Thursday, September 21, 2017
Notes from Mr. Wilson's Basement
Notes From Mr. Wilson's Basement
A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend a hockey function in Toronto. It took place in a basement in a very nice part of town, but it was no ordinary basement. For hockey memorabilia fans, particularly Leaf fans, it was an extraordinary cellar.
Mike Wilson used almost one thousand square feet of space to display his collection. Since that time, he has sold the bulk of the collection to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa. Wilson spent many years amassing the material. Each item that he obtained had a history, sometimes an emotional attachment. He wanted to share his knowledge of the game, keeping the history alive. With that in mind, he often hosted different groups to his basement. A series of “Hot Stove League” chats.
The evening I attended was devoted to hockey history from the early 1930s. The Toronto Marlboroughs won the Memorial Cup at that time, and the Leafs won the Stanley Cup a short time later. Descendants of the players were on hand to share a memory or two of their famous relatives. I was invited to the event by Pete Conacher, who played for the Belleville McFarlands when they won the World Championship.
Pete, in a recent photo in Mr. Wilson's Basement
Pete represented arguably the most famous family in Toronto sports history. His dad was Charlie. His uncle was Lionel. His cousin was Murray Henderson, whom Pete calls the “unsung hero of the Conacher family”. His Uncle Roy played several years in the NHL. Then there are several other grandsons and nephews who played at higher levels of hockey.
Mike Wilson, in his basement
Pete told the group assembled that his father “never talked about the games” when he got home form the Gardens. His dad played on one of the first lines in hockey to receive a nickname-the Kid Line. Other players on that line were Joe Primeau, and Harvey “Busher” Jackson. Pete remembered that his dad was not a fan of the “dump the puck” style of hockey. His dad said that it slowed the game down to the extent that “they could have played the game in galoshes”.
Pete got called up to the Black Hawks from his Junior team in Guelph. His Uncle Roy was retiring that season, and Pete got a chance to skate with him. Pete played on a line with Bill Mosienko and Jim McFadden, against the leafs. He remembered that the Hawks won, 1-0. Pete was credited with an assist on the goal. He maintains that he did not touch the puck.
Charlie's son Brad took the floor for a few questions and answers. He said that he followed the game listening to Foster Hewitt. Naturally, the Leafs were revered by most Torontonians. That reverence went back to those early 1930s days, when the Kid Line dominated play, and won Stanley Cups. Remember?
Pete was also asked about Nicholson Island, of all things. He told the group that his dad sent their dog down to the island to be trained. His Uncle Lionel often went to the island to hunt pheasant. There is a strong Toronto Maple Leafs connection to the island, which I will research in days to come.
Mike Wilson reported that the last of the items he sold left his place about a month ago. But he has an agreement with the Museum, indicating that he has “curatorial control, naming rights, and an emphasis on preserving and displaying his collection's history”.
September 18, 2017.
Friday, September 15, 2017
Jose Abreu-White Sox
As I get older, I tend not to focus on the negative aspects of life. I know they are out there. It is easier to pay more attention to sport, and the good things about it.
Jose Abreu has a lot on his mind, nowadays. He was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, roughly translated as “One Hundred Fires”. It lies on the south coast of Cuba, roughly one hundred miles south of Havana, as the crow flies. You may have seen footage of the disaster brought by Hurricane Irma on the north coast of Cuba in the past few days.
Most of the Caribbean Islands have been ravaged by the storm, some islands completely flattened. As I write, Irma is making her way through northern Florida, and into other southern states. I have seen estimates of hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. I have no idea how much that would be. Quite a bit, I assume.
So ...Abreu is playing baseball for the White Sox. He is a very talented player. He was the “Rookie of the Year” for the American League in his first season, 2014. After his third season with the White Sox, he joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to hit 25 home runs, 175 hits, and 100 runs- batted-in in that time span.
His career batting average is .300, and he has 30 home runs so far this season.
While playing against the San Francisco Giants recently, Abreu accomplished a rare feat. In baseball jargon, he hit “for the cycle”. It means that he had a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in one game. It was the way he accomplished the cycle that made it remarkable.
