Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Cup -2013

The Halifax Mooseheads entered the Canadian Junior Hockey League nineteen years ago. Their quest for the Memorial Cup came to fruition last weekend as they defeated the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in Saskatoon to capture the title.

The Mooseheads were led by Nathan MacKinnon, who, along with a hat trick, also assisted on two other goals. Accolades were loaded on his shoulders after the game: most valuable player, top scorer, and a member of the first all star team for the tournament.

The London Knights and the Saskatoon Blades also participated in the tournament. The Mooseheads dominted the All star team with three other players selected: goalie Zachary Fucale, defenceman Konrad Abeltshauser, and forward Martin Frk. Other all stars are Derrick Pouliot and Ty Rattie from the Winterhawks.

Although he did not garner all star status, the Winterhawks Seth Jones will some day skate in the National Hockey League. He is a fine defenceman, and is ranked in the top five draft-eligible players this year. Curiously, he did not seem destined to become a hockey player as a child. His father “Popeye’ Jones played in the National Basketball Association for several years.

Jones played for the Toronto Raptors at one point in his career. He tried to encourage his son towards basketball, in fact any other sport. Young Jones stuck to his guns, and will be rewarded for his perseverance come draft day. Seth has the tools to do well in the game, and is a giant.

The Memorial Cup tournament ranks just lower than the Grey Cup as a great sporting event for the whole country. Representatives are there from the three Canadian Hockey Leagues: the Western Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Ontario Hockey League. It has the flavour of the football championship, with a little less booze, and not as many horses!

Prior to the final game, the league hosts a banquet to recognize players from across Canada. One of the Belleville Bulls was acknowledged with a fine piece of silver. Tyler Graovac received the award as the “Sportsman of the Year”. He led the Bulls in scoring with 38 goals and 35 assists in 60 games. He only spent 18 minutes in the “sin bin”, the lowest amount for any player listed among the OHL’s top 20 scorers. He recently signed with the Minnesota Wild.

Seth Jones won the award as the top prospect. The Player of the Year is Jonathan Drouin, from the Mooseheads. He played well in the final game, and had great chemistry with MacKinnon and Frk. The Goaltender of the Year is Patrik Bartosak from the Red Deer Rebels.

Connor McDavid is an up and coming star in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters. He did not win the Rookie of the Year award, but will star in the OHL for the next year or two. He was the most outstanding player in a recent World Under 18 tournament. An 18 year old from St. Petersburg, Russia, Valentin Zykov, was selected as the Rookie of the Year. Jones was also a finalist in that category.

The coach of the Halifax Mooseheads won the award as the Coach of the Year. Dominique Ducharme led the team to an impressive 58 win season for 120 points, best in the CHL. He hails from Joliette, Quebec, and is in his second season behind the bench.

Teams first played for the Memorial Cup in 1919. It was designed to honour those who had lost their lives in the First World War, particularly young hockey players. Next year’s championships will be held in London, again with the host team receiving a bye.

James Hurst

Monday, May 20, 2013


Never Say Never, Sens Fans

The Ottawa Senators entered the last minute of play down by the only goal scored in the game, up to that point. Erik Karlsson, the brilliant young Senators defenceman, was sitting in the penalty box, allegedly for slashing. He and Matt Cooke were duelling for the puck, when Cooke’s stick broke. Hardly a slash.

Nonetheless, the Senators were forced to play shorthanded for the remaining minute of the game, and the Penguins positioned themselves accordingly. One man chased the puck in the Senators zone, while the rest of the troops positioned themselves along the blue line. Sens goalie Anderson headed to the bench as the puck entered the neutral zone. 

Once it crossed the blue line, Daniel Alfredsson split the defence and headed for the net. Michalek’s pass was right on the money, and Alfie tipped the puck over Vokoun’s shoulder to tie the game with 29 seconds remaining.

The Penguins got on the board earlier in the game when Matt Cooke flipped a pass to Tyler Kennedy in the slot. It was partially deflected, but still ended up on Kennedy’s stick. He made no mistake with a wrist shot that beat Anderson cleanly.

