Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Tough Times for the Bills

                                                   Moffitt, McQuistan and Giacomini

The Seattle Seahawks stormed out of the gate last Sunday, and put the first fourteen points on the board. The Buffalo Bills found themselves trying to catch up yet again, with little success. Final score? Seahawks 50 Bills 17.


The Seahawks were led by their remarkable young rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson. He scampered for three touchdowns in the first half, establishing a team record in the process. He ran nine times for 92 yards, and completed 14 passes on 23 attempts. Drafted in the third round out of Wisconsin, Wilson is now ranked seventh in the NFL with a 94.9 passer rating.


Marshawn Lynch also aided the Seahawk cause by adding 113 yards on 13 carries. Lynch entered the game with a career-high 1 266 yards on 261 carries, ranked sixth in the NFL.


Remarkably, neither Wilson nor Lynch stands six feet tall. In the game today, most quarterbacks and backup throwers are well over six feet. After all, they need to hit receivers with accurate passes, picking out their targets downfield. All the while, they must be able to see over the outstretched arms of thundering defensive linemen who often stand 6’ 6” and taller.


The Bills’ Kraig Urbik is one of those typical giants. An offensive guard, he stands at five inches over six feet and tips the scale at 325. He spends his weekend afternoons making holes for running backs, and protecting his QB.

                                                                    Kraig Urbik

C. J. Spiller had another good game for the Bills, picking up 103 yards on 17 carries. His quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21 passes for more than 200 yards. The statistics are similar to those stacked up by the Hawks. The Bills had an edge in the time that they possessed the ball. One look at the scoreboard tells you that something was amiss for the Bills.


They turned the ball over far too many times. They could not find the end zone when opportunity knocked. They shot themselves in the foot with untimely penalties. These are the same criticisms made about all teams that do not make the playoffs. It has been thirteen years for the Bills. They will regroup in the spring following their final two games.


Naturally the game began with plenty of hoopla. Fireworks and guns roaring while the players took the field. Plenty to entertain the near capacity crowd. Many were there to catch a glimpse of the high-priced half time act: PSY.


I threw a photo I took of the remarkable South Korean rapper yesterday on Face Book. Without a lie, someone wrote back; “Who is that?” PSY has appeared on every American talk show that exists. There is a clip on You Tube of PSY teaching Brittany Spears how to dance on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Does it get any better?

                                                          PSY-Taking the Stage

PSY was flanked by his entourage as he took centre stage. The playing field was lined with the Buffalo cheerleaders, and the Junior Jills, as well as hundreds of fans who had won a contest to dance with the international phenom. Four minutes later, following the “Gangnam Style” performance, PSY disappeared into the netherworld of the Rogers Centre, leaving the crowd buzzing. I think I saw several hundred dollar bills sticking out of his pockets as he left the field.

                                             PSY-After the Concert (Check the Pockets!)
The Bills have now lost four regular season games in Toronto, with one win to their credit. Only die-hard fans make the trip from Buffalo. They know that they have to brave the traffic on the QEW. There is always a weather factor to contend with, and the possibility of a hassle at the border.


I had the good fortune to sit with Mike McCarthy, now scouting for the Montreal Alouettes. Following his playing days at Southwestern College in Kansas, McCarthy had a free agent tryout with the Cowboys. He then began an extensive career on the sidelines, coaching and managing in the CFL, the NFL, and the USFL. He joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1985, and has worked for the Argos, and the Ottawa Rough Riders. That should mean he knows the good restaurants in the CFL East!

                                                           With Mike McCarthy  
He has gained a wealth of knowledge from his days in the game, working with the likes of Barry Switzer and George Allen. I truly appreciated his insights from the game.


I know that you would agree with me that it is now the time to drop the puck. The winters are far too long in this country without the NHL.


December 18, 2012  




Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Singin' the Blues in Buffalo

There has been a whole truckload of weeping and gnashing of teeth in Buffalo since last Sunday. The Bills collapsed again, and are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.


The main Buffalo sports radio station, WGR 550 on your AM dial spends days following the weekend games dissecting the Bills. None of the dialogue is very pretty.


“Mike and Mike” in the morning is a popular show. The hosts are well versed in the game, and they are not afraid to share their opinions.


In the afternoon, as is the case with many of these sports stations, fans are encouraged to call, email, and text, communicate somehow with the hosts. In this case, the comments are mostly venomous. And the hosts, “Shopp and The Bulldog”, are not shy with their opinions.


The hosts had this to say about the team: “They are just incompetent. There was poor clock management and dubious decisions were made. There were serious blunders made by the players, and the coaching staff. December football is again meaningless in Buffalo. From October 14th on to the present, that has been the case.”


“The Bulldog” went so far as to say that Bills coach Chad Gailey was scared. At one point in the game, the team sent place kicker Ryan Lindell onto the field to attempt a 52 yard field goal, with reasonable expectations. Gailey then called time out, re-evaluated the situation, and chose to punt. The fans climbed all over him. The coaching staff has taken the heat.