In his first three plate appearances, he had banged out a home run, a double, and a single. When he came to the plate for the fourth time, the crowd began to stir. Abreu dug in at the plate, and fouled the first pitch off his shin. Down he went, and the trainer rushed out to check on him. He waved off all assistance. He had something else in mind, as did the fans. He smacked the next pitch into the gap belween the outfielders in right field. He peeked over his shoulder as he rounded second base.
He slid safely into third base, reording his first “cycle”. A remarkable feat, considering the fact that he likely had a lot on his mind. Only five other White Sox have hit for the cycle, the last one seventeen years ago. Ray Shalk, Jack Brohamer, Carlton Fisk, Chris Singleton and Jose Valentin are the only other White Sox to hit for the cycle.
He has returned to Cuba a couple of times, since he defected in 2013. He went on a good will trip with Major League players in 2015, and also last October, when he had a chance to visit with his family in Cienfuegos.
I am sure he will want to go again this year, especially after seeing the damage left by Hurricane Irma. Another fine athlete to keep an eye on for the next few years, as he has the potential to become a super star in the great game of baseball. And he just may have opened the door, slightly mind you, to a place in Cooperstown.
September 12, 2017.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Kevin Bailie-Moving On!
Bailie sees action for Baby Sens; Ottawa wins rookie tourney
Belleville native Kevin Bailie of Queen's University saw action for the Ottawa Sens at the NHL rookie tournament Sunday in Toronto. (Kingston Whig Standard photo)
Ottawa Senators prospects claimed the three-team NHL rookie tournament title with a 4-3 shootout win over the host Toronto Maple Leaf hopefuls Sunday at Richoh Coliseum.
Baby Sens opened the round-robin event Saturday with an 8-2 clobbering of the Montreal Canadiens rookie team.
On Sunday, Belleville product Kevin Bailie of Queen's University saw action in the the Baby Sens net. The rangy goaltender and former Belleville Athlete of the Year signed a tryout form with Ottawa after 2017 NHL draft pick Jordan Hollett was bitten by the flu bug.
Down 3-0, Sens battled back on goals by Andreas Englund and Matteo Gennaro before Filip Chlapik notched the tying tally with less than three minutes to go. Ottawa would go on to win it in the shootout.
Bailie was reportedly a bit shaky in the early going but settled down nicely with a couple of big stops in the second period before being replaced by Marcus Hogberg.
Sens draft pick, forward Drake Batherson from Cape Breton of the QMJHL, was among a group of strong performers up front. He's the son of former Belleville Bulls forward, Norm Batherson.
Thursday, September 07, 2017
Labour Day Classics 2017
Traditionally, Labour Day is the halfway point of the Canadian Football League season. Rosters are pretty well set, players are adjusting to coaching methods, expectations become more realistic. The games that are played on Labour Day have been referred to as “Classics” for many years. Last Monday's game was an exception to the rule.
Mother Nature helped decide the outcome of the game in Hamilton between the Ticats and the Toronto Argonauts. At the start of the game, the winds howled from one end to the other, affecting the coin toss. Winners had to decide whether or not they should: A. Take the end with the wind at their backs. B. Receive the kickoff. C. Defer the decision to the start of the second half. It was a significant factor in the choice.
Once the first quarter was completed, the weather took over the game. The rains came, the winds continued to howl, the lightning flashed. The referee stopped the game and sent the players to their dressing rooms. The fans were advised to leave their seats, and find cover. (One consequence was that the concession stands did a booming business!) The game was put on hold for the weather to clear.
Officials stood around checking their smart phones every thirty seconds, hoping for a reprieve. Two hours later, the second quarter recommenced, and the fans were treated to yet another barn burner of Canadian football. The winds subsided, even changed direction as the game progressed.
When the referee signalled the end of the game, the Ticats emerged victorious, albeit by the skin of their fangs. Joy returned to Steeltown. It was their first victory of the season, after eight losses. Any victory against your arch rival is extra special. There was no love lost in the game, nor will there ever be.
