Friday, August 03, 2018

 

Dustin Johnson Wins the Canadian Open

                                                 Credit: PGA Canada


With almost surgical precision, Dustin Johnson carved up the course at Glen Abbey in Oakville to win the RBC Canadian Open. The Canadian Open is the third oldest national open golf championship, established in 1904. The Open, in Great Britain, of course, and the U. S. Open are slightly older.


The tournament moves to Hamilton next year to the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and is scheduled to start in early June in the week before the U. S. Open. This is a significant change for golfing aficionados, as there was always a slight conflict in previous years. As you will recall, The Open took place last week in Scotland, and many of the touring pros skipped the Canadian Open annually, because it took place too soon after The Open.


To his credit, the # 1 player in the world decided to put the Canadian Open on his list for this year. He now has more than one million reasons for thinking that was a good idea.


There is not a lot that phases Johnson as he prowls along a golf course. He entered the final round tied for the lead with three other players: Kevin Tway, Whee Kim, and Byeong Hun An.


Johnson birdied the first two holes. He added four more birdies on the back nine to secure the victory. “It was definitely good to get off to a fast start,” he said after the round. No kidding.


As they say, he is engaged to Wayne Gretzky's daughter, Paulina. With Brantford not too far down the road, the galleries were crowded with Johnson fans all week. He knew they had his back: “It was a lot of fun out there this week. I thought I had a lot of support. It's a lot of fun to play out there for a big crowd”.


Top Canadian in the field was Mackenzie Hughes. He ended up in a tie for 8th place, his best finish thus far this year. He was awarded the Rivermead Cup, which he called “a pretty good consolation prize”.

Several people from this area made the trek to Cooperstown this past weekend. It was reported that more than 50 000 people crowded the village for the Hall of Fame weekend. I have been there several times, but never on the Hall of Fame weekend. With Mariano Rivera likely heading that way next year, I am supposed to accompany the New York Yankee fan that I live with to the ceremonies.


Congratulations to these players entering the Hall this past weekend; Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Tramell, and Jack Morris. Guerrero paid tribute to Montreal, and Morris to Toronto, where they played, respectively.


A final baseball note. Francisco Arcia, a Venezuelan, is 28 years old. He has been playing minor league baseball for twelve years! Last weekend he got a call to play for the Angels. In his first two games, he had ten runs batted in. He is the first player in Angels history to homer in his first two games. He was batting .244 in the Minor League this year. Go figure.

James Hurst
July 30, 2018

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

 

Kennedy Feasby at The Games

7 Port Perry athletes off to London for Ontario Summer Games

Local hockey, rugby, lacrosse players taking part Aug. 2-5

Community 11:59 AM Port Perry Star
Ontario Winter Games



Seven Port Perry athletes will compete at the Ontario Summer Games in London Aug. 2 to 5, including, from left: Kennedy Feasby, Ashley Adams, Emma Woods, Haley Doyle, Kiera Kuebeck, Madeline Laird. Lucy Lee, missing from photo, will also take part. - Photo supplied by Stephen Laird
PORT PERRY — Seven Scugog athletes will be competing at the Ontario Summer Games in London Aug. 2 to 5.

Madeline Laird, Ashley Adams and Haley Doyle will compete in women’s hockey, Kennedy Feasby, Emma Woods and Kiera Kuebeck in rugby and Lucy Lee in field lacrosse.
Laird, 15, started playing hockey with the Port Perry Minor Hockey Association Timbits program at six and now plays AA hockey with the Clarington Flames.
“I am very excited to have earned the chance to participate in the Ontario Summer Games,” she said in a press release. “It means that I will be competing against the best in the province. It will be an experience that I will never forget.”


 

My Apology




As we head into the latter stages of summer in 2018, I apologize for being so lazy, and not keeping my sports blog up to date.

I have been admonished a few times lately about it.

I have been a raggedy ass about a lot of things this summer.

I am awaiting a call to have back surgery. In the meantime, I hobble around, in some pain, and do what I can.

So please forgive my laziness. I am now up to date.

You will not find any “fake news” in my columns.

You should know that by now.

Cheers,



James Hurst
July 25, 2018

 

Home Run Derby-2018




There is an outside chance that some of this column may be written with a slightly Canadian perspective. That makes sense. After all, I am Canadian. I live most of the year in Canada. I rise to the occasion, now and again, and swell with pride in my country.

I watched the Major League Baseball All Star Home Run Derby last night with my grandson. We watched every round, as competitors got knocked out because they did not hit enough home runs. There were no Canadians in the event, so that did not colour my perspective. There was however, one key American clouting balls. His name is Bryce Harper, and he wears his nationality on his sleeve. Figuratively and literally. Seriously. He had a shirt sleeve with the Stars and Stripes on it. He carried a bat with an American logo. He wore a red and white striped head band. (All of the other contestants wore baseball caps.)


