Monday, February 20, 2017


AProud Canadian in South West Florida

                                                Butch Wilhelm with Rod Spittle

Occasionally, I like to focus on a fine athletic achievement. If it so happens that a Canadian is involved, all the better. We have been accused of not being a terribly proud people. That may be true, but certainly not in this case.

For many years, I have followed the golf exploits of Rod Spittle. Rod grew up in the Niagara area, Chippewa to be exact. They have announced that he is from St. Catherines and Niagara Falls. No matter. He was fortunate enough to attend Ohio State on a golf scholarship. Once he graduated, he chose to stay in the United States to sell a little insurance and play a little golf.

Around the time of his fiftieth birthday, he toyed with the idea of trying to make the grade for the PGA Seniors Tour, for those over 50. Despite some initial setbacks, he has achieved success on the tour, finishing well and even winning one event. When he arrived at Naples, Florida this week, he had no guarantee that they would even let him play. He was the “Fifth Alternate” on the list of players who would be allowed to play, if others dropped out.

We ran into Rod, and his caddy Butch Wilhelm, on the practice range on the day before the tournament. One after another, he was cracking drives 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. He mentioned that his wife Ann had traveled with him from their winter home near Dunedin. Apparently, she was back at the hotel packing the bags to head to Dunedin because Rod had not been informed that there was a place for him.

So, on the first day of the tournament, Rod hung around, just in case. Ten minutes before the start, he was informed that he was in the field. “You know, we can't make this up! I was the first alternate last week, same thing, so I was around for three days. And then I got the call.”

He birdied the first hole, and finished four under for the first round. As he prepared for the second round, I chatted with Butch near the range. I mentioned that a friend of mine from Belleville had been in touch with me, and wanted me to ask about Rod's putter grip. It is called a “P2”, and comes from a local golf guy named Steve Auger. Butch pulled the club, and we talked about it. The putter head cover was adorned with Canadian flags.

                                           The "P2 Grip", available from Steve Auger at Black Bear
                                            or at the Loyalist Golf Centre.

Rod met Steve at the PGA show recently, and loves the grip. Mind you, he did make a slight adjustment to it. He reversed the grip, bottom up.” Rod's wife Ann confirmed that bit of information. He scored rounds of 68, 68, and 69 to finish in a tie for third with Jerry Kelly and Jeff Sluman. He pocketed $ 96 000 for his efforts.

                                                              Miguel Angel Jiminez

Fred Couples finished first, 16 under par. Miguel Angel Jiminez from Malaga, Spain was second, at 13 under par. The victory for Couples was his 12th on the PGA Tour Champions, the first since 2014. The win vaulted him to the top of the Schwab Cub Standings, ahead of Bernhard Langer. Spittle also made significant gains in the standings.

                                                                Bernhard Langer

Langer won the tournament last year. In fact he has won the tournament three times in the last six years, but never in successive years. That is a word of caution to all players in case he plays next year!

Playing conditions were perfect all week long. The start for the final round was delayed slightly, due to an early morning fog. Most players felt that the course at Twin Eagles was in superb condition. Attendance was up significantly, due, in part, to the presence of John Daly.

                                                         John Daly

Rod and the boys move on to Tucson to play this coming week. He has earned an exemption into that tournament. When asked whether or not he might take a little confidence from his play this week, Rod replied, “Without a doubt. I'm healthy and rested and practiced up and ready to go This is a great way to get started.”

And so, the “gentle giant” from the Niagara area made us all a little proud, this past weekend. The television announcers were really impressed with his game. They referred to it as the “feel good” story of the week.

You can also check Rod's progress at, or on the golf channel.