The Ticats now cross the province to face the RED/BLACKS in Ottawa this coming Saturday. The Ottawa squad now sits in first place, due to the Toronto loss. Last Thursday, the knocked off the Montreal Alouettes 32-4 at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal. Also known as McGill Stadium, it is a wonderful place to watch a football game.
Unofficial RED/BLACKS Cheering section
The RED/BLACKS made significant changes after last season. The had won the Grey Cup, but sveral players left the fold, for many reasons. Trevor Harris took the helm at quarterback, and has spent the first half of the season finding a rhythm. He has a wonderful core of receivers to work with, and Moses Madu in the backfield to carry the load, when required. Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Jake Harty, Josh Stangby and Deonte Spencer can pull in short and long passes to keep the opposition busy.
David and Arty with the Cup
The RED/BLACKS host the Ticats on their final game of the season, October 27th. At that point in time, preparations will begin to dress up TD Stadium for the hosting of the Grey Cup. Shania Twain will perform at half time. A perfect combination of Canadian content.
Alice Loves the RED/BLACKS!!
Southside fans will be ready this Saturday, especially with their chant of, “Move those chains!” whenever Ottawa gets a first down. Buckle your seat belt for another half season of CFL football!!
September 5, 2017.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
I Kept them in Stitches
“I Kept Them in Stitches”
Ken Carson with Larry Millson
Ken Carson keeps pretty busy these days as the president of the Class-A Advanced Florida State League of Baseball. That position is a long way from his early days pushing a broom as a rink rat in The Barrie Arena, on Dunlop Street in Barrie. He was born in 1941, and experienced many of the adventures that I have known, and perhaps you as well.
He was around the rink when the Barrie Flyers reigned supreme in Junior Hockey. But he was also there for the professional wrestling, noting in the book that Yukon Eric once chased him out of the ring! The rink was home to roller skating in the summer, and he tightened skates. He sold programs, and worked his way up the ladder to become the Flyers' stick boy. During those years, he worked for “Hap” Emms, not always an easy task.
Carson moved with the Flyers to Niagara Falls when he was still in high school. From there, he moved on to train the Rochester Americans, the Toronto Maple Leafs' AHL farm team. They trained in Peterborough, and Carson worked with Bob Haggert and Tommy Nayler. He moved on to Pittsburgh to work for the Penguins in 1967, hired by 'Red” Sullivan.
In 1976, he took the trainer's job with the Toronto Blue Jays. Spring training for the first year in 1977 was held in Dunedin. Incidentally, the minimum salary for a player was $ 19 000, and the total payroll for the team was $ 750 000.
A couple of years later, a young lad who was studying athletic training at Sheridan College, joined the crew. Mike Knuude had played a little Junior hockey with the Brampton Warriors and the Dixie Beehives before becoming more interested in the game behind the scenes. He signed on with the Jays, went to training camp, and was assigned to Medicine Hat his first year.
The following year, 1981, he was in the dugout at Exhibition Stadium with the parent club. He worked with many of the early Jays: Buck Martinez, Ernie Whitt, Jesse Barfield, George Bell, and Dave Stieb, to name a few.
There were many young players arriving from “The Islands”, when baseball was becoming more international. Knuude remembers that they learned English quickly. He also remembered that the team collected their passports at the beginning of the season, kept track of them for travel purposes, and returned them to the players afterthey had handed in their uniforms and equipment, for obvious reasons.
Just before the start of the 1982 hockey season, Knuude was working with Ken Carson when he got a call from “Doc” Vaughan at Exhibition Stadium. Vaughan and Coach Larry Mavety wanted to hire Knuude to go to Belleville as the trainer for the Bulls. Knuude thought it was a good fit for him personally at the time, and he moved on. Nowadays, you will find Mike prowling the showroom as a sales guy for Peter Smith, in North Belleville.
In 1987, Ken Carson took over as Director of Florida operations for the Jays, eventually becoming the president of the Florida State League. He also keeps busy with seven children, 15 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
Carson' book will be on the shelves of the Wellington Library in a week or so. I promised Mike Knuude a read before I turn it in to the library. A fine read, by Larry Millson.