Harper was there, playing in his home baseball park, to put a stamp of the activity, to tell the fans that it was his house, and he was going to do something about it. He went about his business carefully, and managed to squeak out victories over his competitors to reach the final. He beat the Braves' Freddie Freenan 13-12 in the first round. He the disposed of Max Muncy of the Dodges by the same score. That put him in the final against the Cubs Kyle Schwarber.


Schwarber batted first, and hit 18 home runs in the allotted time. Such drama! Harper stepped up to the plated to face his pitcher, in this case his father Ross. Ross began to lob pitches towards home plate, hoping that his son could connect on just enough of them to send then fans home smiling. More than 43 000 fans showed up for the event.


Those of us who watched on television were kept abreast of baseball\s latest technology from Stat Cast, presented by AWS. That agency tells us statistically just how far each home run would be, if it were allowed to land on the ground rather than in a fan's mitt in the left field bleachers. This is what we are given: 1. Exit velocity; 2. Launch angle; and 3. Projected distance.


Some numb skull determined that a batter could hit two home runs with a projected distance of more than 440 feet, that he would receive an additional 30 second bonus. Sure, that sounds about right.


So we watched them whale away, all of these big boys from both leagues. There was only one competitor from the American League, Alex Bregman from the Astros. He was sent packing in the first round. The top ten Home Run producers in the American League declined to participate in the event, for a variety of reasons.


The main reason, of course, is that it is an unnatural baseball activity. Not the swinging of the bat, nor the attempt to hit a long ball. But the continued pressure to hit many long ones within a certain time is not natural to the game. Many “Big Boppers” have suffered after performing well in the Home Run Derby. Their contention is that it messes with their swing, and their timing. Not all players feel that way, but most do.


So if you expected to see the big boys from the Yankees, or Edwin Encarncion, the former Blue Jay, or Mike Trout, you were out of luck. Am I saying that the format should be changed. Yes, indeed, Horace.


In the meantime, let Harper have his day in Washington. He is, after all, a free agent at the end of the season. Who knows what uniform he will wear next year?


James Hurst
July 17, 2018.




 

World Cup, Wimbledon, All Star Game


It's a busy sports world out there, well worth a comment or two.


Alexander Ovechkin, a Russian player who won the Stanley Cup this year, took the opportunity to transport the Cup to Mother Russia in support of his team playing in the World Cup. He raised the trophy to the delight of supporters at a Fan Fest. He ate a little caviar from the bowl, and drank several beverages as well. To no avail.


The Croatian team beat the Russians on penalty kicks (aka “penalties”) and moved on the the semi-finals to play the English on Tuesday afternoon. These are exciting times for the English squad, as they have not advanced this far in many years. The last time the English won the World Cup was in 1966, and the star of the final game was a man named Hurst. No relation.


In the other semi-final game, France and Belgium square off. It should lead to an interesting final. I will be looking for President Putin in the stands.


They are coming down to the crunch at Wimbledon this week. Canadians are pleased that Milos Raonic has advanced to the quarter finals, and is scheduled to play the American giant John Isnor. Raonic got to the final a couple of years ago, and lost to Andy Murray. All of these players are very finely tuned athletes, and they can break down physically at any given moment. Raonic had had his share of injuries, primarily because he plays such a tough physical game, No one serves it harder. He puts tremendous stress on all parts of his body as he stretches to return shots to all areas of the court.


Roger Federer is still in the running, having won more consecutive sets than any other player, ever. Rafael Nadal always plays his best tennis on clay, but he will be tough to contend with down the stretch. Djokovic seems to be in form. The truly great players in the game will battle it out this week. Serena Williams was not listed as one of the top ranked players for the tournament, but she is still in the hunt, playing very well.


Baseball players will be hanging up their spikes for a few days as the stars of the game with show their stuff at the annual All Star Game. It will be interesting to see which players will add their names to the list to play in the “Home Run Derby”. Several players pass on that event, even though they qualify. There is a growing feeling that the activity messes with one's swing, and upsets a player's natural hitting style. More often than not, successful players in the event suffer, power-wise, in the second half of the season.


Here are the players to watch for at the event:
American League: First base-Jose Abreu, Second base-Jose Altuve, Third base-Jose Ramirez, Short stop-Manny Machado, Catcher Willson Ramos....Fielders: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge. Designated Hitter-J. D. Martinez.

