Tuesday, November 23, 2010


2010 Grey Cup

Last Sunday’s semi-final between the Saskatchewan Rough Riders and the Calgary Stampeders was played on the frozen tundra of Alberta, in the meanest weather conditions. At times, the mercury was registered at minus twenty degrees, give or take a few degrees with the wind chill factor.

Now we have not experienced those conditions in these parts so far this winter, but I am sure they are on their way. Naturally the game was affected by the weather. But the teams had practised all week in those conditions, gearing up for the big game.

Always a matter of inches, and a few lucky bounces, it is indeed rare that an important game between the Stamps and the Green Riders would disappoint. Not on this occasion either, for that matter. A tremendous punt from the Stamps’ Burke Dales was misplayed by returner Ryan Grice-Mullen. The ball rolled, and was cajoled into the end zone, and it looked as if the Stamps would pick up an easy six points on the fumble recovery. At the very last second, Saskatchewan’s Jerrell Freeman dove onto the ball, saving the day; otherwise, the Stamps would have regained the lead, with momentum.

The final score was 20-16 for the Riders, indicative of the play.

The football Getzlaf brother, Chris, had an outstanding day, pulling in important passes from Darian Durant, including a touchdown to seal the deal. (The hockey brother, Ryan, has had an impressive career with the Anaheim Ducks.)

The scribes and the fans of the Toronto Argonauts made threatening noises in the week before their contest against the Montreal Alouettes. They were ready, and they were hungry. They had beaten the Alouettes twice during the regular season, and they were tired of being perennial bridesmaids at the end of the season.

Someone forgot to tell the Alouettes that they were supposed to lose. They came out of the tunnel at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal ready to play. They led 17-0 before the game had passed the nine minute mark. They dominated every aspect of the game. They had 48 points at the end of the game, the Argos 17. Sometimes called a shellacking.

Coach Barker of the Argos summed up his team’s performance in this manner: “There are no excuses. This was a ‘we-are-not-at-their-stage-right-now issue’. We have to work our way to that point.”

About the only way that the Boatmen will get to that stage is when several Montreal players retire. As long as Anthony Calvillo is at the helm, the Alouettes will dominate. He has a bevy of outstanding receivers, complemented by a great running back. Avon Colbourne tore through the Argo defence, amassing 163 yards on the ground.

As a result, the great Canadian tradition of the Grey Cup Game is set for this Sunday in Edmonton. It will be the ninety-eighth time that teams have played for the silver jug.

The Green Riders and the horde from Quebec are ready to go. The Riders have a little revenge and redemption on their minds. In a goofy, quirky, and badly handled ending to last year’s final, Saskatchewan had too many men on the field for the final play, opening the door for the Alouettes to win the game.

That will not happen again this year. You will find designated counters working feverishly to make sure there are no extra bodies on the field. Twelve aside, in Canadian football, thank you. Kickoff time is 6:00pm. If you are heading out to Edmonton for the game, throw on an extra pair of Long Johns!

James Hurst
23 November 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Belleville Bulls 2010

With twenty-one games under their belts, this year’s edition of the Belleville Bulls has earned itself a variety of adjectives: frustrating, exciting, interesting, boring, and, occasionally, victorious.

They now stand in the lower regions of the East Division of the Eastern Conference of the league with fourteen points. Peterborough has ten points, and Sudbury with eleven, and Barrie with nine, are just behind the Bulls.

Coach George Burnett has spent many hours adjusting his lines and his line up to put a competitive product on the ice. The team has a completely different makeup from last year’s squad, with an emphasis on the younger player.

That bodes well for the future, but in Junior hockey, the future never lasts too long. Players who gain super star status in junior hockey often move directly to the higher ranks, even to the National Hockey League before their junior eligibility has expired. The Toronto Maple Leafs tinkered with the idea of elevating Naz Kadri from the London Knights to the big time before reversing their decision at the last minute. Would it have been disastrous for Kadri’s career? Not my call. I threw out my crystal ball years ago.