After the game, Coach Gailey, in his southern drawl, was asked what his plans were now that the team has been eliminated from post season play yet again, barring a miracle. “We have to try to get better every time we walk out on the field,” he told the phalanx of reporters after the game. He is a proud individual, and you could sense that all of this bashing hurts.


In his defense, the team has been decimated by injuries the entire season. He has lost key interior linemen, and other players at key positions. If you haven’t got the troopers, it is difficult to win the battles.


Arguably, the players on the field should be held responsible for some of the damage. The St. Louis Rams, now a .500 team for the season, moved the ball down the field on 14 plays to score with 48 seconds remaining to win the game. They covered 84 yards on that particular drive. Granted, the fourth quarter is the easiest time to move the ball in the NFL, as defensive players feel the exhaustion more that the boys on the other side of the ball. And the Bills have allowed that to happen far too many times this season.


C. J. Spiller, arguably the Bills’ best player, only got the ball 8 times in the game. The other running back, Fred Jackson, carried the ball 9 times, managing to move it just 14 yards! Not exactly getting the job done.
             C. J. Spiller                                                                   
                                                                                                                      Fred Jackson
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills’ oft maligned quarterback, completed 25 passes on 33 attempts. That result is superb, although many of those completions were for short yardage. The team picked up only 247 yards in the air.


                                                                 Marshawn Lynch
The Seahawks are in Toronto to face the Bills this Sunday. They are coming off a 58-0 shellacking of the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. Marshawn Lynch can't wait to face his former teammates! Yikes! Time to circle the wagons!


I apologize. I am starting to sound like a whiney radio guy. Upstate New Yorkers and die hard southern Ontario fans just want the best for the Bills. They have been to four Super Bowls, but have no rings. A lot of frustration.


It is time for change. And not just for the sake of change.


December 11, 2012. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Season's Greetings 2012!

Ron Hurst and Pete Conacher 

Last Monday I attended the annual Christmas luncheon of the National Hockey League Players’ Association. There is a monthly luncheon, held at a dear old Shopsy’s north of the 401 in Toronto; however, the December meeting is always special for a variety of reasons.



At the past few December meetings, a member of the group has taken to the makeshift stage to share a few tunes with the gathering. Michael Burgess has always known how to captivate an audience. This group is special to him, as he has played with the Legends of Hockey for several years. He loves the game, and he makes it clear that it is his honour to be there amongst the old pros.



Michael brings along an accompanist, and strolls around the room, warming the crowd with some of his personal favourites, and a few Christmas carols. He began with Love, then added You Raise Me Up. He sang Music of the Night from the Phantom of the Opera, and quipped, “Not a bad tune!”.


He had to contend with carts full of rattling plates, and noisy patrons at the back of the restaurant. Always the consummate act, he was never fazed by the interruptions. He finished with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, O Holy Night, and Silent Night, encouraging the rabble to join him in song.



I met “Bo” Elik for the second time in my life. As kids, playing street hockey and a variety of other sports, we all had nicknames. On the football field, I was “Spider”, as in Spider Lockhart, a defensive back who played for the Giants. Another one of the crew was “Bo”, taken from “Bo” Elik. He was likely the original “Bo”, predating Bo Jackson and all the other Bos.

                                                              With "Bo" Elik

In the 1960s, many of us took to the roads, and dangled our thumbs for transportation. We hitched rides up and down the 401 for years. On one occasion, I hopped in and introduced myself to the driver. He told me his name was “Bo” Elik. I then explained to him why I was impressed. He thought little of it.  When I explained that to him at the luncheon, he was equally nonchalant about the whole situation.


                                           James Hurst, Frank Mahovlich, and Sue Foster
I also met Sue Foster, the tiny yet powerful pen behind the undoing of Alan Eagleson. She wrote the book, “The Power of Two-Carl Brewer’s Battle with Hockey’s Power Brokers”. Belleville’s Stevie Cameron assisted in that effort.



Frank Mahovlich does not often attend the functions. It was like a great homecoming for him. Many of the other NHL players naturally played for the Leafs, as did Frank. He was able to renew acquaintances with many of them.


We lined up for lunch, and I was directly in front of Frank. I turned to give my pal Will his twenty dollars for the meal, and Frank stuck out his hand. “I will be out of work soon,” he pleaded. I remembered that he was about to turn 75. Senators in Canada have a mandatory retirement age of 75. So he was telling the truth.



Needless to say, I felt sorry for Frank, but not that sorry. I put the $ 20 back in my pocket. I made the mistake of discussing Frank’s junior career in Toronto. I almost used the word “Marlies”. He glared at me and said, “You know I played for St. Mike’s”. Ah, yes. That’s quite correct.



To his credit, he has experienced a fine life. Many of the group at the luncheon remember the Mahovlich kids at the Leaside arena, where his dad sharpened skates. His brother Peter also enjoyed a wonderful NHL career, and now works with the Panthers in Florida.



At no time was there mention of a lockout or labour negotiations. That was a good thing.


                                                                 Kent Douglas


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