Monday, May 22, 2017

 

Bill White Passes Away at 77.

Bill White, who played a key role in Team Canada's historic victory over the former Soviet Union in the incomparable 1972 Summit Series, is dead at the age of 77.


The lanky six-foot-two defenceman played a solid, steady game for Canada, appearing in seven of the eight contests and finishing first on the team with a plus-7 rating.


White skated 10 seasons in the NHL, starting with the expansion L.A. Kings in 1967 and spending his last seven campaigns as a fixture on the Chicago Blackhawks blueline, often paired with fellow '72 Team Team Canada rearguard, Pat (Whitey) Stapleton.


White, from Toronto, played junior for the Marlboros and turned pro in 1960 in the AHL where he toiled for seven seasons before getting his NHL break with the advent of expansion.



• NHL stats
GP: 604; G: 50; A: 215; PTS: 265; PIM: 495.
(Playoffs: 91 GP, 7-32-39; 76 PMs.)

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From the Files of Paul Svoboda.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 

The Royal Bank Cup 2017



The Royal Bank Cup is in the midst of preliminary rounds at present in Cobourg, Ontario. As the host team, the Cobourg Cougars receive an automatic bye into the chapionship. There are five teams in the tourney, vying for the prize as the best junior hockey team in Canada, excluding the CHL teams. There are 132 teams at this level, and some fine young hockey players in the mix.


The top five teams, with some very good players are on the ice in Cobourg this week. There are many sets of eyes keenly observing these lads. Included in this group are several scouts from all over North America-pro scouts, amateur scouts, college and university scouts, scouts from various levels of hockey.


More than a hundred former Royal Bank Cup players have had at least a cup of coffee at the National Hockey League level. As far as I can discern, only one Wellington Duke who played at the RBC in Charlottetown, moved on to the NHL. That is Liam Reddox. If you check the list posted at Hockey Canada, you will find the names of some fine players, including four of the Sutter brothers.


Thus, the job of the scouts at the tourney is to assess these young players, to find the gem who just might be a super star in the NHL. On several occasions, I have run into Andre Savard at hockey games in Florida. He is a pro scout for the New Jersey Devils, and he was at the Brooks Bandits game with other personnel from the Devils. It is their job to separate the wheat from the chaff, in terms of hockey talent.


                                   Cale Makar-Photo credit Murnaghan-Hockey Canada

As was the case with several other scouts at that game, they were focusing on a young defenceman for the Bandits, Cale Makar. Makar has already stirred up quite a bit of interest in the scouting hockey circles. Rather small relative to other backliners, (5' 10”-175 pounds), he is slated to be a top prospect in this year's NHL draft. The New jersey Devils won the first pick in the lottery. Makar was the MVP at last year's RBC, and also the top scorer.


Brooks Bandits coach Ryan Papaioannou is well aware of the situation. “I think a lot of it with him is just his skating ability, his puck skills. He is offensively=minded, but because of his feet, he's able to defend very well. He's done a really good job establishing his footing in this year's NHL Draft. We're always impressed with the way he plays, but like all coaches, we keep encouraging him. There's more he can do, and we want him to be better.”

                                                      
I spoke with one of his teammates at the Bandits' first game against Terrebonne. Orca Wiesblatt and his brother Ocean play with Makar. There were both in the stands for the first game. “Cale is committed to play at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the fall.”


No question that the Bandits are a team to watch. They won the RBC in 2013, and played in the semi-finals last year in Lloydminster. The other teams in this year's tournament are the Cobras de Terrebonne, and the Penticton Vees.



                                               Cale Makar- Hockey Canada

Round Robin play will continue until Wednesday night, when the host Cougars will play the Bandits at 7:30pm. The Cougars started the tourney with an overtime win over the Trenton Golden Hawks; however, as we witnessed in Charlottetown, and in Camrose with the Dukes, until the final buzzer goes, anything can happen.




James Hurst
May 15, 2015.

Monday, May 08, 2017

 

The Dudley Hewitt Cup 2017




As expected, the final game of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, was a fine dual between two evenly matched teams, and two great goaltenders. When the final buzzer sounded, the Trenton Golden Hawks emerged victorious, winning 2-1. They earned the right to participate in the Royal Bank Cup, for the Canadian Championship, which will take place this year in Cobourg.