August 21, 2017.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Reflections on the 2017 CP Women's Open
If you happened to be in Smiths Falls last weekend, and you were looking for great service at a restaurant or a garage, you were likely disappointed. The town's Number One daughter, a certain Brooke Henderson, was not far away in Ottawa, playing a few rounds of golf. At least half the town was there to cheer her on. After her final round, she signed autographs for at least an hour.
Brooke readily admitted that she was a bit disappointed with her final round, “Today didn't go quite as well as I would have liked. But still, having that support around me was amazing, and I am going to remember this week forever”.
Henderson started the CP Women's Open slowly with a round of 74. She shot a 69 on Friday, then tore up the course on Saturday with a record round of 63. The Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club is Brooke's home club, and it was her best ever tournament round at the Club. That round moved her into contention, just three strokes off the lead. She trailed Nicole Broch Larsen and Mo Martin.
When the dust finally settled on late Sunday afternoon, a young South Korean golfer from Seoul took the championship. Sung Hyung Park is a rookie on the tour, although she is a little older that most of the kids. She is 23 years old. Brooke will be 20 on her next birthday. No matter. Park 's win was her second on the tour this year, coupled with a major victory at the U.S. Women's Open a few weeks ago. She fired the best round of the day, a 7 under par 64, to win the title by 2 strokes over Mirim Lee. Five players tied for third at 274. Henderson tied for 12th at 277,
On Monday, Brooke took a flight to Portland, Oregon, to compete in the Cambria Portland Classic, a tournament she has won the past two years.
There were several supporters at the first tee on Friday for Hannah Hellyer. The Stirling native, who is an assistant pro at St. George's in Toronto earned the right to play in the national championship by shooting a 69 to qualify for the Open. She was thrtilled to be there. After her first round, she took a moment to summarize her thoughts. “It was pretty exciting. I don't think I was really thinking straight. My heart was pounding out of my chest. But I just had to kind of focus and try to get the ball in the fairway.”
Hannah has given some thought to leaving the game, but her persistence paid off last week, with a chance to play with the best players in the world. Another of her comments after her first round, when discussing her result, made me smile. “I couldn't find the fairway, so that was fun! And I had lot of diverse shots, so that was really good. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more down the middle and on the green, maybe one-putt, two putt, a little boring golf. We'll see how it goes.”
Brooke Henderson and Brittany Marchand were the only Canadians to make the cut for the final two rounds. Augusta James from Bath was in the hunt after the first round, but slipped to a 76 to miss the cut.
Playing conditions were ideal throughout the week, with a few gusty afternoon winds to make life interesting for the golfers. The course held up well, and, I dare say, the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club has never entertained that many people. They wisely decided to use the Uplands Air Base across the road for parking, employing shuttle buses. All in all, a wonderful experience.
And yes, the RED/BLACKS won as well, a bit of a squeaker. More on that nest week.
August 28, 2017.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Carlton Stuns Alabama
Carleton University has done it again.
The Ravens, winners of seven straight Canadian titles, defeated Alabama, 84-71, on Wednesday night in the 2017 Can-Am Shootout.
Yasin Joseph led all scorers with 19 points off the bench for Carleton. Eddie Ekiyor, a former Xavier forward, posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 boards.
Alabama was led by the freshman backcourt of John Petty and Collin Sexton, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively.
“This was one of the games that we, as a coaching staff, had circled on the schedule because this team has historically done really well against some of the most high-level American universities that have come over here to play,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said in a statement released by the school following the loss.
“We knew they were going to play physical, rebound the basketball and shoot threes, and they did all of those things. This is strictly an evaluation trip. We had the chance to play six or seven different lineups, play a lot of different guys and look at a lot of different matchups. We didn’t do as good of a job on both ends of the floor that we are capable of, but this was a great learning experience for our team.”
