Tuesday, May 05, 2009


The Remote is Mine!

Last Monday night, there was a cornucopia of wonderful sporting events on the television screen. The choices were difficult; consequently, the remote was critical.

For my mind, the Stanley Cup playoff game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals deserved its top billing. But every once in a while I snuck a peek at the Blue Jays game to see how they were managing against the Cleveland Indians.

As has been the case so many times this year, the Jays’ game was a nail-biter. Unfortunately, the result of the extra inning game on Monday did not favour the Jays. They did come from behind, several times. They tied the game, they went ahead. They fell behind. In the end, the Indians had just enough in their tanks to outlast the Jays.

No matter. There are still more than one hundred and thirty games left in the season to compensate for one loss. Come late September, every win and loss is important. Up to this point in the season, the Jays have done remarkably well in the close contests. That is why they are in first place. There is a winning attitude on the Jays. There is no doubt that it starts from the top down. Much of it can be attributed to the leadership shown by the field manager, Cito Gaston.

A couple of years ago, two young hockey players were chosen at the top of the draft pool. There were high expectations for each. Right from the opening faceoffs in their careers, comparisons were made. As has been the case many times, young phenoms fail to reach those expectations; however, in the cases of Ovechkin and Crosbie, hockey fans have come out of the shuffle as the real winners.

With less than a minute remaining on Monday night, the Penguins trailed the Capitals by two goals. The Caps took a minor penalty, which is not all bad when the opposition has pulled the goalie. You can ice the puck without receiving an icing call. Therefore, you have a slightly better chance of getting an empty net goal. At least you can fire the puck down the ice without gaining the red line, and not be in fear of getting your head torn off by your coach.

Coaches do not appreciate icing calls in the dying seconds of a close game. Enough said.

The puck is somewhere near the Capitals net, which is being staunchly protected by a young Russian named Simeon Varlamov. He split his season between the Caps and their farm team, the Hershey Bears. How do we know that? Because he wears a schizophrenic mask, painted on one half with the Capitals insignia, and the Bears on the other. Always ready for a contest in either location!

Crosbie whacks at the puck four times, until he finally cracks it off Varlamov’s helmet, the Hershey side, into the net. More tension. Only one goal short. To no avail. The Capitals survive the attack to win their second game at home.

Regarding the tale of two phenoms? Both Crosbie and Ovechkin had three goals each. The Capitals faithful, in their sea of red shirts, fired more hats on the ice when Ovechkin scored than Carter has pills.

The series now swings over to Pittsburgh. There will be chaos.

Coach Bruce Boudreau patrols the bench for the Caps. At this stage in his life, he no more looks like a former hockey player than does Keiffer Sutherland, another difficult choice avoided Monday night. But he does know how to ice a pretty fine hockey team.

“Gabby” Boudreau set a junior scoring record in 1974-75 with the Toronto Marlies, racking up 165 points. He played 141 games in the NHL, and skated with more than a dozen pro teams. He initially signed with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, but spent most of his first preseason with the Johnstown Jets. He had a bit part in the legendary hockey movie “Slap Shot”, and his apartment was used as Paul Newman’s in the movie.

Boudreau has put his faith in a rookie Russian goaltender who had only played six regular season games in the NHL. Up to this point, a well-founded faith.

Still plenty of excitement left in this year’s Cup finals. The Canucks and the Hawks are at war. The Ducks and the Red Wings will entertain. The ‘Canes skunked the Bruins in their last tilt to make that series interesting. Pass me the remote, thank you.

James Hurst

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