National League: First base-Freddie Freeman, Second base-Javier Baez, Third Base-Nolan Arenado, Short stop-Brandon Crawford, Catcher-Wilson Contreras...Fielders: Nick Markakis, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper,


The only Blue Jay assigned to the squad is pitcher J. A. Happ. There are strong rumours that he will be traded during the break. He has has a decent season, but has fallen off lately.


And the Canadian Football League season continues to unravel as teams now have four or five games under their belts. I have already purchased tickets for the family for a game in September in Ottawa. Always a treat!!


James Hurst
July 10, 2018



 

Tavares Moves to Toronto


The most important sports story affecting this area of the world in the last little while has to be the signing of John Tavares by the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were weeks of speculation as to where he might end up as a free agent. The “Leafs Nation” was in collective suspense. All of that mystery has been put to bed. The name Tavares is on the contract.


He will stay in Toronto for a few years. He will be an important part of the building job that has been under way in Toronto for several years. The question is whether or not he will be the key link to move the Maple Leafs to the ultimate success in the NHL. There is definitely a thirst in that town to sip champagne from the Stanley Cup. All members of the “Leafs Nation” can tell you that the last time the parade wound through the streets of Toronto to cheer on the Blue and White was 1967. They can even name most of the players from that team!


Tavares was the best player on the free agent block. He was the first overall pick by the New York Islanders in the 2009 draft. The Islanders had been struggling up to that point, and many hoped that he could lead them to repeat their glory days. The Islanders had won four straight Stanley Cups from 1979 to 1983. They were led by Denis Potvin, and relied on the talents of Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Butch Goring, Bob Bourne, John Tonelli, and Billy Smith in the net. They may have won more cups, but along came a kid named Gretzky and his pals in Edmonton. So ended the glory days of the Islanders.


From his first days on Long Island to the end of last season, Tavares has been a consistently brilliant performer. He has never won a scoring title, mind you, but has always put up fine numbers. He has been an all star the past two seasons. I am certain he will not disappoint the Toronto fans. Coach Babcock will work him into the lineup with his two other fine centres, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. Babcock has had a taste of success in the NHL. He was brought into Toronto as part of the process to win the Cup. Just a little pressure on the coach.


Another free agent signing that will rock the sports word is that of LeBron James. On many occasions in this column I have asserted that he is the best player in the National Basketball Association, Make that the world. He decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers (again) and head to the bright lights of Los Angeles. There is a long history of success in Laker Town, and Magic Johnson, one of the greatest players ever in the NBA did his best to entice James to sign with the Lakers. LeBron fell a little short in the finals this past spring. He just plain ran out of gas against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. He may have a little revenge on his mind now that he is with the Lakers. They have surrounded him with good talent. We shall see, come October.

And the World Cup of Soccer continues in Russia. All teams from Africa have been eliminated. Some of the pre tournament favourites are gone. England has not hoisted the trophy since 1966. This may be the year. In soccer, it comes down to one game, win or go home. And, occasionally, it comes down to penalty kicks. Not a nice way to lose. Not at all.


Stay cool!!!

James Hurst
July 3, 2018




 

The Belleville Sports Hall of Fame-2018




From my vantage point here on the north shore of Lake Ontario, I am able to enjoy sports from around the world through my television. I am also able to witness many sporting events each year, due to our proximity to great sports venues in our area. In my travels, I have seen fine athletes plying their trade on other continents. There are important halls of fame throughout the world, places where athletes and organizers are recognized for their efforts. There is one in Prince Edward County, and another in Belleville.



James Hurst, Bobby Hull, and Arty Hurst

When Bobby Hull was inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame, he stated a few words that stayed with me. “ I have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and various other halls of fame. I have received recognition from many agencies and countries around the world. But none of these is as important as being recognized by your home town folks, by the people you grew up with. That is why I am here today.”

Since that time many other people from a variety of fields of sport have been recognized in Belleville. The latest crop of inductees was announced the other day, and they will be inducted on Saturday, September 15th, at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, the home of the Belleville Senators.

The Belleville Sports Hall of Fame opened its doors in 1987. It was the brainchild of Paul Kirby, a local write and historian, currently in the publishing business in North Hastings. I served on the committee along with Drury Denyes, Denis Newman, and Fred Brooks. Since that time, hundreds of worthy athletes have been inducted into the Hall.

This year's induction ceremony takes place at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre (the place where the Bulls played) on Saturday, September 15th at 1:00pm. It is always a good opportunity to meet with old friend, and to share a story or two with the inductees.

Brian Price is a most worthy inductee. The County resident for many years, he was the rowing cox in Beijing when the Men's Eight team won the Gold Medal, and in London when they won the Silver Medal. He was afflicted with a form of cancer as a child, but overcame that obstacle to become the best in the world in the big boat.