James Hurst
February 20, 2017.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Milt Schmidt, Bruin Legend

Boston Bruin legend, former RCAF member, remembered

According to the original caption to this photo, taken Feb. 25, 1942: “Aircraftman 2nd Class Milton Schmidt is the only member of the RCAF Flyers hockey team whose duties in the Air Force are similar to his spare time job as a hockey star. The Flyers’ star centre man is becoming a physical training instructor, a job for which he appears admirably fitted.” Photo: DND Archives, PL-6907
According to the original caption to this photo, taken Feb. 25, 1942: “Aircraftman 2nd Class Milton Schmidt is the only member of the RCAF Flyers hockey team whose duties in the Air Force are similar to his spare time job as a hockey star. The Flyers’ star centre man is becoming a physical training instructor, a job for which he appears admirably fitted.” Photo: DND Archives, PL-6907
Major Mat Joost and Joanna Calder, RCAF ~
Milt Schmidt, the last surviving member of hockey’s famed “Kraut Line” and a former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, died Jan.  4, 2017, in Massachusetts. He was 98, and the oldest living former member of the National Hockey League (NHL).
It was an iconic moment in hockey history.
On Feb.11, 1942, the “Kraut Line” led the Boston Bruins to an 8-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the Boston Garden.
Then, as the crowd cheered and the Boston Garden’s organist played “Auld Lang Syne”, members of the rival Bruins and Habs teams hoisted the three members of the Kraut Line – Milton Conrad “Milt” Schmidt, Woodrow Clarence “Woody” Dumart and Robert Theodore “Bobby” Bauer – onto their shoulders and carried them off the ice.
They were heading to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the war in Europe that summer.
The three long-time friends from Hamilton, Ontario, had been dubbed the Kraut Line when they joined the National Hockey League because of their German heritage.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget what happened,” said Schmidt in an interview before he died. “The players on both teams lifted the three of us on their shoulders and carried us off the ice and the crowd gave us an ovation. A man couldn’t ever forget a thing like that.”
On July 23, Schmidt was posted to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. Three months later he and Woody Dumart were posted overseas to No. 6 Group (Royal Canadian Air Force), which was part of Bomber Command.
Even overseas, though, they couldn’t leave hockey behind. Both played in the 12-team RCAF League – although as opponents. Dumart’s RCAF Station Linton-on-Ouse team won the championship against Schmidt’s RCAF Station Middleton St. George team.
Schmidt was commissioned on Aug. 17, 1943, and held the rank of Pilot Officer. At this time, he was the Middleton St. George sports officer. Physical fitness was an important aspect of life on any station and as sports officer he oversaw many activities, including basketball, soccer and softball, recreational swimming at Thornaby Baths, as well as intra-unit sports. He was also involved in the station hockey team, which played one game in November 1943 and four games in December at the Durham ice rink.
In the 1943-44 RCAF Overseas hockey season, Pilot Officer Schmidt was on the same team as Bobby Bauer, who had arrived in the United Kingdom that summer. This time, Schmidt’s team beat Dumart’s. This was a special time for Pilot Officer Schmidt as he was promoted to the rank of flying officer on Feb. 17, 1944, and his team won the league championship on March 9.
After the war came to an end, he was posted to No. 1 Repatriation Centre on Sept. 27, 1945, for return to Canada.  He was released on Oct. 31, 1945.
Schmidt played with the Bruins for his entire career until he retired in 1955 at the age of 36. During that time, he played in 776 games.
Before going to war, he led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup victories in 1939 and 1941.
Following his return to hockey for the 1945-46 season, he went on to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1951. After he retired he coached the team to the Stanley Cup finals in 1957 and 1958.
In 1966 he became assistant general manager and the following year was promoted to general manager. During his tenure in 1970 and 1972, the Bruins took home the Stanley Cup. He moved up to an executive position but then, in 1974, he became the first general manager of the Washington Capitals.
Schmidt remained involved with the Bruins through their alumni team and their “Boards and Blades Club”.
The day following his death, the Bruins honoured Schmidt’s memory before a game against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Yesterday, our Bruins family lost a man we have all come to know as the ultimate Bruin,” the announcer said. “Milton Conrad Schmidt arrived here [at the Boston Garden] in 1936 and, in many ways, he never left… Milt Schmidt embodied everything we know about being a Boston Bruin and no one was prouder to represent the organization, as he had for more than 80 years.”
“Uncle Milty”, as some called him, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 and his No. 15 jersey was retired in 1980.
Thanks to Gerry Walker for this article.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Mav in Binghampton with the Slap Shot Crew.

