Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Tiger Cats Ready to Roar-2008

The Hamilton Tiger Cats recently completed their pre season schedule with a victory over the Toronto Argonauts. The dreaded Argos. The longstanding arch rival of the Tabbies. The Hogtown double blue team which has had the upper hand with the boys from Steeltown for a long, long time.

Ivor Wynne will be packed on Thursday night for the home opener against the Montreal Alouettes. The half time show features an illusionist. Fans hope that he will not be responsible for making the scoreboard disappear. Even the very funny Canadian Martin Short will be on hand to cheer on his Ticats.

Lining up for the kickoff for his sixth year in the Canadian Football League is Belleville’s Mike Botterill. Botterill began his CFL career in Montreal, following an outstanding college career at McMaster. He captured three Yates Cup Championships at Mac, and was chosen as the defensive MVP of the 2002 Yates Cup.

During the 2006 season, he was traded by the Alouettes to the Edmonton Eskimos. He spent the 2007 season in Edmonton, and last February was traded to Hamilton.

He recently spent a weekend in Belleville running a mini camp for young Belleville and area football players. Most of the players at the camp were from the Belleville Minor Football League. Botterill was joined by other CFL players, as well as former teammates now involved in coaching in the college ranks in Canada.

All of the players who attended the camp enjoyed the experience immensely. Botterill is a “hands on” teacher. He took time to explain the game to the young players, and they responded. His quiet and caring approach will suit him well if he ever considers moving into the coaching ranks following his career.

The Belleville Minor Football League wraps up its season this coming weekend with three games on Saturday at the Paul Paddon Field at the back of Quinte Secondary School. All six teams are involved in championship games, beginning at 10:00am. Everyone is welcome, and there is no admission charge. The other two final games take place at 11:30am and 1:00pm.

Botterill has been a special teams player throughout his CFL career, with the occasional stint at middle linebacker. At six feet, three inches, he casts a substantial shadow on the turf; however, it is difficult to crack the starting roster at that particular position with well seasoned veterans ready to go. He spent a good deal of time in the off season working out in Florida, in preparation for the season.

The Tiger Cats are coming off a disappointing season last year. They finished with four wins and fourteen losses, and are better prepared for this season under head coach Charlie Taaffe. The Ticats won the Grey Cup in 1999, under head coach Ron Lancaster.

The Ticats put a lot of eggs into one basket last year when they signed Casey Printers to a three year contract, making him the highest paid player in the CFL. He played three seasons for the B. C. Lions, and was the Most Outstanding Player in 2004. Hopefully, his receivers will pull in a sufficient number of passes Thursday night to instil confidence into the offence.

There is a long and colourful history associated with the Tiger Cat franchise. The Tabbies were a dominant football team in the 1950s and the 1960s with Jim Trimble and Jake Gaudaur pulling the strings. Names like Tommy Joe Coffey, Bernie Faloney, Garney Henley, and Hal Patterson conjure up memories of the great Ticat teams. Angelo Mosca was a feared competitor for fifteen years in the CFL, and played nine times in the Grey Cup game. He was also the main attraction as a wrestler at the Memorial Arena on Friday nights in Belleville.

Team owner Bob Young, entitled “The Caretaker”, would like nothing more than to hoist Lord Grey’s silver above his head late in the fall. There is a lot of football to be played until that time. There are many rookies in the lineup. There is always an element of surprise in any CFL season.

There are two buses running from the Quinte area to the Tiger Cats game on Saturday, July 12th, in association with the Belleville Minor Football League. It is always a great experience to catch a game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Fans will visit with Mike Botterill after the game. Cost is $ 70 for the trip, ticket and Foley Coach included in the deal. Call 613-399-2278 for information.

There will be plenty of “Oskee Wee Wee, Oskee Waw Waw” from the stands on Thursday night. The fans will politely ask their players to “Eat ‘em Raw”. This is football tradition, part of the great Canadian game.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Heads Up! It's a Foul Ball!

When the ball hits the bat, or vice versa, and the ball does not travel between the white lines, the umpire raises his hands and declares, “Foul Ball”.
At that point in time, action on the field stops. Time stands still, as the pitcher prepares to throw another pitch to the batter.

Most often, the ball is fouled into the dirt at home plate, and occasionally onto the batter’s front foot, or shin. Many batters nowadays wear a special shin protector to keep those nasty blows to a minimum. Catchers are well protected against foul tips which can strike a catcher anywhere---in the chest, on the shoulder, on the mask. Even the umpire needs protection against these tips, although you may occasionally see the man who calls balls and strikes writhing in pain following a foul ball. Most of the time they attempt to mask their misery.

Any foul ball that enters the stands becomes one of the most sought-after items in all of sport. Fans go to great lengths to retrieve baseballs that leave the playing area. When those balls have some historical significance, they may also have some value. When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled for the home run lead several years ago, McGwire’s final home run ball fetched more than a million dollars for the lucky fan.

You cannot catch a foul ball while you are seated in your Lazy Boy chair in front of your television set. Last Sunday a group of us headed to Toronto to see Lou Piniella’s Cubs go head to head with the Jays on Fathers’ Day.

