Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Grey Cup Aftermath-2012

What horse?


All this talk and all these words written about a Calgary horse that runs along the sideline every time they score a touchdown! Even when they did score, the horse had been put out to pasture.


At that stage of the game, the fat lady had sung, folded up her musical score, and was in the parking lot. The one hundredth Grey Cup game was no contest.


The Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders in all aspects of the game. The final score was 35-22 in favour of the Argos. From the opening kickoff, the outcome was never in doubt.


Many observers sensed a significant difference in the intensity on the benches. Normally, Coach Hufnagel will muster up a mean emotional tirade or two. But he was subdued, quietly witnessing the game on the Calgary sidelines. On the opposite side of the field, Coach Milanovich was his normal, reserved self.


                                                 Hufnagel and Milanovich-Pre Game.
His defensive co-ordinator, Chris Jones, supplied enough energy for both of them. Jones, as you may recall, came over to the Argos from the Stamps at the beginning of the season. The Argos were nicked five grand for tampering in this case. In the second quarter, Jones bounded from the sidelines on to the field as his defensive crew stifled a Calgary attack which resulted in a turnover on downs.


Without being terribly kaleidoscopic in perspective, here are a few other observations and sensations:


The city truly took to the whole celebration of the 100th Grey Cup. From the shores of Lake Ontario north to the 401, the place was a party. There was a magical parade before the game, led by Russ Jackson and Doug Flutie. If you happened to be in the right place at the right time, you were issued yellow gloves and then you got to carry the Grey Cup! Very nice!

                                          The Gifkins Family-All the way from Trenton! 

Front Street was closed from University to the Rogers Centre. A stage was set up, and fine bands played all day until the game began. In the bowels of the Convention Centre, down several trips down an escalator, fans gathered in expensive lounges to prepare for the game. Burton Cummings belted out tunes that the fans wanted to hear. (Critics felt that he screwed up the National Anthem. I disagree. The noise was so deafening at the beginning of the game that old Burt could not hear the good Canadians singing along with him, at a slightly faster pace. He just couldn’t keep up!)

                                              Canadian Rock Legend Burton Cummings 

                                            Joanne Hurst and Mike "Pinball" Clemons
Sitting quietly on the side of the room was a group in front of a banner entitled “Legends”. I introduce myself to Whit Tucker. He told me he was lucky to have played for the Ottawa Rough Riders when Ron Lancaster and Russ Jackson were at the helm. He’s a Hall of Fame member who caught two touchdown passes in the 1966 Grey Cup game. Chuck Ealey led the Hamilton Tiger Cats to a Grey Cup victory in 1972.

                                                  Chuck Ealey-Grey Cup Winner 1972

The Stamps ran Jon Cornish at the holes that were often wide open during the season. Not to be last Sunday. Quarterback Kevin Glenn was rushed the entire day, threw some bad passes, didn’t get the job done. Chad Kakkert got he job done for the Argos, and was the game’s most outstanding player. Ricky Ray more than proved his worth for the Double Blue.


Uncharacteristically, the Stamps were the more penalized team in the game. The Argos were the most penalized team in the league, all season. They wore halos on Sunday. On one play, the Stamps crowded the Argo punt returner, then shoved him out of bounds at the end on the play. That cost them thirty yards, way too dumb.


From Seat # 92-Justin Bieber at Half Time!
Add Justin Bieber, Gordon Lightfoot, Kathleen Edwards, April Wine, Matthew Good, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Johnny Reid to the mix. A fine Canadian party!


The Argo brass hopes to carry the momentum into the 2013 season. That would be a great bonus to the league as well. And with the Ottawa franchise ready to take flight, there could be another Eastern franchise on the horizon. Halifax, perhaps?

                                          With Alex Williams-Row 120-Fourth Quarter!

For all concerned, a job very well done.



James Hurst

November 27, 2012     

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Preparing for the Grey Cup

                                                John Hufnagel and Scott Milanovich
From coast to coast this coming weekend, Canadians will celebrate a great tradition for the 100th time, the awarding of the Grey Cup. The event is being celebrated all week long in Toronto, as a culmination of the year-long festivities. The Cup visited Belleville in late October. There are Canadian Football League stamps and CFL loonies in your pockets.