Mavety remembers as Slap Shot turns 40

By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer

Shown in this publicity shot as a member of the minor-pro Denver Spurs (1968-71), former longtime Belleville Bulls GM-coach Larry Mavety appeared in the 1977 hockey movie Slap Shot while playing in Binghamton. The film celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. (Getty Images)
Shown in this publicity shot as a member of the minor-pro Denver Spurs (1968-71), former longtime Belleville Bulls GM-coach Larry Mavety appeared in the 1977 hockey movie Slap Shot while playing in Binghamton. The film celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. (Getty Images)

Happy birthday, Slap Shot.
Yes, the iconic hockey movie turns 40 this month.
"Wow,” says Larry Mavety, speaking via cellphone from his home in Kingston. “That's a long time ago.”
Mavety, the former longtime Belleville Bulls GM-coach, appeared in the Hollywood shinny cult classic filmed mostly in Johnstown, PA, and released in 1977, along with several of his minor-pro teammates then skating in the old North American Hockey League for the Binghamton Dusters.
"Heck, I got more money for five seconds in the movie than I did playing for Binghamton for a whole week,” said Mavety, a rugged defenceman with solid offensive skills. “Then, they fed you on top of that.”
Contrary to a popular local legend, Mavety, now 74, does not appear in the climactic championship game as Clarence (Screaming Buffalo) Swamptown, who terrorizes the hometown Charlestown Chiefs as one of a cast of crazy call-ups by the arch-rival Syracuse Bulldogs.
You actually have to look really hard to find Mavety when, early in the movie, he lugs the puck behind the net and wheels up ice.
He's right. The scene lasts about five seconds.
"Yeah, I remember when I was still in Belleville and the kids would put that movie on the bus all the time and it would drive me up the wall,” said Mavety. “They always wanted to find me in the movie. And they never did.
"I had the big sideburns back then.”
Even with Hollywood mega-star Paul Newman playing the lead role as Chiefs player-coach, Reggie Dunlop, Mavety and his NAHL teammates didn't believe the movie would amount to much.
"At the time, we thought it was a bit of a joke,” said Mavety. “But now. Who would've thought it would turn out like it did? I don't think we ever dreamed that.”
Along with a nice paycheque, Mavety said another bonus from appearing in Slap Shot was the chance to hang out with Newman.
"He was a good guy,” said Mavety. “He talked to everybody.”
Mavety's Binghamton teammate, Rod Bloomfield, was Newman's double for on-ice action scenes. The highscoring forward grew up in Parry Sound playing minor hockey with the great Bobby Orr and was inducted into the town's Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Another real-life Binghamton player, Bill (Goldie) Goldthorpe, was the inspiration for the oft-suspended wildman Ogie Ogilthorpe, portrayed in Slap Shot by NAHL player Ned Dowd, whose sister wrote the script.
Hailing from Thunder Bay where he earned pocket money as a junior by digging graves in his spare time, Goldthorpe sported a gigantic blonde afro and piled up 285 penalty minutes in his rookie NAHL season with the Syracuse Blazers.
Goldthorpe has told reporters he's forgotten how many brawls he'd been involved in — on and off the ice. One story suggests that once during his pro playing career he was refused entry into the U.S. and re-entry back into Canada — in the same day.
"He's an interesting person to talk to,” said Mavety. “He doesn't pull any punches. He sent me a T-shirt and on the back it's got printed all the cities where he's been in jail. He wasn't a bad hockey player either, but he had to live up to an image of what people thought he was.”
And that meant he wasn't even allowed to play his own character in Slap Shot.
"No, they wouldn't let him in the movie,” said Mavety. “They didn't know what he'd do.”
Today, Goldthorpe lives in Vancouver and is becoming something of a regular on the public speaking circuit. He'll appear in Kingston Friday to sign autographs at the K-Rock Centre during the OHL game between the hometown Frontenacs and Peterborough Petes being billed as Slap Shot Night.
Mavety is glad his former teammate is now receiving recognition for his behind-the-scenes role, after being shut out of the smashing success of Slap Shot.
"Yeah, now he's getting something out of it,” said Mavety. “I mean, you ask anybody. He's Ogilthorpe. And he never got a nickel for that.”
Mavety, of course, doesn't have a nickel left from the paycheque he received for his brief appearance in Slap Shot. Not even the paystub.
"I used to keep it in my wallet,” he said. “It had Universal Studios, California printed on it. But I don't know what the hell happened to it. I spent the money, but I always kept the paystub in my wallet.
"I guess I didn't pay much attention to it. Now, I wish I had.”
Need to know: Newman's Reggie Dunlop character was based loosely on former Toronto Maple Leafs coach, John Brophy, who played defence in the old Eastern Hockey League (forerunner of the NAHL) for 18 seasons. Including 10 seasons with more than 200 and one campaign with 325, Brophy never earned less than 100 penalty minutes per season during his nearly 20 years in the league.