The Crimson Tide are projected as a top-25 entering this season. But this shouldn’t worry those in Tuscaloosa. Aside from dominating the Canadian college scene, winning 13 of the last 15 national titles, the Ravens have made a habit of defeating some of college basketball’s best programs. It’s also worth noting that the game is played on Canadian soil, meaning the game was played under international rules such as 10-minute quarters and a shortened shot clock.
Wednesday night was Carleton’s 28th victory over an NCAA Division I program.
Last summer, Wichita State fell to Carleton. The Shockers went on to finish the 2016-17 season ranked in the top-10, according to kenpom.com In 2013, Wisconsin was upended by the Ravens. Seven months later, the Badgers appeared in the first of two straight Final Four. If you’re the Crimson Tide, a loss to Carleton is hardly an omen for how this season will unfold.
Alabama concludes its tour of Canada on Thursday against the University of Ottawa. Carleton, which previously lost to Towson, has another chance at a Division I upset, taking on Vanderbilt on August 14 in the Bahamas.
Dillon Carman- Canadian Heavyweight Champion
Reigning Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Big Brother Canada ContestantMadoc, Ontario – Hastings County
You would think that the man with the heaviest fists in Canada would be a bit rough around the edges, but don’t let his size fool you: Dillon Carman is a friendly, funny guy with a big heart.
He’s the type of guy who sits at the same table at his favourite pub, the Barley Pub & Eatery in Madoc, and literally orders ‘the usual’ every time. The type of guy who brings his niece to her swimming lessons and spends his day off tubing with friends and hanging out around a campfire. For a man who has every reason to be a Big Shot, city slicker celeb, Dillon Carman is still a hometown country boy. Which is why his most recent stay in the Big Brother Canada House might’ve been his biggest challenge to battle yet.
After 62 days in the Big Brother house and in total, 88 days in isolation, what would you say is the first thing you wanted to do when you got out?
Just see my family! I needed that connection so badly. I see my mom all the time; she lives across the street from me, so not being able to talk to them, hug them, interact with them for that 88 days was hard. No TV, no outside world, no phone.
Wow! After that, do those things, your phone in particular, mean less to you now?
Totally! I leave it at the house all the time. I actually don’t even have it on me right now. I’d recommend it to anyone. Shut your phone off and take in the world that is around you. We are always taking for granted what we have; our friends, our family, our luxuries, our personal space.
As we all know from watching Big Brother, you have a new girlfriend now! When you brought her here for the first time, what was on the hometown tour?
Well, we spent a couple days on Moira Lake. Haven’t made it to the Chip Truck down there yet, that’s gotta be next on the list! We visited my Grandma up on Loon Lake and we’ve been over to Crowe Lake a couple times now, anchored down at the sand bar and spent the day chillin’. I guess I’ve been showing her all the natural beauty.
Just last weekend we went up to Eagle’s Nest in Bancroft. Possibly one of the best views in all of Ontario. I love going up there! We escaped for a bit; had a nice dinner. The whole time we were getting all sorts of texts and calls, but just ignored our phones, and had a great day.
No doubt your training and media schedule keeps you busy. It must be nice to leave it all behind for a bit. If you were to escape it for 24 hours, what does your ideal day off at home look like?
A day at the cottage! Sitting on the dock, tossing a few lines in, maybe having a couple pints. Honestly, just relaxing near water. That’s where I want to be!
That sounds like a perfectly chill day, for an otherwise busy guy. Now that you are training in the city and have been representing Madoc on a national scale, what would you say is the biggest misconception people have about a small town?
I wouldn’t say it’s a misconception, but I don’t think they realize how close-knit we are. Everyone in this town is so supportive. They’ve watched me grow up since I was a little kid. You become invested in people and their successes over time. They watched me play hockey; they watched me play baseball; they’ve been cheering me on for years. Being that close-knit, I don’t think you can understand that, unless you’ve experienced it.
Is it safe to say that the support of a small town has influenced your growth and career to a certain extent?
Absolutely, this place, Madoc Ontario, has built me into the man I am today. And because it gave me so much, I love giving back to my community. Whatever I can do for the kids around here, I do. Because I was one of those kids, you know? I was looking for someone or something to look up to, something to strive to. If I can be that for them, I am happy to do it!