On Wednesday morning, the coaches from the opposing teams sat side by side answering questions from the media about all aspects of the game. John Hufnagel is also the General Manager of the Calgary Stampeders. Scott Milanovich is the rookie coach of the Argonauts.


Hufnagel indicated that he was not a “raw raw” kind of coach. He said that he might take fifteen minutes in the morning on game day to outline their plans. At half time, he usually points out that to win games the team must “play great football for thirty more minutes”.


Milanovich indicated that there were several major changes that took place in personnel over the year, starting with a new quarterback at the helm. “We knew there would be adjustments, but guys bought into the plan from the very beginning”.


Hufnagel indicated his concerns about the Argo offence: “Chad Owens is the player that he is”. Owens tore up the league on offence, as well as in his position as kick returner. The Calgary coach laughed when asked about seeing Ricky Ray traded to the Argos before the season began. “I had seen enough of him wearing the green and gold uniform (of the Edmonton Eskimos). I was pleased to see the announcement of his trade when it took place.”


Both Hufnagel and Milanovich starred as college quarterbacks in the United States. Both had brief careers in the NFL before moving north to the CFL. Milanovich joked that he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one day before his contract was to be guaranteed! Hufnagel answered a question by stating that it was not surprising that quarterbacks become coaches. “But,” he cautioned, “we must never neglect the running game”. 

                                                               Jon Cornish
Hufnagel has Jon Cornish in his backfield, to his good fortune. Cornish is a native of New Westminster, British Columbia, and attended university in Kansas. He led the league in rushing, and is the West’s nominee as the top Canadian player in the CFL.


                                                                   Marquay McDaniel
At the Calgary team luncheon, I had a chance to chat with Marquay McDaniel. He is in his fourth year in the CFL “Right now,” he told me, “I am soaking in all of the Grey Cup festivities. As the week goes on, we will concentrate on the game. Two of my best friends in the game are Arlin Bruce III and Maurice Mann. Now Arlin got his ring last year, and “Mo” Mann wants one this year. But he plays for the Argos! So we will see who gets the ring!” McDaniel had an outstanding game in the West final, pulling in three passes for 104 yards, and a touchdown.


Always a great game! And Justin Bieber at half time! Don’t touch that dial, Marsha!


James Hurst

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


John Miller-A True Friend

                                                   James Hurst and John Miller
When I was asked by John’s family to speak today, I accepted the honour, with a good deal of trepidation. I knew I wanted to represent them well, but I also knew I had a daunting task ahead of me. My personal relationship goes back long before either of us was born.


John’s mother and father, Court and Theda, played serious bridge with my parents, Bill and Louise, for years before we ever saw the light of day. There was also the odd afternoon or evening when Bill and Court, Austin Walters, Harry Burns, Harry Trepanier, Russell Bateman and a host of their cronies shuffled the decks at the Belleville Club.


Along came the children. For the Millers; Peter and Bob, Pat, John and Janet. For the other families, similar broods. We played together, ate together, grew together. Mostly in the East Hill.


That was our stomping grounds. We ran the streets, sometimes after dark. We hid when the fire trucks came to extinguish the fires we had started by torching the piles of leaves on Queen Street. We ducked when we heard the bullets ricochet off the bricks at Sandy Sandercock’s garage, courtesy of the ingenuity of Ray Finkle. We skated through the winter at the tennis club, and rode our bikes forever. We drove Wally Marner and Bud Haines crazy at their corner stores.


The Millers spent a lot of the summer at Oak Lake. It was a great place to visit. John and Babe helped me conquer my fear of frogs and snakes. I marvelled at his skill in all kinds of boats. His sea fleet was just plain dangerous. The ice cream at Sarles’ Beach was delicious.


Time flew, and we were all at B. C. I., in various stages. John and I had to follow in the footsteps of older brothers and sisters. The boys had cut more than a few swaths. The elderly female teachers, Miss Dwyer included, watched us carefully.


