Monday, November 24, 2008


The Grey Cup-A Great Canadian Tradition

For almost one hundred years, ninety-six to be precise, the Grey Cup game has proven to be a significant event in the nation. Most of the time, it involves a Canadian football team from Western Canada, and one from the East. The rivalry is never bitter, but it is important.

Calgarians came charging into Montreal from the west to support the Stampeders this year for the event. The Alouettes had earned the right to play for all the marbles to represent the east by defeating the Edmonton Eskimos in the Eastern final. Edmonton in the east, you ask? Just assume the cartographers have a little poetic licence in this regard.

After all was said and done, the Stampeders snatched a 22-14 victory, hoisted the silverware above their heads, and planned the parade. They captured the Grey Cup this year; however, the game was in doubt, in essence, until the gun sounded to end the tilt.

The best quarterbacks in the CFL took the field at the Olympic Stadium. Henry Burris wore the red and white for the Stampeders. Anthony Calvillo was at the helm for the Alouettes. Clavillo was selected as the league’s Most Valuable Player earlier in the week. Burris was the runner-up. He didn’t like that. He was almost gracious playing second fiddle to the great Calvillo, but understandably miffed. He went into the Grey Cup game with something to prove.

And prove it he did. He scrambled, he ran for important first downs, he fired strikes to his receivers. He completed his first eleven passes in the game, and gradually took the noisy fans out of the game. More than sixty thousand rowdies had packed the bowl in Montreal.

The Stampeders scored 19 of the last 20 points in the game, a true credit to the players, and to the coaching staff. They made the necessary adjustments at half time to create the opportunities to win the game. Burris heaved balls to Copeland, Rambo, Lewis, and one important toss to Brett Ralph for the only touchdown for the western side. It was an important strike, coming near the end of the first half.

With less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Alouettes trailed by five points. Sandro DeAngelis lined up his fifth field goal, and neatly parted the uprights. That gave the Stamps an eight point advantage, making things most difficult for Calvillo and crew. The Alouettes did throw a scare into the Calgary crew late in the game; however, time ran out as they approached the Calgary side of the field.

DeAngelis was awarded the title of Most Valuable Canadian Player of the Game. Burris, an American import, truly deserved his MVP award. Tears streamed down his cheeks while he gracefully accepted his accolades at the end of the game. Emotionally spent, the ten year veteran recognized the significance when they blasted Queen’s “We are the Champions” through the speakers.

Both John Hufnagel of the Stamps and Marc Trestman of the Alouettes have just completed their first year of coaching with their respective teams. It would not surprise me one bit to see their teams in many championship games in the next few years.

A great finish to the great Canadian tradition-the Grey Cup.

James Hurst.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I Didn't Know That!

Every once in a while, I hear something that I find a little incredulous. I do a bit of research to check it out. For hockey trivia and information, I resort to three main sources: Google and Wickipedia on the internet, the National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book, and the Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League, simply entitled Total Hockey.

I remove Total Hockey from the shelf several times a week. It contains complete statistics for all players, current and retired. If an individual played one second of one game in the NHL, his name will appear in Total Hockey. It will also name most of the teams that he played for prior to, and after his NHL experience. Occasionally, I am called on to referee disputes between hockey fans in the area. I always resort to Total Hockey for the straight goods.

Curtis Shayne Joseph, alias “Cujo”, has been standing between the pipes for a long time. The Keswick, Ontario, native played his first Junior “B” games for the King City Dukes in the 1984-85 season. He also played for the Newmarket Flyers that year, and spent the next two years with Richmond Hill of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey league.

He began his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues in 1989. In fact, he signed on with the Blues as a free agent. He had previously led his high school team, the Notre Dame Hounds to the Centennial Cup championships. (Now known as the Royal Bank Cup, the Wellington Dukes also played for that title in 2005.) He then went on to play NCAA hockey for the University of Wisconsin, and left the school to sign with the Blues.

Following a stint with the Peoria Rivermen in the 1989-90 season, he was called up to the Blues. In the first practice sessions he had with the Blues, the team put the fresh-faced “College Kid” through his paces. The Cavallini boys screened him in front of the net. A Belleville native, Brett Hull, tested him with his patented slapshot. On his 1990-91 Score hockey card, team mate Rick Meagher stated that Joseph was “fundamentally sound”.

I had an opportunity to meet Joseph at that time, and was impressed with his composure. He was also very shy. I also remember listening to the St. Louis reporters who hovered around the glass, watching the kid in practice. “He stays down too long. He doesn’t cover the angles well. He is weak on the blocker side. He won’t stay in the league long.” Obviously, Curtis knew more about goaltending than they.

Now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Joseph has seen a lot of pucks in the hockey wars. He has had stints in Edmonton, Detroit, Pheonix, and Calgary, as well as the aforementioned Leafs and Blues.

I resorted to the reference books to confirm something that I found incredible while watching him recently with the Leafs. There are only three other goaltenders who have posted more wins than Joseph. Patrick Roy is number one, followed by Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour. That being the case, Curtis Joseph will be a first ballot nominee for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he retires from the game. Most hockey fans can tell you the names of five other great goaltenders, already in the Hall, who did not win as many games as Curtis Joseph. (Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Grant Fuhr, etc.)

On the other side of the coin, there are only three other goalies who have lost more games than Curtis Joseph. Gump Worsley lost 352 games in his career to lead the pack. Gilles Meloche lost one less, and John Vanbiesbrouck rounds out the trio with 346 losses.

Always a class act off the ice, Joseph received the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2000, the year after Rob Ray won the award. The trophy goes to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

As the season unfolds for the Leafs, there are signs of great progress, followed by woe. Some nights, it’s all a matter of plain ugly luck. A bounce here, a ricochet there, and a loss by a goal. Joseph will be called upon to relieve Vesa Toskala, sometimes with little notice. That being the case, “Cujo” will look to add to his wins total at the Air Canada Centre.

James Hurst

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