The Georgetown Raiders put the pressure on the Hawks in the dying seconds, but could not find the equalizer to send the game into overtime. The Golden Hawks did not help their own cause late in the third period, taking a two minute tripping penalty with less than two minutes remaining. Playing six skaters against four for the Hawks, the Raiders could not get the puck past Chris Janzen, and had to settle for silver medals. Janzen was the game MVP.


                                                     Chris Janzen-MVP

The Raiders were the league champions, having defeated Trenton 1-0 in the seventh game of their final to win the Buckland Trophy. They were led by playoff MVP Jack Jacombe, their diminutive forward who led the league in scoring with 91 points. He is headed for Clarkson next year.

Trenton's win was their second in as many seasons, the first time that has happened since the 1990s. The other two teams participating in the tournament were the Powassan Voodoos, and the Dryden Ice Dogs. Dryden will host next year's Dudley-Hewitt Cup.

                                                        Braeden Allkins

Just before the puck dropped for the final game, I spoke with Dryden's Braeden All kins. Braeden hails from Golden, British Columbia. The twenty year old decided before the season to head east to play a year in Ontario. He led his team with 53 goals, and was the regular season and playoff MVP. He came third of all the players on the 132 teams playing in the Canadian Junior Hockey league.

It was a tough pill to swallow, not making the final of this tournament,” he told me. “Both finalists are great teams.” He figured that Trenton might emerge victorious, only because they were hosting the event, and had a barn full of supporters.”


                                                        Anthony Sorrentino

Trenton opened the scoring with less than a minute remaining in the first period off a turnover at the Georgetown blueline. Lanky forward Anthony Sorrentino ripped a shot that eluded Nicholas Latinovich, slipping between his pads. Georgetown tied the game late in the second period when Jordan Crocker wristed a low shot past Janzen.

At the 4:31 mark of the third period, North Bay's Michael Silvery stood parked on the right hand side of Georgetown goaltender Latinovich. He made no mistake, firing the puck into the net for the winning goal.


         Trenton Mayor Jim Harrison and John McDonald, Director of business operations

The Royal Bank Cup opens on Saturday in Cobourg, with the final taking place may 21st. Perhaps I will see you there!


James Hurst
May 8, 2017.



Tuesday, May 02, 2017

 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs 2017


On the first Monday of each month, several friends gather together at a Shopsy's on Woodbine Avenue, just north of the 401 in Toronto. The group includes former NHL players, officials, managers, coaches, and others who take a couple of hours to reminisce about the game.


I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to throw out that favourite question, at this time of year, “Who is going to win the Stanley Cup this year?”. I threw that out to half a dozen of the guests. Most of them had a standard answer, almost instantly. The answer involves goaltending.


Brian McFarlane has never been far from the game. Born in 1931, he grew up in Ontario, and went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, on a hockey scholarship. After several radio and television gigs, he landed work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and began an extensive career as an interviewer and host for NHL games. Many of us looked forward to seeing Brian between the periods on the weekly “Hockey Night in Canada” telecasts. His smooth, relaxed manner set the players at ease, and they responded well to his questions.


I buttonholed Brian at the lunch with the all-important question. Now in his mid-eighties, he is still a keen observer of the game. Until quite recently, he played weekly in Fort Myers at the Skatium, located beside The City of Palms Park, the former Boston Red Sox Spring Training facility. “This is great hockey to watch,” he told me. “The speed of the game, and the skill of the players is amazing.” He refrained from picking a winner.


Ron Hurst played many years for the Leafs. Also in his eighties, he rarely misses a trick. “At this point in time,” he told me, “I have to give the nod to the Penguins. I saw Crosby lying on the ice in front of the goal, and he shot the puck over the goalie into the top corner of the net with one hand on the stick! I also like the way that big Russian guy shoots the puck for the Capitals. He just sets up and “Blam!”, the puck is in the net.”


Each month, a player is recognized for his contributions to the game. On Monday, former Leaf Gary Collins got the nod. He won the Memorial Cup twice with the Marlies to begin his career. He was also an outstanding baseball prospect, and was heavily scouted. He told the crowd he pitched one game, came out of the bullpen to help in the second game of a double-header, and blew out his arm. “That was that for my baseball career. There was no 'Tommy John' surgery in those days.”


