Tuesday, April 07, 2009


March Madness and all that Stuff!

T. S. Elliott told us that April is the cruellest month. A quick look at the standings, and most Toronto fans will tell you that March was not all that kind either.

Both the basketball and hockey seasons, regular season play, that is, grind to a halt in early April. For some of you, the real games begin at this time-the playoffs. For Leaf fans, the time has come to reassess the talent and look to the future. Coach Ron Wilson has made it abundantly clear that all spots on the team next year are open, and that all players skating at this time had better be prepared to work their butts off if they wish to wear a Maple Leaf next year.

Both he and GM Brian Burke have had ample time to study this year’s product. Neither is happy. They are not in this business to lose consistently. Heads will roll before training camp this fall. Hope for Leaf fans always springs eternally in late August. The gauntlet is down. Who will survive? Anyone’s guess.

Over on the hard court at the Air Canada centre, there is also ample disappointment. Coach Mitchell was unceremoniously dismissed in mid season, not to much avail. He was replaced by Jay Triano, an astute basketball coach. But not to much avail. It has been another dismal season for the Raptors.

The Jermaine O’Neill experiment failed. A lot of eggs were in that basket, and the big fella just did not produce. Bad chemistry, I suppose. There were plenty of injuries, which never helps. For the most part, some of the other key ingredients in the Toronto basketball mix just did not develop into a successful product. Again, retooling is in the works for the Raps next season.

Congratulations are in order for Prince Edward County’s Richard Parks. Councillor Parks defeated other local politicians to win the Argonaut Challenge at the recent Home Show in Belleville. He was able to spiral enough tosses through the target to win first place. No fix was in. After all, I refereed the event, and made sure that County expertise would prevail. Bryan Crawford of the Argos brought greetings from the Double Blue to all Argo fans at the event.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, especially if that fence happens to be in Florida. We caught a couple of baseball’s Spring training games in the American south, always so refreshing after a winter season. By the time I tap out another column, the season will be under way, with only another 160 games to play; however, each of the games played in April is just as important as those played in September. So says the coach!

The American College basketball championships will also wrap up by next week. Many of you are now on the sidelines, with your brackets in shambles. Alas, such is the nature of sport. Win a few, lose about as many. Should have gone with North Carolina!
The Belleville Bulls have dispensed with the pesky Sudbury Wolves, and have more playoff work to accomplish to get back to the Memorial Cup Championships. They came very close last year. They will have their work cut out for them trying to get by the giants from south-western Ontario; the London Knights and the Windsor Spitfires.

With the snow gone, the robins at their industrious best, and last year’s leaves begging to leave the garden, it is time to get out there and enjoy the spring.

Let’s move on to see who will sip from Lord Stanley’s mug this year. Maybe Sidney and his crew will come to the fore, and lead the Penguins to the promised land.

Originally, this column was supposed to be a comparison between Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. I will leave that up to you.

James Hurst

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