Well it’s obvious that you mean a lot to this community too. What else do you think would surprise people about Hastings County?
There are tons of things to do, and for free! Go to the lake and spend some time on a dock, hang out at the Skate Park for the afternoon, take a hike at O’Hara Mill or anywhere really, there is so much green space. In the city everything has a price, but not around here.
Green space is definitely something we have an abundance of. You are lucky to have the best of both worlds right now.
Yes, but we all need nature, we need it so bad! Get out of the concrete jungle and get into the woods. Something I love to do is just park my car and hike into the woods – trail or no trail. I know it sounds corny, but I like to be one with nature; find a nice spot, sit down in the ground, look up at the trees, watch them move with the breeze. There is nothing better than peace and quiet.
Here Comes the Judge!
When the 2017 Major League baseball season got under way, the New York Yankess were thrilled to have Gary Sanchez behind the plate. A native of the Domincan Republic, Sanchez had been signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2009. He had worked his way through the system, and got into 53 games in 2016. He had 42 “runs bastted in” in his first 55 MLB games, tying him with Mickey Mantle. He trailed Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazerri, and George Selkirk. Pretty impressive company. He has not been a disappointment this year, still knocking the cover off the ball.
And then along came another rookie with potential. A huge kid, standing 6' 7”, weighing upwards of 280 pounds, named aaron Judge. He got into 27 games last year, had 4 home runs and 2 doubles. Nothing to write home about, but not exactly out of place. He started the season in the minors this year, then got the call up in April.
And that's when it began. Aaron Judge has been the “Real Deal” for the Yankess this year, and has revitalized the town. He has been adopted by the fans throughout the league. His gap-toothed smile is familiar to every baseball fan in North America. He is playing on the largest stage in baseball, and he appears to love every minute of it. He has had some “off' times, especially since the All Star Break. But with about 40 games left in the 162 game season, he is a lock for the rookie of the year. He will end up batting around .300, with more than 40 homers. He now has 36. He may fall short of the rookie record of Mark McGwire, but he likely won't have an asterisk beside his name.
As is typival of any out-of-town crowd, he was roundly booed in Toronto. When he struck out, the cheers were the loudest. That is how superstars are recognized in opposition ball parks. This is not the case in New York. Fans in the Judge's Chamber, a section of Aaron's supporters, wear white wigs and black robes in support of their favourite player. At the Rogers Centrte, many fans wore Judge shirts. Even a group wore their white bath robes with Judge written on the back.
It has been indicated that veteran Yankee Matt Holiday has taken Judge “under his wing” to guide him through the hills and valleys of the game in his first full season. You can often see Holiday bending Judge's ear in the dugout. Holiday broke into the Majors in 2004, and has a career batting average of more than .300. A good guy to listen to for advice.
Many of Aaron Judge's home runs are tape-measure shots. They have some sort of computerized device that tells the fan the actual distance of the shot. I would expect he will consistently hit several in the five hundred foot range.
He is also an outstanding fielder who covers a lot of ground in right field for the Yankees. His arm is well respected. He recently uncorked a throw to home plate that hushed an opposing crowd. You could almost hear a manager mumble, “Damn, he can do that too!”
The Yankees currently trail the Red Sox by 4 games in the American League East. It will be a dog fight until the end of the season. Of course pitching is critical. Injuries have afflicted all teams in the league, at the worst possible times. The Red Sox have their own phenom now in the lineup, a certain Devers kid who has hit three home runs in his last two games. The Boston Globe reporters will have plenty to say about him down the stretch.
It will be up to Holiday, and the rest of the Yankees to keep Aaron Judge focused for the rest of the season. I cannot forsee it being a problem. He spent three years at college, playing for Fresno State. He is now 24 years old, and has experienced a year of the “Lights of Broadway”. Never an easy place to play any professional sport.
You can expect many years of great baseball ahead for the kid from California. Mark my words.
August 15, 2017.