Then, in the second overtime period, just past the five minute mark, the Penguins’ Matt Niskanen was sent to the box on a questionable tripping call, somewhat embellished by the actions of Michalek.

I have always maintained that teams must bear down after killing penalties. Too often, they let down their guard, exhale deeply, and say, “We’re glad that’s over”. But the penalized team still needs to make adjustments following the kill, and they are still at a disadvantage. Such was the situation facing the Sens, and they took advantage.

Half a minute after the penalty expired, Colin Greening scored to give the Sens the victory.

Shots on goal were almost even during the game, with the Pens holding a slight edge. Anderson summed up his team’s performance following the game. “We weren’t getting rewarded for our effort in games one and two. Tonight we just stuck to our game plan.”

Jason Spezza returned to the Sens’ lineup after missing most of the abbreviated season. He had back surgery in January, and was not expected to play until next year. There is no question that his presence inspired the team, and he played really well, all things considered.

There was shock and disbelief on the faces of the Penguins’ players after the game. Team Captain Sidney Crosby summed up his position after the game. “Win or lose, you have got to make sure you turn the page. If we come with the same effort, and find a way to execute, we’ll give ourselves a chance. It’s unfortunate Ottawa was able to tie it up so late in the game, but we had our chances too.”  

Game Four is set for Wednesday night in Ottawa. The Sens will naturally carry some momentum into that game. That can be erased quickly, and they know it. But a win would tie the series, and send it back to Pittsburgh on even terms. It the becomes a “best of three series”. Anything can happen. Just ask Alfie!

James Hurst
May 20, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The Aftermath-Toronto, 2013.

They cleaned up the debris at the Maple Leaf Square in Toronto on Tuesday morning. The location gained prominence in the last few weeks as a gathering place for the members of the Leafs Nation. Toronto Maple Leaf fans gathered on the west entrance to the Air Canada Centre, those who could not, or would not fork out big money for a ticket to the game.

They also showed up to watch the games on the big screen at the Square, even the games taking place in Boston! Fans lined up hours before the game, in near-freezing temperatures, and paid to be there. They had to limit the number of fans they would allow in the area, and the overflow crowded the gates to the event. Such is the nature of the commitment of the fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Cody Franson had scored twice for the Leafs, once in each of the first two periods. He had atoned for a serious gaffe in the first period when he sent an errant pass to the Bruins' Bartkowski, who scored his first NHL goal.

I will not go into all of the details of the collapse on Monday night; needless to say, there was great pain experienced by the entire Leafs Nation at the 6:05 mark of the overtime period. It was then that Boston Bruin forward Patrice Bergeron tapped the puck into the Leafs’ net to extend the Bruins’ season. It also dashed the hopes of the Leafs to play more hockey in the Spring of 2013.

They will be discussing the defeat for a long, long, time. It was Game Seven, winner take all, loser go home. I know that there were sets of golf clubs hidden in both dressing rooms, in the event of an unfortunate outcome. When the puck hit the twine in overtime, the internet exploded with ecstasy from Bruins fans, and plenty of moaning and groaning from the blue and white fans. Boston fans on FaceBook banged on their computer keyboards to share the love. It was their time to revel in the victory, and they spared no mercy.

Certainly, a bitter pill to swallow for Toronto the Good. The Leafs had scored two quick goals early in the third period to extend their lead to 4-1. It was all smiles and chuckles on the bench. The talking heads began to list the reasons why the Bruins were doomed to defeat: they had missed their flight the previous night, and were exhausted; the old defensive corps was worn out; Dennis Seidenberg, a blueline stalwart, played only 37 seconds to start the game, and could play no more because of injury; their hearts were broken.

For four minutes, the Leafs enjoyed the three goal margin. They did what they could to preserve their expected win. They dumped the puck into the corners, and chased the Bruin defenders, to wear them out even more. They played “kitty bar the door” in the centre ice area, to thwart Bruin attacks. They pressured the Bruins into making mistakes. They did whatever was necessary to salt away the win.