In order for the younger players to succeed in the OHL, they need to rely on veteran players to “show the way”, on and off the ice. The Bulls will rely on the likes of Andy Bathgate, Bjorn Krupp, Luke Judson, Steven Silas and Michael Curtis to lead them this year. They gratefully welcomed back Kyle DeCoste, an overage forward who has recovered from off-season surgery

Burnett concedes that he may have put a little too much pressure on the younger core earlier in the season. But they have gone through their growing pains, and they now seem ready to take charge.

The rookies have shown well in the past couple of weeks. Malcolm Subban has played consistently well in goal, giving the Bulls a chance to win on most nights. First round draft choice Brendan Gaunce has been impressive at the Yardmen Arena the past few games. He is strong around the net, sees the ice very well, and makes fine passes at the right time. Adam Bignell, son of a former Bull Greg Bignell, improves with the amount of ice time he gets.

Scott Simmonds spent last season with the Dukes, and has made the step up to the OHL Bulls without a problem. He is a strong forward, and wins most of the battles along the boards. Dylan Corson is also in his first year in the league, with a fine hockey pedigree. His dad Shayne toiled at the NHL level for many years.

It is by no means an easy task for a sixteen or seventeen year old lad to play at the OHL level. Hometown fans demand excellence, game in and game out. They do not tolerate mistakes, they are not patient. They will scream at young players trying to learn the finer points of the game, trying to help their team. Most of us knew that this would be a tough season for the Bulls, with so many rookie and sophomore players.

Richard Panik, number twenty-eight on your score sheet, is worth the price of admission to any Bulls’ game. He is deceptively fast, and creates opportunities when none seem to exist. With a burst of speed, he winds his way around unsuspecting defencemen, and creates excellent scoring chances. He is pesky, always ready to jump into the action to free the puck. He brings a wonderful set of European puck handling skills to the rink, making outstanding plays.

Great news for Dukes fans! Doors will open at the new Duke Dome in a month! First game is slated to begin Friday night at 7:30pm against Whitby Fury. Tickets are now available from Betty Masterson at: 613-399-1573. Call now! They will not be available forever!

See you at the rink!
James Hurst
16 November 2010

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Buffalo Bills 2010

We set our clocks back last weekend to end Daylight Saving Time. On Sunday morning, dozens of Buffalo Bills fans from the area headed to the Rogers Centre in downtown Hogtown for the annual National Football League game. Most got to the game on time, almost fifty thousand.

At one o’clock, the fans were primed and ready for some football. The Burlington Teen Tour Band, a marching band with flags and majorettes had taken centre stage, did their thing, and had disappeared into the darkest regions of the building. The enormous Buffalo Bill mascot had been inflated in the north-east corner of the field, waiting to engorge a hundred football players. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces from Petawawa unfurled giant Canadian and American flags.

Daniel and his uncle Paul Svboda lined up in the VIP section at the 100 level for grub, clutching their $495 tickets. A tribute was paid to the only Canadian in the game, Israel Idonije, # 71 for the Chicago Bears. In true Canadian fashion, he was warmly greeted by friend and foe alike. The show was about to begin.

At the end of the first quarter, neither team had come close to scoring. It was almost six minutes before Roscoe Parrish caught a pass on the sidelines for a first down, the first of the game.

The Bears got on the score sheet midway through the second quarter. The Bills replied just before the half ended, on a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Roscoe Parrish.

From that point on, the fans were entertained with a see saw battle that had the Bears emerging victorious at the end, 22-19.

Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the first player at the podium after the game. He had spent the past three hours desperately eluding three hundred pound linemen, and defensive backfielders. He had been pounded into the turf several times. He made no excuses. In the fourth quarter, he threw a deep pass to Steve Johnson. The Bills led by 19-14 at the time, a critical juncture in the game. The pass was errant, and intercepted.

“I just didn’t get the ball to him. Stevie made a great move. That play was the difference in the game.” The ball was juggled by the left corner linebacker Tim Jennings, then snagged for the interception. The Bears scored three minutes later: game, set, and match.

For his part, Johnson defended his quarterback. “It would have been a great play,” he stated after the game. When asked about the fact that they were playing a home game on the road, he smiled and admitted, “The atmosphere was kind of neutral here. The fans seemed happy to see football”. Toronto is not exactly London, England, or Frankfurt, Germany. Johnson knows there is plenty of football played in Toronto.