There is a murmur that ripples through the crowd near the area where a towering foul ball is expected to land. All heads crane toward the expected target. Fans prepare to catch the ball as it descends. The fan that retrieves the ball raises it triumphantly above his or her head, acknowledging the accolades of those seated nearby.

Fans can assist their home teams by catching foul balls that would likely fall in the first three or four rows along the first and third base lines. Players are permitted to reach into the stands to catch those balls; however, it makes good sense for a dedicated fan to fight off an opponent who wants to put one of the good guys out.

Foul balls make their way along the field to the base coaches. The coaches usually pick up those balls and gently toss them into the stands to a young fan. Some of the batted balls that reach the base coaches are screamers, and the coaches have to duck to save their hides. This year, for the first time in Major League history, all base coaches must wear batting helmets while in position on the field. Last year a minor league coach was killed by a foul ball, resulting in the new rule.

The cheap seats at the Rogers Centre are in the 500 section. On rare occasions, foul balls may reach that area. Most of the time, they fall in the lower levels. Each level is divided by a concrete façade. When the foul balls hit the concrete, it is a good time for all fans in the area to pay close attention. The balls ricochet in all directions, sometimes striking empty seats, caroming into new territory.

It is always a good idea to have some idea where the ball’s flight might be. The game of baseball has also been prone to the knock that it moves so slowly that it is not always necessary for fans to pay close attention. More than one fan has been caught on camera chatting with a buddy while a foul ball descends into his beer cup.

Several years ago, a friend from Belleville sat in the front row of a Jays game. A screaming foul tip was headed straight for his head. The fan beside him stuck up his glove and saved his life. (His words). He called me the next day to tell me that he was most grateful to my son for taking his glove to the game that day. Always take your glove to the game, especially if you are seated in the danger areas.

Thurman Munson played for the New York Yankees. He was chosen to be the captain of the Yankees, the first since Lou Gherig. He was a tough competitor, standing barely six feet but often tipping the scales over 200 pounds. Mildly put, his demeanour was somewhat surly.

In the early 1970s, the Yankees were at home for a weekend series. In fact they were not at Yankee Stadium, but played at Shea, the Mets home field, while their own ball park was under renovation. During the Friday night game, my brother David snagged a fly ball off the bat of Munson’s bat.

The following day, he went down to the field level, and, from the top of the dugout, politely asked Munson to sign the ball, explaining that it had come off his bat. Munson scowled. David again asked him to sign the ball. Munson indicated that it might be the last thing on earth that he would like to do, with some profanity. My brother retorted in kind. Munson chased him, in full garb, about 30 rows up into the stands, near the hot dog stand.

Yet another saga in the great game of baseball!

James Hurst

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Jon Mills is enjoying the Game

To paraphrase Mark Twain, there is no better way to ruin a good walk than to carry a bag of clubs and play a round of golf. Jon Mills enjoys the exercise, and also enjoys whacking around the white ball during his walk.

Jon enjoys the game, and has for many years. That much was more than obvious last week as he spent a day at the Bay of Quinte Country Club on the shores of the Bay between Belleville and Trenton.

Jon plays the game professionally, and has for several years. He began as a kid at the Bay of Quinte course, and now finds himself earning a living at the game he enjoys. A comfortable living, I might add. He has pocketed more than two hundred thousand dollars so far this year, and has recently qualified for the United States Open, one of the more prestigious events on the circuit south of the border. He will be teeing up this week in the Open.

Jon returned to Belleville to help launch the McDonald’s “Learn to Golf Program for Kids”. The program introduces the game to young players who may otherwise not have a chance to learn. He has no qualms about re-investing in the game in this manner. The game was important to him as a kid, and he knows the benefits of the activity. “I have great memories about this Club and the game. We used to hang around here for hours as juniors. We had putting contest, chipping games. We had a great time after the rounds of golf.” He believes that those days also helped contribute to his success.

Mills attended Centennial Secondary School in the city, and was inducted into the school’s “Sports Hall of Fame” by a couple of educators, Debbie Clare and Doug Irvine, just before he conducted a clinic at the Bay of Quinte. Both teachers acknowledged Jon’s love of sports, and his dedication to the game. Irvine noted that in his senior year at Centennial, Mills would be the first on the basketball court at seven o’clock in the morning. “He played so many sports well. He loved to come into the gym and practice free throws, shooting from all areas, developing his rhythm and timing.”

Mills played plenty of hockey as well, and still follows the game from his home in Indiana, Pennsylvania. His wife Megan maintains the home front there, in her home town. Mills has recently returned to hockey in golf’s off season, if there is such a thing. “I am playing a little bit in an adult league. It was great to get back on the ice.” He was disappointed with the result of the Stanley Cup Final, as an avid Penguins fan.

He will be gearing up for Thursday’s Open by playing a practice round with another Canadian, Mike Weir. You may also catch him occasionally with Steven Ames, another very successful Canadian, or with a college chum from Kent State, Ben Curtis.

Mills prepares for his weekend games in a business-like manner. Monday is reserved for upper body work, Tuesday for lower body strengthening. Wednesday is reserved for stretching. There will also be rounds of golf, course reconnoitring, and buckets of balls to loft onto imaginary targets. He works out strenuously “three or four times a week” with a personal trainer, and has seen the benefits.