Johnny tore up the football field with his prolific skill. He would crash the line with the football tucked under his arm, busting tackles along the way. He earned the nickname “Grinder” at that time. I was always amazed at his work on the high bar. Round and round he would go, doing one giant swing after another. I needed a chair to reach the bar, and Red Townsend’s size ten shoe to help me along. John could run like the wind, and won several awards on the track.


We hung out quite often at dances. Teen town, the Moose Lodge on Victoria Avenue, Queen Elizabeth School. The truth of the matter was that we used every opportunity we could find to do some serious snuggling with the ladies. Another great location was Nancy Vantassel’s basement, listening to the tunes from the late 50s and early 60s, with suitable companionship.


Another quick turn and we were both teachers, with some difficulty. John attended Peterborough Teachers’ College the year after I did. He was lucky enough to have a car. He spent the months from January to May on the streets of Peterborough, driving that thing in reverse. The transmission was shot. There were no forward gears. The principal of the school, Bill McLure, told us both separately, that he was glad to be rid of us at the end of the year.


John and I taught together at Sir John A. Macdonald School in the early Seventies. That was the only year we worked together. Rumour had it that the authorities decided we were better off in different locales.


Johnny loved his vehicles, even the ones that gave him grief. One bitterly cold morning he had trouble opening his car door at Bleecker Avenue. He reefed on it, and it came off the hinges. He left it on the lawn, and proceeded to class at Queen Victoria School.


He loved to fly, and moved on from glider planes to get his pilot licence at the Belleville Air Field. 


He had tours of duty at Susanna Moodie School, in Centre Hastings, and finally at Harry J. Clarke School. He was the principal most of the time, and served the communities well. In fact, he was revered as a principal. He cared deeply about the children, all the children under his care.


Johnny had gifts, many difficult to explain. He was a brilliant wood crafter. He tackled entire houses on several occasions, turning out silk purses from sow’s ears. Albert Street, William Street, the farm house on the hill west of Tweed. And finally his cozy retreat on George Street, a real masterpiece.


Music was of utmost importance to John Miller. He loved the classics, and much more. We experienced Leon Redbone at one of those Toronto festivals, and loved his stuff. Emmy Lou Harris was a favourite, as was Joe Cocker. John had a strong voice, and we sang in church choirs in our youth. He struggled at the piano, but learned a bar or two of “Fur Elise”. Lynn was responsible for that.


She taught piano at the school in Madoc. John was a confirmed bachelor at the time, perhaps thirty-five. By the time he was forty, he was the father of five children. Allison, Vickie, and Wendy were part of the family when he and Lynn were wed. Charlotte and Andrew followed along shortly thereafter.


Johnny’s world crashed that fateful evening when Lynn was killed at Moira Lake. We rallied around him, but it was plain to see that he was a different person. He moved to George Street, and planned to move on with the tides.


Such was not to be. Following his diagnosis, he fought to live, and he wanted to do so---for his kids, for his friends, for himself.


He was a prince of a guy. Farewell, my friend.




Grey Cup 2012

Grey Cup 2012


The concierge at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto shuddered a little when he heard the Calgary Stampeders had won the West. Stampeder fans are now heading east in droves to prepare for the game. Traditionally, they bring everything. That includes the horses that like to canter down the foyer in the Royal York. An equipment manager has been assigned to pick up any inadvertent droppings along the way, to be donated to local road hockey games.


It will be a wild and woolly week in Hogtown, but one that has been anticipated since last December. The Toronto Argonauts knew that they needed help at quarterback, and arranged to have Ricky Ray head east from the Eskimos. Edmonton’s loss, Toronto’s gain. Big Time.


The 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup had been awarded to Toronto, and the team knew that they had to do everything in their power to secure the right to play in the game.


The Argos earned the right to play for the Grey Cup last weekend in Montreal. Calvillo did not have his best game for the Alouettes. He overthrew receivers in the first quarter, and was under pressure throughout the game. The Argos received a remarkable performance from Chad Owens, on plays from scrimmage, and on punt and kick returns. Marcus Ball intercepted two Montreal tosses to curtail serious damage.