Dennis Stark graduated from Quinte Secondary School, and received a scholarship from East Tennessee State. While there, he gained All American honours in1981, 1982, and 1983. He also set records at the Canada Summer Games in the 1500 and 5000 metre events.

Andrew Raycroft played his OHL junior hockey in Ontario, after graduating from the minor hockey system in Belleville, and some time with the Wellington Dukes. He was drafted by the Boston Bruins, and in 2004 he won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in the NHL. He moved on to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, establishing a team record for the number of wins. He finished his 280 game NHL career in Colorado.

Drew Ross made his impact on the sports world on water skis. He had a successful career as a member of the Canadian National team, and won several medals at the Pan American Games.

1n 1966, Terry Wellesley, Harold Townsend and Grant Vandervoort formed the backfield of the Quinte Secondary School football team. They won the Bay of Quinte title, then the COSSA championship. He played his college ball at the University of Colorado and at Texas Tech. In 1970, he broke into the CFL with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He won a Grey Cup in 1973. He played two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, and retired in 1976.

The 1988 Belleville Enright Midget Girls Softball team won the Provincial Championship in 1988. They went on to play in the Canadian Championship in New Brunswick, winning silver medals.

Finally, the last name on the list is yours truly. In a recent column, Paul Svoboda wrote in The Intelligencer that I am “older than dirt”. I suppose that longevity can have its rewards.

Hope to see you there!


 

World Cup of Soccer-2018



For the past several months, many of my television channels have been telling me that the World Cup of Soccer was on its way. It was supposed to arrive some time in June. A quick scan of my channels tells me that it's here, emphatically. I do manage to sneak around the channels and fine the odd baseball game. Last night I lucked into an Australian Rules Football game, one of my personal favourites.


But once every four years, soccer takes a stranglehold on the sports spotlight, thus earning a few words of ink from your wretched, ink-stained scribe. The whole shebang comes off under the organization called “FIFA”. That groups controls all aspects of the games. A very powerful group.


Once they had determined that Russia would host these games, the preparations began. There had to be enough large stadia. There had to be competitive teams. They have several tournaments and games in the years leading up to the World Cup to determine which teams could play in the big event. Only 32 teams qualify. The host country gets a free entry. They must round up volunteers, in this case roughly 35 000. Referees, broadcasters, media, accommodation, sponsorship....we are talking about billions of dollars.


After all of the pre-Cup competitions had finished, Canada, the United states, and Greece, to name a few, had failed to qualify for the Big Show. No doubt that would affect some of the sponsorship activities. Nonetheless, there is plenty of dough in the rest of the world, so I do not see that as a big concern. Eight years from now, FIFA will stage the show in North America, the United States, Canada, and Mexico! Does that mean that we will have to become friends again? Will we lift tariffs? Will NAFTA raise its flag again. Will “The Donald” still be in the White House?


This is the 21st time that FIFA has presented the world with the championship, and the first time that games will be played in Eastern Europe. Many teams have been to most World Cups. Iceland and Panama are there for the first time. I have forgotten the teams they defeated to get there. It may have been England.


There will be 64 matches played, at 12 venues in eleven cities. The final game will take place at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.
The teams are shuffled together in groups of four, and are categorized with an alphabetical letter. For example, Group “A” has Russia and Uruguay. Each won its first game. Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a tie. The groups are round-robin affairs, and after they have squared off against each other, the two top teams move on. The bottom two teams go home. In case of ties, there is a mathematical formula to determine the winner. It is more difficult to understand than an American-North Korean peace accord.


Some of the teams have yet to take to the pitch for their opening games. The bars are filling up in Toronto, as the fans begin to feel the pitch. If you happen to be a fervent Portuguese fan, and you enter a Spanish bar in all your regalia, I might suggest you re-think your position. Soccer fans tend to take their game seriously.


I would not doubt that the Russian border guards have kept close eyes on the fans entering the country. The hooligans come from all countries of the world, and they can become more stoked as their team moves closer to the final game. Perhaps they are issued photographs of Siberian work houses as they enter Mother Russia. No thanks.


Enjoy the games.


James Hurst
June 18, 2018


 

Snippets from the World of Sport


The amount of recent activity from the world of sport is almost overwhelming. Never completely, of course.


The Florida Everblades have captured the attention of many Canadian snowbirds who spent months in the south in the winter. During the season, there are many empty seats at the Germain Arena on Route 75 in Estero. But during the playoffs, fans come out in droves to cheer on the team.


Such was the case this past week as the Everblades were in a heated battle with the Colorado Eagles to win the Kelly Cup, the final rung on the ECHL ladder. The series had gone down to the seventh and final game, and the house was packed, with no tickets available at game time.


