Wednesday, December 30, 2009
World Junior Hockey-2009
Once again this year, kids from around the hockey world are playing for bragging rights in hockey tournaments. This year, one of the parties is in Saskatchewan, with games in Regina and Saskatoon. The championship concludes on January 5, 2010.
Another strong contingent of Canadian kids has been assembled for the tourney. There is always pressure for young Canadians at this event, especially in the recent past. For the past five years, there have been gold medals draped around the necks of the young Canadians, and this year’s group would like to extend the string.
From 1993 to 1997, Canada won five straight gold medals at this event. The roof fell in the following year when the team finished in eighth place, their worst showing ever. A repetition of that historic nature is not expected this year.
Many of the names of the players at the World Juniors are familiar to local hockey fans. There are 53 players in the tournament from Canadian Hockey League teams. Twenty-one of the Canadian team players will return to their CHL teams after the games. Calvin de Haan, an Oshawa General, has spent several hours on the Yardmen Arena at the Quinte Sports Centre.
The Canadian team has played three games up to this point in time. They have scored more than twenty goals, and have only given up a couple of goals. More importantly, they are playing a physical game without taking too many penalties. In this day and age of special teams, power plays have become significant offensively. To avoid being shorthanded is critical at this tournament.
At the last World Junior Tournament held in Ottawa, Belleville Bulls netminder Philipp Grubauer played for Germany. He was between the pipes for his team’s loss against the Canadian team. Because of their poor showing, the German squad was relegated to the Pool “B” Championships which recently concluded in France.
Grubauer captured the gold at that tournament, and was named the Most Valuable Player for his team. As the Bulls’ number one goaltender this year, he has seen a lot of rubber. The Bulls are struggling to be competitive, and Grubauer has kept them in several games. Assistant coach Jakes Grimes reported to The Intelligenger: “Philipp has been great for us and should be an NHL pick”. He has been chosen as one of the stars eleven times this year, leading the Bulls.
Grubauer played in the World Under 17 Tournament in London two years ago, and caught the eye of the Bulls’ staff at that time. One of the assistant coaches for the Canadian team at that tournament was Jake Grimes. Grimes will be behind the bench for the Under 17 Canadian team at the Worlds beginning today in Timmins. Grimes will accompany the other Bulls’ netminder Tyson Teichmann.
There are ice surfaces in Florida and California. I would like to question the wisdom of the authorities who decide the venues for these tournaments. Timmins in early January? I will be leaving for the finals on January 2nd. I am questioning my own sanity. And yes, I have been doing that for years.
The Canadians play a big game on New Year’s Eve in Saskatoon against the Americans. That will complete preliminary play in their group, and will determine their next opponents. The tournament concludes at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon on Tuesday, January 5th.
I plan to spend that day in the hot tub following my three day journey to Timmins.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Matt Stajan-Young Veteran
Matt Stajan scored his first goal as a Toronto Maple Leaf during the 2002-2003 season. Since that time he has played more than four hundred games in the National Hockey League. Although the title of this article seems to be an oxymoron, it holds true for Stajan. He recently celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday. He is playing in his seventh season as a Leaf, and also played eighty games for the “Baby Leafs” in Newfoundland during the lockout season.
In a recent column in The Intelligencer, Ady Vos intimated that despite Stajan’s durability and, if I may be so bold as to use the word loyalty, he gets little respect from many Leaf fans. “Stajan is a favourite whipping boy of Leaf fans on the internet,” wrote Vos. “One fan even believes Stajan is the worst player in Leafs history,” he continued. Vos also pointed out that Stajan, at that point, had accumulated 17 points in his last 16 games. (Note to Matt Stajan: Ignore the criticism on the net.)
I caught up with Stajan at the Air Canada Centre following a recent Leafs’ win against the Ottawa Senators. Always the gentleman, he took the time to share a few mid-season thoughts following the game. “After games like this, I know that we are coming together as a team. There is a confidence building here. We’re becoming a tougher team to play against.” When I asked him about his opinion on his own game, he replied, “I just try to work as hard as I can”.