Idonije made several outstanding defensive plays in the game, none more critical than in the third quarter when he blocked a Buffalo convert attempt. It was the first time in his career that Rian Lindell had seen a convert blocked.

Bills’ Head Coach Chan Gailey told the media after the game that the blocked extra point attempt “changed the whole tenor of the game”. He summed up the loss; “We are not good enough to overcome the turnovers we made in the game. We tried to establish the run game early. We were not able to run the ball. We have to block better to create more opportunities for C. J. Spiller”. No kidding. The Bills amassed a total of 46 yards on the ground. The Bears’ Brian Urlacher and his friends had completely shut down the Bill’s running game.

A final play that broke the hearts of the Bills fans came just before the two minute warning to end the game. Maynard punted the ball for the Bears, an anaemic attempt that landed near the Bills’ twenty yard line. It bounced and rolled and squirmed down to the one yard line, putting the Bills in a deep hole with little time left on the clock. A true Argo bounce!

Canadian football resumes this weekend in Hamilton, when the Argos face the Ticats in the Eastern semi-final. The winner gets to play the Alouettes in Montreal! Good Luck.

James Hurst
November 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Who Needs a Pair?

For those of us who live outside the confines of the Greater Toronto Area, or outside the limits of any major metropolitan area, we are not often within earshot of the chants of ticket scalpers.

Alas, the ticket scalping business is now flooding the internet as well. There are several companies well established in North America that look like they are offering a deal on tickets for professional sports games. “Stubhub” is one example.

Patrons who have season tickets flog their extras on sites such as this. Ticket prices are simply insane on these sites. Even “Ticketmaster” has been in hot water recently for gouging unsuspecting buyers with obscene prices.

If you happen to have a pair of Toronto Maple Leaf tickets in the Lower Area of the Air Canada Centre, you probably paid more than $ 200 for each ticket, retail. You could easily get double that price outside the arena an hour before the game. You might get a thousand bucks for the pair on the internet. No need to ask who would pay such outrageous prices for these tickets. The ACC is packed for every Leafs’ game.

Through the generosity of friends, family and alumni of the Wellington Dukes, I have been able to provide the opportunity for sports fans to catch the action. The Third Annual “Super Sports Draw” tickets are now on sale.

There will be twenty-five great prizes in this draw, including tickets to all major sports events in this area: Leafs, Argos, Toronto Football Club (soccer), Senators, Habs, Tiger Cats, Blue Jays, Raptors, Belleville Bulls, and golfing opportunities at several local courses. There are also four tickets to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Prizes are still coming in, but there is a guarantee of at least 25 major prizes, totalling almost $ 5 000.

Tickets for the draw are now in the hands of all Dukes’ players and executive members. There are always tickets at Lavender Furniture. Occasionally, a player and/or an executive member may show up at a corner in the village, or at the Legion to flog the tickets.

Tickets will also be on sale at Belleville Bulls’ and Dukes’ home games.

Obviously, this is a fund-raising activity for the Dukes. It also offers you, the sports fan, a chance to attend a big league game without the hassle, nor the expense, of dealing with a big-time scalper.

Presently in the prize pouch are the following: golf at Trillium Wood, Picton Golf Club, Wellington-on-the lake Golf Club, and the Bay of Quinte Golf Club. Leafs against the following: Islanders, Tampa Bay (three sets), and Bruins. Senators against: the Rangers-four sets, the Capitals, the Flyers. Blue Jays against the Detroit Tigers, and four open tickets. Soccer tickets of your choice. Habs tickets are on their way.

If you have been perusing this column for the past ten years, you know that I strongly advocate “being there”. Now is your opportunity to see the action live at one of these great sporting events, with a little luck.

There is also a pair of Season tickets for the Dukes for 2011-2012. Obviously, these seats would be in the New Duke Dome, expected to open in mid-December.

Tickets are ten dollars each, three for twenty-five. More than a thousand tickets have already been sold, and the rest will not last through the Christmas season. (Great stocking stuffers!) The draw will take place at the last home game this season on Friday, February 11, 2011.

Who’s got a pair? The Wellington Dukes do, and they could be yours!

James Hurst
November 1, 2010

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