Mav was a legendary athlete growing up in Belleville. His father, "Red" Mavety, ran the Maher Shoe Store, and was a fixture in Downtown Belleville. Mav was a superb catcher, playing at the highest level of softball for many years, especially at the Alemite.  He is a member of the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame.

Following his hockey career, (check, he managed and coached for many years.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Eagles Basketball-Crunch Time

It is indeed crunch time for the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Men's Basketball team. The Eagles began the season as a favourite to repeat as the defending conference tourney champion. With just a handful of games remaining before the playoffs begin, the Eagles will face some stiff opposition from teams that are a little desperate.

There have been a few bumps along the road this year for the Eagles. Likely not much different from most other American College teams. There are the elite teams, of course, who lose only one or two games during the regular season to earn a top spot in the seedings for “March Madness”, and a trip to the NCAA Championships. The teams from the ASUN Conference have to claw their way in to the finals.

After splitting a pair of home games last week, the Eagles have just three games remaining, two on the road. They finish the regular season on the 23rd, with a home game against Stetson. The Atlantic Sun Championships begin with quarter final games on the 27th of February. The Eagles would love to finish at the top of their division. There is a distinct home advantage in basketball, especially with the Eagles. The sound is deafening at the Alico Arena, modestly referred to as “The Nest” for the Eagles.

When the teams took the court for their game last week, I became aware of the fact that one of the team's leaders was not dressed. Christian Terrell, a six foot five Junior guard hobbled along with his teammates wearing a “boot”, one of those protective foot gear. He had twisted his ankle the previous day in practice. I knew that did not bode well for the Eagles.

                                                        Christian Terrell

FGCU was entertaining the Lipscomb Bisons. The Eagles had an 8-1 record, while the Bisons stood at 7-2. At the halfway point in the game, these evenly-matched teams were deadlocked in a 28-28 draw. Both teams did not shoot well, even with open looks: shooting percentage for each team was 34.4%. Lipscomb had the reputation of being a good three point shooting team, and they had made four of thirteen chances at halftime. The Eagles had made one shot in seven attempts outside the arc.

The Bisons got a huge boost from Josh Williams midway through the second half. He sunk two 3 point shots to move the Bisons up 49-40. Brandon Goodwin and Marc-Eddy Norelia each scored to even the game in the dying seconds, but the Bisons stubbornly hung on to win 65-60.

Norelia netted his 1000th point of his career early in the first half, and has been a consistent scorer throughout his career at FGCU.

The Eagles are most fortunate to have Brandon Goodwin starting this year. He has been named ASUN “Newcomer of the Week” five times this year, a league record. He is a team leader, and leads the team in scoring. At six feet, two inches, he battles under the boards for rebounds most effectively, averaging more than four per game.

The basketball world is indeed enormous here in the US of A. Even though the Eagles lead their own conference, they are ranked 81st in the nation, in the top 175 teams. FGCU is one of 31 teams to win at least 20 games.

The “Nest” will be rocking a week from now with just a few games to play. One of those games might just be a return match with the Bisons. That would be some match!!