Matthew Stajan is consistent. His Maple Leaf career parallels his junior seasons with the Belleville Bulls. Each year, he played more effectively, developed his game in the defensive zone, and managed to add to his points totals. In his first full season with the Leafs, he had 27 points. Last year in 76 games, he racked up 55 points. After 32 games this year, he had 26 points with 11 goals. A quick extrapolation leads to another year of progress for the young Leaf warrior.
Stajan got rocked in a recent game in Toronto. He dropped his head slightly to pick up a wayward pass and paid the price. The check was legal, but a little unnecessary, according to some sources. There is however, that intimidation factor that goes with the territory.
The circumstance is similar to that of a wide receiver who runs crossing patterns in professional football. If you are about to receive a pass that is above your head, and slightly behind you, you can expect some “comeuppance”. A good middle linebacker, or a good safety, will pay you a visit and let you know that they do not like you catching wayward passes in their defensive zone. Likewise for hockey.
Stajan got stitched up and returned to the game following the hit.
Former NHLer Rick Meagher has a fine story from his days as a New Jersey Devil. While on the injured list, he sat for a game in a box with the team owner, and the owner’s neighbour, Yogi Berra. Berra, the New York Yankee Hall of Famer, is well known for his quirky observations about almost any topic. He watched the game intensely. He moved to the edge of his seat when one of the players caught an errant puck above the eye, and bled profusely.
Later in the game, that same player, stitched and taped, took a regular shift. Berra checked the program, checked the player’s number. He then asked Rick: “Is that not the same guy who left the pool of blood on the ice in the first period?” Meagher confirmed Berra’s suspicion.
Yogi then said to Meagher, “These guys are tough! When I managed the Mets, I once lost a pitcher for two weeks with a hangnail!” Yogi at his best!
Last night’s game against the Sabres was yet another heartbreaker for the Blue and White. Another overtime loss, another point, nonetheless. Those points will come in handy much later in the season.
Many pundits attempt, daily, to analyze the Leafs’ chances to make the playoffs. It’s a little early for all of that. Right now, it is a day by day challenge, according to Stajan.
And one that the Leafs will meet as a team. At least until they can catch a little fun in the sun at the Olympic break!
Monday, December 14, 2009
I Love Lucy
Whenever Lucille Ball got into difficulty, her husband, Desi Arnez would say to her: “Lucy, you got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do!”
Is there a chance that Tiger Woods might be in the same boat? There are several “interested parties” out there looking for answers.
One of my friends is married to a golfer/fanatic. She addressed the issue this way: “Do you really think I am going to buy several golf shirts adorned with the Nike “Swoosh”? Or perhaps a hat with the neat little TW logo?” I don’t think so.
Gillette announced on the weekend that it was rearranging its advertising program which involves Tiger and a few other athletes. It is almost certain that other advertisers will reconsider their commitment to Tiger. Rest assured there are clauses in those contracts that will allow the companies to bow out gracefully.
There are professionals who are paid to manipulate situations so that “offending parties” may come out of difficulties smelling like a rose. They are called “spin doctors” in some quarters. Initially, following the car accident, Tiger was advised to hide. Then he was advised to plead mercy, and request that his privacy be respected. Are you kidding? In America? Hello! This is the birthplace of the National Enquirer.
The next step was to admit certain “transgressions”. That left the door open for all kinds of speculation. It was about at that time when certain misdeeds with “hostesses” began to surface, and surface, and surface. According to the gossip columns, Tiger has been busy. At last count, number thirteen had surfaced.
This whole messy situation will cost Tiger a bundle. Tiffany’s does not stock a bauble big enough to get out of this one. Other athletes over the years have managed to salvage their relationships with a nice little bit of jewellery. Sorry, Tiger. Not this time.
Unfortunately for Woods, he has worked hard to maintain a squeaky clean image, and has done all of the right things to maintain that image. He has donated time and money to wonderful causes. He has taken the image of golf to its greatest heights ever.
He has always had his detractors. On the course, he has attempted to maintain the cool image, Stoic, intense, automatic. Obviously, it has been successful. Every once in a while, he has shown emotion, with his arm pumps after sinking successful putts.