Jim Morrison played and coached hockey for more than 50 years. He played for five NHL teams, over a dozen years in the NHL. He deferred on the Stanley Cup question, but paid homage to this year's Leaf team, particularly Auston Matthews. “They will be a force in the years to come.”


Pete” Conacher is impressed with the play of the Oilers, and Connor McDavid. “Sure he is a fine player, but the amazing thing is that he is so far ahead of the other guys on the ice. He is a great skater, and he passes the puck so well.”


Sandy Air enjoys the get-together with his friends at the luncheon. He won the World Championship with the Whitby Dunlops, and has memories, some fond, of his games at the Memorial Arena in Belleville, “You tell me who the best goalie is, and I will tell you who will win the Stanley Cup,” he told me. “Pittsburgh is fortunate to have two great goalies. When Murray got hurt, they brought back Marc-Andre Fleury, and he has played really well. On the other hand, Holtby has been a little shaky for the Capitals.”


                                                                 Will Norris

Former referee Bruce Hood was on hand, and introduced a couple of linesmen who toiled with him for many years Will Norris was one of those lads. Will was my brother Dick's roommate when they attended Guelph University in 1963!


Another aspect of the game that has become important in recent years is shot blocking. Most of the veterans indicated that the style of the equipment has resulted in those changes. “Every once in a while a shot gets through that armour, however. Nasty stuff,” Ron Hurst added.


So many of these games have been decide in overtime, increasing the excitement for the fans. With all of the games from the west, and the overtime segments, you may miss a bit of sleep. That is why the afternoon nap was created.

James Hurst
May 2, 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017

 

The Other Playoff Picture 2017


Of course I realize that you are most concerned about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is, however, another set of playoffs that are of great concern to many Torontonians. Now that the Leafs have exited the playoff picture, you may now focus on the Toronto Basketball Team.

The Toronto Raptors have begun their playoff round against the Milwaukee Bucks. There have been two games played in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. Just outside the west doors of the Centre is an intriguing square, affectionately known as Jurassic Park during the basketball season. Fans gather there in the hundreds to watch the game on a big screen. They will even gather there in the cold weather when the games are in the opposition's building. Serious supporters.

The Raptors have enjoyed a successful season. They finished higher than the Bucks, and earned the right to host the first two games. In basketball, having the home court advantage is critical. Basketball teams win home games with a greater percentage than do teams from the other major sports. There is a significant amount of “hype” generated by the fans to inspire the players.

Unfortunately, that was not the case for the Raps. They dropped their first game at home against the Bucks, digging themselves a considerable hole.

Most basketball teams rely on one or two players to lead the troops. The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, have already moved on to the second round of the payoffs, primarily because of LeBron's play. The Golden State Warriors rely on Steph Curry to provide the straw to stir their drink.

The Raptors have two key personnel to lead them: Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. Lowry has spent significant time in the sick bay this year, but appears to be ready for these post season games. In their third game of this series, Derozan had a terrible game. The ball would not go in the hoop. He ended the game with less than 10 points.

The Bucks returned to the court for the fourth full of enthusiasm. At half time, teams were even at 41. Demar had regained his touch, and outscored the rest of his teammates, combined. At the end of the game, he had 33 points, and 9 rebounds. Lowry added 18 points. After the game, trying to explain his dramatic improvement, Derozan added, simply, “Won't happen twice. Never happen twice”.

The Raptors also got a dozen points from Jonas Valanciunas, the same from Norman Powell. Serge Ibaka added ten, with 8 rebounds.
Most of the attention in this series is focused on a young Milwaukee player, Giannis Antetokoumpo. He was born in Nigeria, but raised in Greece. He is referred to as “The Greek Freak”. He was a first team all star, and is a dominant player. He had 14 points and 9 rebounds in the loss, clearly not his best game. Toronto's defensive tactics clearly held him in check.

Game five is on Monday night, in Milwaukee. Bucks coach, Jason Kidd will spend some time on game films before the tip. Ditto for Dwane Casey of the Raps. Momentum is vital in all NBA games. The winner of this series gets to play the Cavaliers!

One of the Memphis Grizzlies made 3 three point shots on Saturday night. First time ever accomplished by a 40 year old. Vince Carter. You remember the name.

UPDATE: April 29, 2017

The Raptors took care of business, almost letting a 25 point lead slip away. |Thye now face the Cavaliers in a 7 game series. Needless to say, they have their work cut out for them.