James Hurst
February 13, 2017

Sunday, February 05, 2017


Rusty Hafner-Awaiting his Turn

                                                      Rusty Hafner

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the dreadful tragedy suffered by the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey team. Their bus left the road on the way to Peoria, Illinois. Many of the players and staff members suffered serious injuries in the accident including a former Duke, Rusty Hafner. Andy Bathgate, a former Belleville Bull, was also on the trip.
                                                                  Andy Bathgate

Hafner was starting his second season with the Cottonmouths. I asked him why and how he ended up in Columbus, Georgia. “Well, it was sort of the typical hockey grapevine thing. My coach at Bowling Green had played with my coach in Columbus, and he recommended me”.

I caught up with Hafner a couple of days ago to get an update on his status, and on the status of the team. When I first reached him, he was waiting at the hospital for some follow-up work on “concussion-like symptoms”, as he described it. A day or two later, he told me that he still had not hit the ice. “I am still kind of beaten up,” he told me. “I did not pass the most recent concussion test”.

In addition to that, there is some concern about Rusty's spleen. A recent CT scan indicated that his spleen is enlarged, and it is just a matter of time before it will return to its normal state. “You only get one spleen,” he told me, “so I had better keep an eye on that too.”

The Cottonmouths have a wonderful “Booster Family” program in place. All of the players regularly visit their booster families to get a few comforts of home, particularly a fine home-cooked dinner. Rusty was on his way to visit his booster family when I reached him.

The prognosis at the present time is that I might be able to return for the playoffs. But there are so many questions. There are still more tests to be done.” I could tell that he was anxious to get back on the ice. He has accepted the fact that he is in the hands of professional medical people. And that is that.

We tossed around his thoughts on his days in The County. “I had never heard of the place before I arrived, but I loved it there. I stayed at the Greers house, and became good friends with Riley and Brady.” You must remember this is an American kid from Toledo, Ohio, who came north to play a little shinny, at the junior level, and was moved from Carleton Place to Wellington just before the Dukes' run to the Royal Bank Cup. He added: “Those were some of the greatest moments in my hockey career.”

He received his university degree from Bowling Green in Exercise Science, and looks forward to days when he might work as a strength and conditioning coach. Not all athletes complete their degree work at universities. Many football and basketball players leave early in their academic careers to play in the pro ranks. It is not always a wise decision. Rusty is grateful that he stuck it out.

I know that your thoughts and prayers are with him. May he have a speedy recovery.

February 5, 2017
James Hurst

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Bryan Helmer-Quality Guy.

Helmer 'surprised, emotional' at Hall of Fame selection

By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer


In 1993, when Bryan Helmer inked his first professional contract in the American Hockey League, he was thrilled to receive a $2,500 signing bonus.
Twenty-four years later, he's one of the newest members of the AHL Hall of Fame.

The former Wellington Dukes defenceman — whose jersey No. 44 was retired in 2014 by the Junior A hockey club — was enshrined in the Class of 2017 with ceremonies held during the recent AHL All-Star Classic in Allentown, PA.
Helmer, 44, now vice-president of hockey operations for the AHL Hershey Bears, spoke to The Intelligencer on Wednesday.

Here's the Q and A:

Q: What do you recall about your pro debut?
Helmer: “I remember before I played my first AHL game for Albany in Rochester against the Americans and I think I'd signed just a couple of days before. They gave me $2,500 to sign. I called my dad and told him. Then, I found out the other guys got $5,000 or $7,500 to sign. But, coming from Wellington and a Tier II junior team, I would've signed for anything.”
Q: What was your initial reaction upon learning of your Hall of Fame selection?
Helmer: “I was very surprised. To be honest, I didn't expect it. It caught me off guard. I got a little emotional when I told my family. It was a nice feeling.”
Q: What do you recall about playing four years (1989-93) with the Dukes in Wellington?
Helmer: "The old Duke Dome was really special and the Wellington fans were so passionate. That place really rocked in the playoffs. It was great for me, at 17, I billeted with the Lavenders and they became like a second family to me. I still stay in touch with people in Wellington. And, having my jersey retired was pretty special too.”
Q: You signed a pro contract straight out of Tier II, not the usual route to pro hockey. Is that something you remind your prospects, that there are many ways to achieve a goal?
Helmer: “I tell that to kids all the time. If you're good enough and work hard enough and are passionate enough, you can get there. I was never drafted — in any league — but played 20 years of pro hockey. Sure, you need some luck, and I had some. But you've got to work hard to make your own luck.”
Q: Few people know the AHL better than you. Will it work in Belleville when the Binghamton Senators move to Yardmen Arena next season?
Helmer: “I think it's going to be great. Any time you can get a team going back to Canada, that's great. I think they'll do well. The fans will support the team. It's good for the organization to be closer to Ottawa and it's a win-win for the league and Belleville. I hope to get up there a few times. It'll be a lot like having a junior club again. The AHL does a really good job of getting players out and into the community.”
Q: For you, your wife, Pam, and your two children — Kade, 15, and Rylan, 11 — was it time to put down some roots in Hershey, where you won two Calder Cup titles, after an often nomadic professional playing career?
Helmer: “When I got the opportunity to do this job, I was very happy. It was time to settle down. I grew up in a small town and my wife grew up in a small town. Hershey has that smalltown feel, but with big-city things to do.”
Q: Talent and desire were key to your success as a player. What else?
Helmer: “I was fortunate enough to play with a lot of really good players. I was surrounded by some great human beings.”
NEED TO KNOW: Helmer retired as the AHL's all-time career leader for games played (1,117) and points (564) by a defenceman.

I was the scorekeeper, timekeeper, announcer for the Dukes when Bryan Helmer began his career with the Dukes. It was always a pleasure to deal with him. A quality guy.
Thanks to the Intelligencer and to Paul Svoboda for this article.

James Hurst
February 2, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017


2017 NHL All Star Game

For the first time in several years, I really enjoyed the NHL All Star festivities.

I have read several reports on the All Star contests, both pro and con. One of the indications that I took from the event was that the players were having a fine time. Of course, there were one million reasons why the boys from the Metropolitan Division had a fine weekend. That was a mighty big cheque handed out at centre ice!

At last year's All Star event, John Scott really distinguished himself. He walked away, perhaps I should say “skated away” with the MVP honours from the game, much to the delight of fans and players alike. He was a journeyman player, without question, and is no longer playing hockey. But that was his moment in the sun, and he was paid the ultimate compliment by his teammates. They hoisted him on their shoulders after he received his award. There was even a bit of television coverage of John Scott at home, enjoying his young family.

This year's MVP was Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored three goals in the shinny tournament held to determine a winner. It was three on three hockey, certainly a challenge. We are familiar with the format, because it is used in regular season overtime. It is exciting hockey, requiring great speed and great goaltending.

The NHL is divided into four divisions. There have been so many changes in the conferences, and the divisions, that I have to check the newspaper to see how they currently line up. Currently, there are four divisions in two conferences. The four teams in the tournament: Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central, and Pacific. Pacific beat Central 10-3, Metropolitan beat Atlantic 10-6. The winners faced off in the final, won by the Metropolitan boys 4-3. Sure, it was a bit confusing, and hardly memorable. But it was good hockey. Games were 20 minutes long.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the homage paid to the top 100 players from the last 100 years. Of course, many have passed away. But almost 50 of the greats of the game showed up. From all of the smiling faces, it was apparent that they all really enjoyed the weekend. Wisely, there was no mention of grading. We can agree on many of the top players, but there will always be disagreements. Gordie Howe is in the top ten on everyone's list (at least he should be). Bobby Orr is on my list as well, as is Bobby Hull. I still maintain that Wayne Gretzky is number one.

I also enjoy the skills competitions. I believe the players enjoy that as well. They hang along the boards chatting while watching their peers shoot for accuracy and for speed. It is always noteworthy to see who is clocked with the fastest speed in the league.

Other noteworthy sports events last week included Roger Federer's victory in the Australian Open against Rafael Nadal. It was a long and grueling five set match. It has been several years between victories in major tournaments for Federer, who is in the twilight of his career, but still the king of the court.

Five Canadian golfers made the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. Several notable players failed to make the cut, including Tiger Woods in his comeback attempt.

And yes, there is football south of the border this weekend: the New England Patriots will take on the Atlanta Falcons in Houston this coming Sunday. As always, there will be some interesting commercials.

James Hurst
January 30, 2017

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