At 9:18 of the third period, Nathan Horton snapped a wrist shot behind Leafs’ goalie James Reimer. Agreed, Reimer was exhausted. He had carried the entire load for the Leafs in this series, and he had handled a lot of rubber. He also had to deal with several large Bruin players who liked to park on his doorstep, to obstruct his view of the puck. Milan Lucic added another marker after the Bruins had pulled their goalie, and Bergeron added the tying goal in the final minute.

The Bruin giants had come to the fore, and got the job done: Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Jaromir Jagr all played key roles in the win. Tuukka Rask made the key saves in the Bruins’ net.

Eight teams remain in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. There will be more fireworks in North American arenas. The Senators from Ottawa, the ones who skate in ScotiaBank Place, now carry the mantle for the Canadian franchises. Kudos to the Leafs for a fine season, their first taste of playoff hockey in nine years.

Pass me the remote.

James Hurst   

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Unsung Heroes


                                                      Ron Genereaux-Making a Point

All communities, everywhere, have unsung heroes. They are the people who do things, unselfishly, day after day, for the good of the community. It is a good thing that these people exist; otherwise, the community would not benefit from their efforts. There are times when the work of these people is recognized; there are more times when their efforts go practically unnoticed.


Many of these people do not need recognition for the work they do. Prince Edward County recently lost Ron Genereaux. He was an unsung hero.


For almost twenty-five years, he dedicated many winter hours as a hockey coach in The County. There are countless other individuals who do the same thing, year after year. They are also on my list of unsung heroes, no matter what their motives may be.  Initially, Ron coached because his son needed a coach for his team. That is a natural connection, and takes place year after year at the rink, on the field. In Ron’s case, his dedication continued long after his son had finished playing.


Ron’s best friend, and coaching partner, was Rick MacDonald. The pair of them worked the benches in and around these parts for years. “Ron always had the defense, and I coached the forwards,” McDonald told me last week. “At the rink, there was never any question about any of my decisions as a coach. But once we were in the car, no more than fifty feet from the arena door, he would let me have it for something I had done. And I usually deserved it.”


For many years, Ron stood at the rail, at centre ice, above the seats in the Old DukeDome. His distinctive voice carried throughout the building, especially when he targeted an opposition coach who deserved his wrath. Those were the days when arenas were silent during stoppages in play, when there were no blaring rap tunes before faceoffs. Ron would unload on a coach, usually from Kingston or Toronto, with a tirade that always hit the mark. He knew he had accomplished his goal when the coach would holler back at him, sometimes asking him to step outside!


MacDonald told me that Genereaux always was the driver when there were “away” games. The reason, I enquired? “The rule was, whoever drove controlled the radio. He wanted to listen to his music: blues, and heavy metal, plenty of Neil Young. He would not take a dime for gas. My only contribution was to supply the Tim Hortons’ coffee. In those days, Ron coached three teams: one travel team, and two house league teams.”


Genereaux was a huge Bruins fan, and was excited about the 20013 playoff between the Bruins and the Leafs. His interest was kindled in the days of Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson, but his personal favourite was Ray Bourque. His favourite baseball player, without question, was Rickey Henderson. Rickey played with an edge, had a wicked sense of humour, and always had plenty to say. Those who knew Ron well could argue that he and Rickey were similar in more than a few ways.


Ron dedicated himself to his life’s profession, and served his community as an employee of the Children’s Aid Society. MacDonald told me that there were several times during a game when Ron would receive a text message from one of his former clients, and he would act upon it immediately. It might mean driving to Ottawa early the next day, posting a bond, setting up accommodation. No matter, he was always there for the people.


I suppose it was Ron’s way of giving back, here and there. Not well known was the fact that Ron had been raised in many homes as a foster child.


Ron will be missed by his wife Susan, his two children Marisa and Adrian, and three grandchildren. He also leaves behind an extensive Star Wars collection. Wherever you are, Ronnie G., “May the force be with you”.


James Hurst

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