He has now indicated that he will not play for a while. That is not good for the game, the sponsors, the fans. Every tournament that he skips has significantly decreased revenue. In many instances, he is the draw to put the bums in the bleachers.
And now, the game. How will it affect the weekend players and fans who spend the big dough to watch him play? Will they resort to the now common boorish behaviour of the modern day tennis fan? There was a time when the umpire in a tennis match could ask for silence, and get it. No longer.
Woods had to figure that all this hoopla would be inevitable. In this day of Twitter, cell phones, email, texting, Blackberries, and the like that he would be exposed sooner or later. Ask Prince Charles.
Imagine Tiger’s reaction when they begin to shout as he takes his backswing. Rest assured, they will do it. They will be turfed from the tournament, but there will be others to take their places. It will not be easy for Tiger, no matter how they try to spin the situation.
I do not wish to speculate about his marital situation. That’s not my domain; however, unless he has a very tight pre-nuptial agreement in place, a divorce will be somewhat costly. Michael Jordan was rumoured to have forked out between one and two hundred million dollars. That might even be chump change in Tiger’s situation.
All of this will unfold in the next several weeks. Needless to say, there likely won’t be as many presents under the tree this year at the Woods household.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Second Annual Dukes Super Sports Draw
“Who’s got a pair? Are you looking to sell? Anybody got a pair?”
Those are the words of the scalpers parading outside the major sports venues around the world, particularly at important sports events. They know it is illegal to scalp tickets. You know it is illegal. Instead of bellowing, “I have tickets to sell at double the price printed on the ticket!” they pretend to look for tickets.
You may also use one of the internet sites to pick up a pair of tickets. Those sites usually reflect the market rate for tickets at each venue. I checked out tickets for Lambeau Field for a Packers game this year, and it was not fun. That place has been sold out for twenty years, and ticket holders can expect to pocket at least twice the price for their tickets.
The same applies to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even more so when they are hot! (It does happen, occasionally.) At most of the entrances to the Air Canada centre, there are “agents” with extra tickets willing to serve you. The same applies at the Rogers Centre for baseball and football; however, except on rare occasions, you will not have to pay much of a premium for those ducats.
Chances of winning Major League tickets in the Wellington Dukes Super Sports Draw are reasonably good. There are twenty-five prizes, and there are 2500 tickets printed. Odds are a lot better than most other lotteries. And when you lay out your cash for the draw, you are helping the Dukes, never a bad thing.
All team executive members and all Dukes players have tickets to sell. There are also tickets at Lavender Furniture on Main Street in Wellington. You may also call 613-399-2278, and I will make sure your requests will be met. Naturally, tickets are available at all home games.
There is an early bird draw this year for an Ottawa Senators-Boston Bruins game on Monday, December 21st at ScotiaBank Place. The value of these tickets is $ 104 per ticket. $ 208 for the pair, and double that for the scalper price. Like everyone else, I always complain when faced with that predicament, but I pay the premium too.
There are tickets for the Leafs when they play the Hurricanes, the Bruins, and the Thrashers. Others will be advertised when they arrive.
It may be your best opportunity to score a great pair of hockey tickets this year. But there are also great seats for other sports events in 2010: tickets for TFC soccer, Argos football, Raptors basketball, Blue Jays baseball, and several Belleville Bulls games. As an added feature this year, we have thrown in several rounds of golf. We cannot guarantee that Tiger Woods will accompany you on your round of golf. After all, he seems to be fairly busy at this time. Wrapping Christmas presents, of course.
A Wellington Dukes Season Ticket for next year at the new arena is first prize. If you win that, and you are not happy about it, we will send you a cheque for $ 200 instead of the ticket.
A special word of thanks to all of our ticket donors. Obviously, this enterprise would not be possible without your support.
Get ‘em while they’re hot! More than half of the tickets have been sold. Great stocking stuffers!
The main draw will take place at the DukeDome at the Dukes last home game: Sunday, February 7, 2010. Start time; 6:30pm. Be there to claim your prize! All other winners will be notified following the game.