The Blades had finished first in their division, thus obtaining the right to host the final game. Spencer Smallman scored the first goal for the Blades in the first period, but the Eagles replied with a goal in the second. The Blades regained the lead at 6:15 in the third period, and appeared destined to capture their first title in 6 years. Alas, not to be. The Eagles tied the game just past the midway mark of the third period, then went ahead with a shorthanded goal with 2.29 remaining in the game.


Despite their best effort, the Blades could not reply, and the game ended with the Eagles hoisting the Kelly Cup for the second consecutive year. I listened to the game via the internet. I believe that in 1959, the Belleville MacFarlands' World Championship was broadcast by telephone from Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Blades open their season next year playing a new entry in the league in Newfoundland on October 12th. There are a few tickets still available.


Justify” recently led the field at the wire to capture the Triple Crown of horse racing. That is the second time in recent history that a horse has been able to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. American Paraoah won the crown a couple of years ago. There is such wonderful tradition in those events. It is a rare occasion when a horse manages to win all three events, this being the 13th time in more than a hundred years.



The Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup this past week with a victory over the upstart Vegas Golden Knights. All of the hoopla at the events in Vegas became a little tiring. The game became almost secondary. Even in Washington, the team added a little extra. Pat Sajak from the word game “Wheel of Fortune” was asked to introduce the players. Apparently, he is a big fan, and has held season tickets for many years.


Now, my friends, it is time for baseball. Your Blue Jays have struggled mightily this season, but managed to recover in fine style last weekend against the Baltimore Orioles. They swept the birds, four games straight. They got great pitching, they fielded well, and the bats were hot. And then, Boom!! On Monday night, not the case. A throwing error led to two runs to give the Tampa Bay Rays a victory. As you know, it is a very long season. 162 games, in fact.


The World Cup of Soccer is about to start in Russia. One of my networks is showing all the games. Each to his or her own, as they say. I will likely watch the final. Just to clarify, the game is called soccer here in North America. Football is the game where they play with helmets, and the Canadian Football League is about to kick off this week.

Cheerio!


James Hurst
June 12, 2018


 

The Puck Stops here!



On Monday night, the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to move ever-so-close to capturing their first Stanley Cup. The series now shifts to Las Vegas, with the Capitals in a position to hoist the Cup with one victory. It is a long haul, this road to the Cup. A team must win 16 playoff games to become champions.


This series began with the Cinderella Knights poised to become unlikely champions. Coach Barry Trotz and the rest of the brass in Washington had other plans. They had re-tooled in the off season to put together a team that boasted a dynamic offense, and a stingy defense.


Alexander Ovechkin has been the most important player in the Capitals' lineup for many seasons. He has consistently led the team in scoring, and is identified as the team's leader. He wears the “C” on his sweater, and has that flair as a dynamic captain. He has performed well in this year's playoff run, even when other teams think they have a defense that might be effective against him.


Another Capitals' player who has shone brilliantly in these playoffs is Evgeny Kuznetsov. He and “Ovi” give the Capitals a “one-two punch” that is difficult to contain. Each of those individuals stations himself on the outer edge of the faceoff circle on the offensive end, readying for a pass. They raise their sticks behind them and slam difficult passes at the goal.


Despite his best efforts, Marc-Andre Fleury has not been able to solve the Capitals. He has performed brilliantly, but not quite good enough to bring home the bacon for the Knights. At the other end of the rink, the Caps' Braden Holtby has been sensational. He has thwarted the best efforts of the Knights' best scorers, frustrating them to no end. He has been the difference-maker in this series.


He has had some help. The forwards and the defensive corps of the Capitals go to great lengths to block shots. Have you ever been hit by a 100 mile-an-hour shot? If not, I do not recommend putting yourself in that position. The Capitals' players throw themselves in front of shots with great abandon, and usually limp to the bench after the effort. But the bottom line is that the shot did not reach the net, that another scoring opportunity was lost, and the team could move on offense.


The Caps are no strangers to playoff hockey. They have been invited to the dance 11 times in the last 12 seasons. This is the first year that they have separated themselves from all of those nemeses that kept them away from Lord Stanley's mug. They now lead the series three games to one, and there is no reason why the won't sew it up in Vegas.


At the American League level, the Toronto Marlies are battling with the Texas Stars in the final for the Calder Cup. Leaf fans are keeping an eye on this series, in anticipation for next year. The Leafs should be able to supplement roster losses from the baby Leafs.


And finally, the ECHL is wrapping up its season as the Florida Everblades have taken a 3-2 lead over the Colorado Eagles in its quest for the Kelly Cup. It is East meets West in all of these championships, as we head into the summer months.