In a real barnburner, the game came down to one play. Anthony Calvillo threw the ball into the Argo end zone on a typical “Hail Mary” play. The ball came out of the sky to the Alouette receiver, Brian Bratton. At the last second, he was temporarily distracted by the Argo defender. There was some discussion as to whether or not the ball had been touched. Moot point. The Alouette receiver was sufficiently distracted to let the ball bang off his shoulder pad and hit the ground. No flags. No interference calls. Game, set, match.


After that ten second pregnant pause, the boys in the Double Blue declared, “I believe we are the visitors”. On to the Rogers Centre! On to the Grey Cup!


The Stampeders did not have an easy time getting past the British Columbia Lions. In fact, the home team lost each of the games in the finals, east and west. The Lions were defending Grey Cup Champions, and had Travis Lulay at the helm. He was the CFL’s most outstanding player last year, and also the MVP at the Grey Cup. Past history.


On January 3, 2012, the Stampeders completed a trade with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, essentially a quarterback swap: Kevin Glenn to the Stamps for Henry Burris. Glenn was no stranger to the CFL, having played three years for the Green Riders, six years for the Blue Bombers, and three years for the Tiger Cats.


There is a host of activities taking place in Toronto every day this week, including the traditional Grey Cup Parade. All of the CFL cheerleaders will be there, waving to all of their fans from Wellington-On-The-Lake.


These will be exciting times for the city. I defy you to try to find a hotel room in the core at this date. The suites are booked, and the fridges are packed with lots of pop and Kool Aid. They are selling tickets for fans to watch the game in movie theatres!


All of the great Canadian traditions surrounding the event will be well acknowledged.  A great unifying extravaganza for our country.


Kick off is at 6:00pm on Sunday.



James Hurst


Monday, November 12, 2012


Dolphins and Titans in the Sun


Most of the teams in the National Football League have reached the halfway point in the season. Meanwhile, there are only three games left to decide the champions in the Canadian Football League. On Sunday, the Toronto Argonauts disposed of the Edmonton Eskimos to earn a  berth in the Eastern Final against the Montreal Alouettes. The Saskatchewan Roughriders knocked off the Calgary Stampeders to play in the Western Final next week against the British Columbia Lions. Those will be good games, culminating in the Grey Cup Game in Toronto on November 25th.


The NFL teams will be heading into the home stretch at that time. Last Sunday we boarded a bus here in Fort Myers to watch the Dolphins and The Tennessee Titans in Miami. It was a deal that only a serious euchre player would have passed on. Smooth bus ride for a couple of hours to Sun Life Field; tailgate party with burgers, dogs, chips, and beverages; great seats in eighty degree sunshine with a cool breeze; a festive football atmosphere, in “T” shirts.


There was some discussion prior to the game that the Dolphins should be wary of the struggling Titans. I strolled all the way around the stadium at the upper level, taking in the sights, soaking up the atmosphere. The tailgaters are serious individuals, covering acres of the parking lot with all of their paraphernalia. On the other side of the stadium is a perfect view of the city of Miami, stretching miles up and down the coast. Always carry your age identification if you are buying alcoholic (Jamaican rum)or pseudo-alcoholic (American beer) beverages. A person in our party was carded, even though she is 58. I watched as another man was carded, and it was his birthday. Almost forty staff members at the bar joined in to sing him happy birthday!


In a pre-game interview, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin cautioned that the Titans might be tough because they were starting their young quarterback Jake Locker, who was returning after missing five games with a dislocated shoulder. Locker was as sharp as he needed to be throughout the game, orchestrating a 37-3 drubbing of the Dolphins. Because of Locker's play, veteran Matt Hasselbeck remained on the sidelines most of the game.


                                                                           Matt Hasselbeck
For the most part, it was a case of turnovers by the Dolphins, squandered opportunities, unnecessary penalties, and some questionable play calling. On two occasions, the Dolphins elected to pass in a third and one situation. Both of those passes were intercepted, in their own territory.

