the pitches uses to indicate to the bullpen catcher that he is throwing pitches that will move to one side or the other at the plate.

Occasionally, he pays attention to the game. He likes to sit in the first couple of rows in section 105 so that he can see the big scoreboard as well. He likes to see the count, and follow each “at bat” carefully. He knows the ebb and flow of the game, and the scoreboard helps to keep the focus. He likes all of the little games played with the fans between the innings, all part of the modern game.

Some of those “new traditions” are barely tolerable, to my eyes. On one occasion, I watched Blue Jay players on the big screen doing lip synching! Likely a stretch for Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. I can just hear Casey Stengel when he might have been approached with that suggestion. Every player on the Jays comes to the plate, accompanied by his own special song. Casey would have vetoed that as well.

But it is all part of today’s game, and it is enjoyed by the fans. Toronto leads the Major Leagues in attendance, with good reason. They are at the top, or near the top of the American League East standings. They will be in that position for the rest of the season. But there are tickets available for their games.|

The icing on the cake for Hunter comes at the end of the game, when the pitchers from the bullpen head to the clubhouse. Usually the catcher picks up a ball or two and tosses them to kids leaning over the rail. Hunter has a couple of them. They are treasures!

James Hurst

August 14, 2016.    

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