Enjoy your playoffs.


James Hurst
June 5, 2018.

 

Baseball, Basketball and Junior Hockey


The Toronto Blue Jays wrapped up a weekend of baseball on Sunday afternoon with a win over the Philadelphia Phillies. They won the series two games to one, to begin a 7 game road trip. They headed to Boston to play an afternoon game on Memorial Day.

Americans recognize Memorial Day in a variety of ways, much as we do Remembrance Day. One traditional event that captures the imagination of many Americans is the running of the Indianapolis 500, always very exciting. This year's winner, Will Power, crossed the finish line four seconds in front of the rest of the racers.

For the Jays, the series win was their first since April. They have not had a good May, and have slipped in the standings to rest above the Baltimore Orioles, who are securely located in last place. The Jays have not played consistently good baseball, and have failed to find players to play well at certain positions, especially at shortstop. Middle infielders are critical to the game. A team always likes to have a great combination of shortstop and second baseman to work together, especially for double plays. Sometimes, it takes years to develop the magic.

That has not happened for the Jays, as they have recently resorted to using their catcher, Russell Martin, to play shortstop. He is the seventh player they have used at the position this year. The gap, of course, is due to the injuries to Troy Tulowitzki. He has been missing since last July, and he is not yet ready to step into the lineup. Gift Ngoepe, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Yangervis Solarte, Aldemys, Diaz, Richard Urena, and Gio Urshela have been given a shot at the job.

The Red Sox hammered the Jays Monday afternoon. Even Donaldson came up lame at one point in the game. That would be a bitter pill at this point in the season.

The National Basketball Association Championships begin this week in . The Boston Celtics fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in game seven on Sunday night. LeBron James again provided the impetus for the victory. He player all 48 minutes in the game. He was grabbed, punched, twisted and fouled repeatedly in the game, but managed to score 35 points, including key baskets in the final minutes. He left no doubt that he is the best player in the game today.

On Monday night, the Golden State Warriors came from behind to win game seven against the Houston Rockets. They now face the Cavaliers, once again. Fourth time in four years.

The Memorial Cup wrapped up last weekend in Regina. The host Pats faced the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the final game with a potent lineup, leading the tournament in most offensive categories. The Titan goalie came up big, as they say, in the final game to shut out the Pats 3-0. It was the 100th Memorial Cup. Many of the players in the tournament will end up in the NHL in the next few years.

On Monday night, the (Las) Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals began their battle for supremacy in the hockey world. They were the most unlikely competitors, and the odds makers will dole out big bucks to those of you who chose that match up at the beginning of the season. The Knights drew first blood with a 6-4 win at home.

Busy time, in the sports world!



James Hurst


Sunday, June 03, 2018

 

Vegas on Fire!!


The Vegas Golden Knights continue to roll along in the 2017-2018 NHL playoffs. It has become one of the greatest mysteries in sport.


The team was given a few guidelines to set up shop, and they drafted a few players to get their inaugural season underway. The other teams in the league were told they could protect several players, but that they might have to let a few good players go in a draft to Vegas. It appears that the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Florida Panthers were hurt the most in the Vegas draft. The Pens left Marc Andre Fleury unprotected, and the Panthers let Jonathan Marchessault fly the coop.


The Vegas team had to fork out $ 500 million to get into the league. They had to guarantee seat sales. They had to show that the city deserved a major league franchise. I am sure that league management worried about their decision to set up shop in Vegas. No need to worry any more.


The Golden Knights are for real, as they proved again on Monday night. They faced the Jets again in Winnipeg, and they knew they had to face that “Whiteout” crowd again. They were not phased. They stormed out to a 2-0 lead, and never looked back. The win tied the series at a game apiece, with five games remaining. The win put Vegas in the driver's seat for the series. They have a relatively small player to thank for their success.


His name is Jonathan Marchessault, and he hails from Quebec. He was born and raised there, and spent his entire Junior hockey career there. He credits his junior coach, Patrick Roy, for some of his success. Listed at 5' 9”, and tipping the scales at 175 pounds, Marchessault was never drafted in the NHL. He was signed as a free agent by Columbus, shipped off to Tampa Bay, then to the Panthers. The Panthers left him unprotected, and Vegas picked him up. He is in the second year of his contract, and he will make less than a million dollars this year.


That will change significantly next year, more than 5 times that amount, at the very least. He netted two markers last night, and now has 6 goals and 9 assists in the playoffs. He recorded 75 points in the regular season on 27 goals and 48 assists. Last season he led the Panthers with 30 goals, and added 21 assists.