James Hurst
April 24, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

 

A Most Interesting Observation.

Not sure if you have read the book by Stephen Cole "The Last Hurrah' of the final pre-expansion season of 1966-67 but anyway within it many members of those great Hawk teams of the 60s (Hull, Hall, etc) lament how they were often the best team in the league but failed to 'prove it' in the playoffs. Particularly in 66-67 when they dominated but lost to the Leafs in round 1. Which brings up another 'thing' of mine that has developed as I age, the thought that playoffs themselves are arguably BS that they do not crown a real champion that has had to prove itself over the long haul of a regular season only to lose in a crapshoot of 4-of-7 series or sudden-death games depending on sport. Euro soccer has never to my knowledge had playoffs, you win the league you are are the champ and though that is foreign to North America (even in modern day soccer the MLS) it is arguably more pure. I just again as I age dislike how the regular season in any sport is treated as some sort of prelim. Look at baseball - nowadays you can have a World Series champ that won a one-shot wild card playoff game then a 3-of-5 series then two 4-of-7 series with an overall record of 12-8 and be World Series champions? well yes, champs but are they the best team? doubtful. you have maybe 2 solid good pitchers and you can win it all. seems unfair somehow compared to a team that wins 100 games due to depth everywhere over long haul. For me, I look at it that way; there's a playoff champ and a reg. season champ and if they are both, like last year's Cubs, more power to them and good for them. For teams that scrape into titles well good for you, you're champs of a 20 or so game season but I'll also recognize the champ of the 162-game or 82-game or whatever season.
 Karlo Berkovitch


Points well taken; however, there is money to be made in all playoff series. The nature of the beast.

James.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

 

Andrew Courtney Hangs up his Blades.


By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer

(ECHL photo)


              
Andrew Courtney wouldn't change a thing.
Well, maybe one thing.
The 31-year-old Belleville native recently announced his retirement from professional hockey at the conclusion of the 2016-17 ECHL regular season.
Courtney, a six-foot-three, 200-pound forward, spent his entire seven-year minor pro career with the Missouri Mavericks in Independence, MO, where he finished the season as the fourth team captain in the club's eight-year history.
In a letter on the Mavericks website, Courtney said he couldn't have asked for a better place to play. His lone regret was not being able to share a league title with Mavericks fans, he said.
"I was just a young college kid wanting to continue his hockey career,” he said. “Looking back, I couldn't have asked for a better organization to continue my career with. To be able to play for the same team my whole professional career has been a blessing.
"There'll always be a spot in my heart for the Missouri Mavericks family.”
Courtney leaves some big skates to fill with the ECHL affiliate of the NHL New York Islanders.
He holds Mavericks franchise records for most games played (360) and goals (149). The former Jr. A Trenton Sting added 142 assists for 291 career points, along with 396 penalty minutes.
In 40 career playoff games, Courtney scored 19 goals and tacked on 14 helpers for 33 points.
Courtney played five years of university hockey with the Lethbridge Pronghorns before turning pro with the Mavericks during the 2010-11 season. He left Lethbridge on a high note, earning 23 points in 23 games in his final CIS season.
Courtney burst onto the minor pro scene in his rookie campaign with Missouri, scoring 29 goals and adding 30 assists for 59 points in 63 games. Between 2013-15, Courtney scored single-season career highs of 34 and 36 goals, respectively.
Battling the injury bug this season, the rangy forward scored nine goals and totalled 26 points in 42 games. Mavericks finished fifth in the seven-team Mountain Division and missed the playoffs.
Mavericks were seventh in average home attendance in the 27-team ECHL this season (5,068) and Courtney saluted the “Orange Army” for their support during his career.
"Best fans in the league,” he said. “Through all the ups and downs, you've never left our side. I'll never forget the noise you bring to every game. My only regret is not being able to bring a championship to you.”
Courtney, who met his wife, Kara, while playing for the Mavericks, said his teammates, coaches and training staff helped prepare him for life after pro hockey.
"What I've learned from all of you will help me make the transition into the next chapter of my life,” he said.
Need to know: Former Belleville Bulls defenceman Stephen Silas signed with the Mavericks following the 2016-17 Ontario university season with the Waterloo Warriors.

Copied from The Intelligencer on April 20, 2017.



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