                                                                           Ryan Tannehill

It was a difficult time for the Dolphins’rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He had gone six weeks without throwing an interception. Three different cornerbacks picked off his attempts. Reggie Bush coughed up a fumble in the first half, ending up in the dog house. He was not handed the ball the rest of the game. He is somewhat prone to fumbles; nonetheless, to keep him on the bench is questionable. You cannot win if you do not use your best players.


Chris Johnson ran brilliantly throughout the day for the Titans. He knifed his way through gaping holes at the line, finishing with 126 yards on 23 carries. It was the first time in 23 games that the Miami defence had given up 100 yards to a running back.


Tannehill summed it up at the end of the game: “I’m embarrassed by the way we played”.  Cameron Wake came to the Dolphins a couple of years ago from the B. C. Lions and has established himself as a premier rusher in the league. He was also humbled after the game. “There’s no explanation, no excuse.”


Marcus Thigpen won the job as the kickoff and punt returner for the Dolphins this year, after stellar work as a Hamilton Tiger Cat. Most Kickoffs from the Titans went through the end zone. The Titans contained Thigpen on his other run back attempts.

                                                                      Marcus Thigpen

Truly a spectacular afternoon, from the Titans’ standpoint. The Doplhins will reassess the situation, as they now stand with four wins and five losses. Plenty of time to get back on track.


James Hurst



Saturday, November 03, 2012


Post Cereal Canadian Hockey League Cards-2012

The Belleville Bulls recently hosted their annual “Breakfast with the Bulls”. Bacon and eggs, pancakes, toast, hold the grits, thank you. A great way for the kids to get up close and personal with their favourite players.

For the first time in several years, Post Cereal has decided to involve itself with the hockey world, and the sports card world---at the same time. Another fine opportunity for hockey fans to experience the action.

The company is featuring goaltenders from the Canadian Hockey League in its promotion. You will soon be able to go into your favourite food store and purchase a box of breakfast cereal with a goalie on the front of the box, and collectible cards inside the box.

The combination is perfect in the Quinte area. In a week or so, kids of all ages will be able to sit down with Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls, and enjoy a bowl of Shreddies. If you happen to be in Quebec, you can plop down your box of Sugar Crisp, and  eat with Etienne Marcoux of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

On the Honey Shreddies box, you will find Chris Driedger of the Calgary Hitmen. For those of you in Saskatchewan, goalie Andrey Makarov is featured on the Honeycombs box. Personally, I like the fact that there is variety in this presentation. In the past, there was usually one player featured in a promotion of this type. There will be a dozen goalies on the box fronts, including the Alpha- Bits.

But the fun does not stop there, Mildred. Inside the box, you will find a package of four hockey cards. The players are from the Canadian Hockey League, and they are all goaltenders.

Years ago, card manufacturers came to the conclusion that goalies attracted attention: they wear bright masks, they can be featured in a variety of poses, and they are often the stars on their respective teams.

You can also win a trip for four to the 2013 Memorial Cup to be held this year in                     .

Jennifer Dumoulin is the Director of marketing for Post Food Canada. She likes this year’s promotion: “We’re excited to partner with the CHL and its three leagues to offer a collectible series that fans of all ages can enjoy”. Commissioner David Branch adds, “This provides us with another platform to showcase our student athletes and rising stars of the CHL to fans across the country”.

Aaron Bell has a special interest in this issue. He is responsible for much of the photographic work done in the CHL. Last night I gave him a head’s up on the issue. He is an avid sports card collector as well. “I plan to have breakfast with Malcolm as soon as I can find the box,” he told me. Bell snapped Subban’s box photo, as well as the insert card.

Subban was drafted in the first round by the Boston Bruins. Now in his third year with the Bulls, he currently boasts a sparkling 2.32 goals against average. He is the middle brother of the Subban boys, all drafted by the Bulls.

Several companies have featured sports cards to promote their products. Originally, sport cards were used to sell cigarettes, with issues from the early 1900s. Cards were used to help sell bubble gum. Sadly, those days are gone. Most of us old timers loved that gum! They have previously shown up in bread packages, razor blades issues, even with batteries.

This collection will be a real hit with hockey fans of the Canadian Hockey League.





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