Another part of the Marchessault mystery lies in the number of years that it took for him to gain this status. He bounced back and forth to the American Hockey League in his first attempts to crack an NHL lineup with stints in Connecticut, Springfield, and Syracuse. Imagine the frustration he felt from 2011 to 2015. All in the past. Now it's Vegas, baby!


The Canadian side of my brain is cheering for the Jets. Yet another part of my brain marvels at the accomplishments of the Golden Knights. When I met Marchessault in Florida a couple of years ago, he really struggled with English. In last night's interview he stated clearly, “We showed the hockey world that we deserve to be here.”


To sip from Lord Stanley's mug, the winner of the Western Series will have to get by the winner from the East. Would that be Tampa Bay or the Capitals? You and I both know that Ovechkin and company do not intend to get silver medals.


Ah, but all local eyes are now centered on Chilliwack, British Columbia, the site of the Royal Bank Cup. The Dukes won in overtime last night, almost guaranteeing a spot in the semi finals, at the very least.



 
Playoffs-Spring, 2018

For those of you who follow basketball, and the Toronto Raptors, the conclusion to this season was a dreadful disappointment. Again, as has been the case many times, the Raptors came up against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. The Raptors had nothing to stop James in his quest for another NBA crown. They swept the Raptors in four straight games. The score in the last game played Monday night? 128-93. As they say at the end of every Raptor season, there is work to be done.



Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals finally found a way to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins also on Monday night. It has been a long struggle for the Capitals in their quest to conquer the Pens. Sidney and his teammates raised the Stanley Cup the last two years, and they seemed prepared for this year's playoffs. But the big Russian bear and his fellow Caps put an end to that, abruptly, in overtime, earning the right to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.


The Lightning appear to be the favourites in this Eastern Conference match up. Team guru Steve Yzerman has put together a team that is ready for almost any kind of play. The defensive corps is second to none, and offensively, they have Steven Stamkos. Teams focus on Stamkos to try to limit his play, and tend to forget about the other outstanding talent on the team.



I was thinking about writing the word “surprising” to describe the Las Vegas Golden Knights. At this point in time, there is very little about that team that could be construed as unknown. The team is well coached by Gerard Gallant, and it was put together carefully. Mind you, they picked up some pretty fine talent in their draft. The finest, of course, is Marc Andre Fleury, whom they plucked from the roster of the Penguins. He has been nothing short of spectacular, and seems to be enjoying the experience. The Knights now await the winner of the Nashville-Winnipeg series.


The Jets were all set to close the door on the Predators Monday night. Their fans packed the MTS Centre arena, and were impressive with their “white-out shirts and towels”. They blow the doors off with their noise, and can be very intimidating. All of that stuff did not phase the Predators. They waltzed out to a 4-0 shellacking of the Jets, and will meet in the seventh and deciding game on Wednesday night. The game will be played in Nashville. Belleville Bulls fans will follow the play of P. K. Subban in that game.


If the Predators do move on to face the Knights, Mr. and Mrs. Subban will be somewhat torn. P. K.'s younger brother Jordan is the backup goaltender to Fleury. The two did face each other in the regular season.


In a thrilling final game at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, the Wellington Dukes emerged victorious, and they are now packing their bags to head to Chilliwack, British Columbia to contest the Royal Bank Cup. We went to watch one of the games at the DukeDome. It was great to see all the Dukes' fans there. But frankly, the television picture was horrendous, and we decided to rely on radio coverage. We locked into the Dryden radio station, naturally a little biased. We plan to do the same for the RBC.


Download the “Mixlr” app and search for the Chilliwack Chiefs. You do realize I got that information from my son, and I am not sure how well I could handle that. It is unfortunate that one of the local stations is not carrying the game. They did carry the broadcasts of previous visits of the Dukes to the Canadian finals. Hopefully, the Dukes will play in the final game which is usually picked up by TSN, The Highland Hall at the arena would be packed for that contest!!!


Monday, May 07, 2018

 

John Druce- Leading the Way





The entire village of Wellington, and, dare I say, the whole population of Prince Edward County, have risen to the occasion in support of the Wellington Dukes. The Dukes have already won one big piece of hardware, the Buckland Cup, and are now in Dryden in search of another, the Dudley-Hewitt Cup.


I spoke recently with Randy Uens, the Vice-President of hockey operations for the Dukes. Randy paid tribute to his head coach, John Druce, and to his assistant, Derek Smith. Many Duke fans will remember “Smitty” as a really solid defenceman who moved on to several higher ranks in hockey, including the NHL.


Druce is most famous for an incredible playoff stretch he had with the Washington Capitals. He had split the season between the Baltimore Skipjacks and the Capitals. He played 15 games in the playoffs that year, 1989-1990, and scored 14 goals. In any interview-type situations, that is the first subject that comes up. Druce is tired of it. His pro hockey career began in 1986, following three years with the Peterborough Petes.