When asked whether or not he has hired a personal psychologist, he chuckled and said, “No, I leave that part of the preparation up to my coach, Dave Woods. He takes care of the swing too.” Woods is the Canadian Professional Golf Association Member from the Angus Glen Country Club, a prestigious golf establishment in Toronto.

The Globe and Mail’s Lorne Rubenstein, Canada’s pre-eminent golf journalist, lamented the fact that no one noticed Mills’ victory in the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship. It is the most important Canadian event for men, except for the Bell Canadian Open. Rubenstein also remarked on Jon’s swing: “There is a little rerouting of the club at the top of his backswing. He is committed to refining his swing.”

Mills commented on the technical aspect of the swing in this manner: “It stems from trying to get the club as far back as possible on my backswing, so my takeaway is a little bit outside and then the club reroutes itself to get back on plane.” Coach Woods made reference to a few other golfers who also swung the club in a somewhat quirky manner-Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, and Jim Furyk. Reasonably good company.

Under the watchful eyes of his mother and father, Mills played nine holes with his brother Jeff, Bay of Quinte pro Russ DaSilva, and Mike Goyer, a local player who won the right to play the round. Mills’s dad, Dave Mills, worked for Ontario Hydro in the Belleville area for several years. He is now an executive director of the Golf Association of Ontario. Dave mentioned to me that the “Investors Group Women’s Amateur Championship” for 2008 will be played at the Bay of Quinte from July 8th to 10th. Canada’s best women golfers will be vying for the title. He also remarked that the course is in superb condition.

There was a large crowd of supporters at the Bay of Quinte-friends, family, golfing enthusiasts. Mills played the first two holes quietly, allowing his partners a place in the sun. On the third hole, a three hundred yard par four, he rolled his drive onto the green. He eyed the situation momentarily, then tapped in a ninety foot putt for an eagle. Breathtaking. He does know those greens!

Mills is now in San Diego, California, for the U. S. Open at Torrey Pines. He played in last year’s Open in Pennsylvania. He plans to play in many more. No doubt he will.

James Hurst

Monday, June 02, 2008


Luc Bourdon Vancouver Canucks 1987-2008

The entire Acadian community is in mourning at this time following the tragic death of Luc Bourdon.
Bourdon was twenty-one years old. He had returned to the community of Shippagan this spring, following the hockey season that he split between Vancouver and Manitoba, the Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate.
He was a first round draft choice of the Canucks in the 2005 draft, chosen tenth overall. He played significant roles on the past two Gold Medal winning Canadian teams at the World Junior Championships. He was named to the All Star Team in 2006.
Like many other young National Hockey League players, Bourdon had dedicated himself to the task of becoming a professional hockey player. Although he was only in his first year in the NHL, he had not taken a holiday in five years, according to his uncle, Robert Boucher. He had scheduled a month at home, with his friends, playing a little golf, hanging out. Some of his friends had motorcycles, and Bourdon decided to get one for himself. He received his motorcycle licence two weeks ago.

The Mounties who investigated the accident said that the winds were “gusting heavily” in the area. Boudon was on the road between Shippagan and Lameque when he lost control of the machine, crossed to the other side, and collided head on with a transport truck. He was killed instantly.

The NHL paid its respects to the young star by observing a moment of silence prior to the Stanley Cup game Monday night between the Red Wings and the Penguins.

Compounding the tragedy for the people in his community is the fact that Bourdon was a wonderful person. “He loved to have fun,” his uncle lamented in a news conference in Shippagan. “He was always ready to help people out-people in the family as well as others. We lost our little Luc, but I think Shippagan as well has lost someone important.”

Bourdon’s accident is the third fatal accident in the past ten years that has claimed the life of an NHL player. Peterborough’s Steve Chiasson played thirteen seasons in the NHL before he was killed in 1999. In 2003, Atlanta’s Dan Snyder was killed in an accident which also resulted in serious injuries for teammate Dany Heatley.

Pelle Lindbergh was the first European goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy, annually presented to the best goalie in the NHL. He had been selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the Second Round of the 1979 draft, and in 1982-83, he was named to the All-Rookie team. He led the NHL with 40 victories in 1984-85, and was named to the league’s First Team All Star team.

The following year, he drove his customized Porsche 930 Turbo into a wall in front of an elementary school in New Jersey. He was fatally injured, and died the next day. He topped the fan voting for the 1986 All Star game. It was the first time that any player had been chosen posthumously for an all star team in a major sport. Although his number 31 has never been retired by the Flyers, no player has worn it since Lindbergh’s death.

Wikipedia, the network’s sometimes trusty resource, lists sixty-one professional hockey players who have died during their playing careers. One Canadian, Allan Davidson, was killed in the First World War. Two others, Red Garrett and Joe Turner, were killed in the Second World War.

Bill Barilko won four Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1947 to 1951. He scored the Cup winning goal in overtime 1951, and was killed in a plane crash later that summer.

All in all, senseless tragedies in which young men have perished far too soon. We mourn their loss.

James Hurst

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