He was selected in the second round, 40th overall, by the Capitals, and spent two years with the Binghampton Whalers. The following year he went to the Skipjacks, and spent the next ten years, for the most part in the NHL. He finished his pro career in Germany with Hannover and Augsburg. He scored 113 goals in the NHL, and added 239 assists in 531 regular season games.


His most recent coaching experience, outside Wellington, was with the Cobourg Cougars. He led them to the Royal Bank Cup which they won last spring in Cobourg. He then returned to his other lives in Peterborough, selling for Freedom 55, and involving himself in the restaurant business. A few years ago, John lost his daughter to leukemia. Since that time he has spearheaded research efforts to find a cure through the “Peddle for Hope” organization. Pretty busy guy.


Randy Uens knew John through the old Peterborough hockey connections: Herb Raglan, Steve Chiasson, Brent Tully, to name a few. The town has always been a hockey hotbed, and many NHL players and retirees spend their summers there dropping a line or two in Stony Lake, humming Ronnie Hawkins tunes while they fish.


Last January 4th, Randy was able to convince Druce that it would be a good idea to come to Wellington to finish the season. Which leads us to the present: the round-robin, four team series in Dryden.


On two other occasions, the Dukes have been on the brink of capturing the Canadian Hockey Championship at this level, “Junior A”, once in Prince Edward Island, and once in Alberta.


As they line up on the blue lines for the 2018-2019 season, many Wellingtonians would like to see that Royal Bank Cup banner unfurled at the “DukeDome”.


The games will be shown at the arena in the Highland Hall. I expect to see you there.


James Hurst.
April 30, 2018




Thursday, May 03, 2018

 

Sixty years ago, Mighty Macs ruled Canadian senior hockey





By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer









Belleville went bonkers.
Sixty years ago today — May 1, 1958 — the city's senior hockey club, the McFarlands, captured the Allan Cup as national champions and with it, a ticket to Czechoslovakia for the 1959 world championships, which they would also win.
Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven Allan Cup final against the Kelowna Packers, with the entire series played in the Okanagan valley town, the Mighty Macs battled back with three straight wins to claim Canadian senior hockey supremacy. Game 7 ended 8-5 in favour of the MacFarlands and loyal Belleville fans, listening back home on radio, went nuts.
Days later, when the team returned home via cross-Canada train, the lead headline on the front page of The Intelligencer proclaimed: “Fifty thousand welcome Macs home.”
Wearing cowboy hats, which they'd picked up during a stopover in Calgary, the Macs were thrown a victory parade unlike anything Belleville had ever experienced before. Riding in convertibles, players and team officials waved and cheered and hollered along with what appeared to be twice the population of Belleville at that time, all crammed downtown and seemingly delirious with joy.
"Never in the history of this city has Front Street rocked and rolled to the acclaim of thousands,” read The Intelligencer story. “People stood in some places 10 deep, cheering and waving as the motorcade went by.”
Macs goaltender, Gordie Bell, was especially moved by the outpouring of love from Belleville's hockey faithful.
"I think this is the most wonderful reception I've ever experienced,” Bell told The Intelligencer. “I'm very glad we won because I would hate to lose and have to come back and face such a swell bunch of people.”
Team owner, Harvey McFarland, simply called it “the proudest moment of my life.”
Reporter Denny Boyd saluted the Macs and their stunning comeback with these words in a story that appeared in the Vancouver Sun after the Allan Cup final:
"Those Macs, a rag-tag Senior B team two years ago, used courage for a crutch as they plodded up what seemed an insurmountable hill to become the senior amateur hockey champions of Canada. Thursday night, they reached the summit. They defeated the Packers 8-5 with a defeat-defying rally that shook the blossoms of fruit trees for miles around.”
May 1, 1958. A date never to be forgotten in Belleville. The day the city ruled Canadian senior hockey.
Belleville McFarlands 1958 Allan Cup national championship roster: Eddie Marineau, Jean-Paul Payette, Wayne (Weiner) Brown, Barton Bradley, Keith MacDonald, Lionel Botly, Armand (Bep) Guidolin, Joe Lepine, Keith Montgomery, Davey Jones, Donald (Turk) Barclay, Floyd Crawford (captain), John Muretich, Gordie Bell, Maurice (Moe) Benoit, Russell Kowalchuk, Gerry Goyer, Hilary (Minnie) Menard, Ike Hildebrand (player-coach), Drury Denyes (manager) and Arthur Charlton (trainer).
NEED TO KNOW: The 1958 McFarlands were inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.



Minnie Menard

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