Wednesday, July 31, 2013


RBC Canadian Open-2013

For more than a hundred years, golfers from around the world have chased little white balls up and down the fairways in quest of the championship of Canadian golf. From tee to green, they have left their marks, and their divots, hoping to raise the trophy, and pocket a few Canadian dollars in the process. Incidentally, this year’s prize for winning the championship was a little more than one million dollars.


After all was said and done, an American, Brandt Snedeker rose to the top and became the champion. He was most grateful to another American golfer, Hunter Mahan. Mahan led the tournament after two rounds. With two more to play, he opted to pull out of the tournament to attend the birth of his daughter. Snedeker was most grateful, and promised to send a nice gift to the baby. He also acknowledged that Mahan was playing really well, and it was unlikely that he would have been overtaken had he not chosen to leave.


                                                            Andrew Georgiou
The road to the championship is a rocky one for all competitors. There are literally millions of golfers, worldwide, and every one of them would like to be in position to win a title or two on the world stage. Many of the game’s best golfers played at Glen Abbey in Toronto, with a few notable exceptions. The problem lies in the fact that the Canadian Open has been sandwiched between the British Open and the PGA Championship taking place later this week. As a result, it remains a valid gem in the golfing world, but could use a better date.

Andrew Georgiou is one of those golfers who is making his way in the golf world. He is still paying his dues, at 27 years of age. He is from South Africa, and knows of the great players from his country who have made a name for themselves on the world stage through golf: Gary Player, Ernie Els, and Peter Oosterhuis, good examples.


Georgiou spent a couple of hours on a practice round with another PGA player, Tag Riding. There is no clock on players in the practice rounds, and they have the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the course. They check the wind, and the distances to the hole, and the undulations of the greens. Knowledge of the course, and its nuances, are critical to the outcome. Club selection is also very important, especially on shorter par three holes. “Have you got a five iron?” Georgiou asked Riding as they waited to tee off on the 4th hole. There was a stiff breeze blowing from left to right which could affect club selection.


Both players tested the greens by dropping four or five balls in various locations to test the rolls. They threw head covers on the green, then chipped at them from the sand traps to check the hold of the greens. They hit a couple of tee shots occasionally. Mike Weir readjusted his driver with a key to try to find the perfect setting. Practice is practice, and nobody was keeping score.


                                                      Mike Weir, checking the distance

Many players stop and chat with the gallery, sign autographs, spend a fairly relaxed day. Some are not as accommodating as others. One particular player refused to sign golf balls, a common request on practice rounds.


Georgiou spent his youth on the links in South Africa, then headed to the United States to play at Columbus State University in Georgia. It was a wise decision, as he excelled on the American turf. Four times he gained All American status at the university. He returned home to play in Africa in 2009 on the Sunshine Tour. One of the highlights of his career came in 2012, when he qualified in Johannesburg to play in the British Open. Fellow countryman Ernie Els won the Open that year.

                                                Andrew Georgiou and Ernie Els 

This year, he has opted to play on the PGA Canada circuit. He has seen the country. With stops in British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, Fort McMurray and Calgary in Alberta, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, he has received a taste of the country. The tour continues into Nova Scotia, then heads back to London. From August 25th to September 1st, Andrew will tee up in Peterborough at the Wildfire Golf Club.


He qualified for the Canadian Open by shooting a sparkling 64 at Heron Point. My friend Al Stitt knows a thing or two about golf courses, and he raised an eyebrow when I told him about Georgiou’s score at that course. “It’s a difficult course,” Stitt added. “That’s an excellent round.”


Georgiou told me that his grandparents on his Dad’s side were from Cyprus. In fact many Cypriots landed in South Africa following the turmoil there after the Second World War. “Do you know any Cypriot golfers?” he asked me as he moved to another tee. “Can’t say as I do,” I replied. He added: “I need a partner for the next Olympics. I’d like to represent Cyprus.” That was food for thought!


I plan to catch up with Andrew in Peterborough. An excellent opportunity for all of us to see some fine golf!


Monday, July 22, 2013


Hockey hall of Fame-2013

The Hockey Hall of Fame recently announced its inductees for this year. The Induction Ceremony will take place in Toronto on Monday, November 11.


A couple of friends have indicated their displeasure with the date chosen. It is Remembrance Day, and has been a very important date in Canadian history since the completion of the First World War. Peace was acknowledged throughout the world on: “the eleventh hour, of the eleventh month, on the eleventh day”.


I heartily agree that Remembrance Day should be a very important day for all of us. We should take time to remember those who sacrificed for us, as a society. Several members of my family fought in both great wars. I would never like to see another global conflict. But I also do not believe that the hockey induction ceremony will detract from the significance of the day. I am certain that the powers that be will make an effort, during the ceremony, to recognize Canada’s war efforts.


On to the selections. There were three former NHL players chosen: Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, and Brendan Shanahan. One outstanding female hockey player, Geraldine Heaney, was selected. Fred Shero was elected in the Builder Cetegory.


There is always going to be some disagreement with the selections. Again this year, Eric Lindros has not been admitted to the Hall. My son Arty has taken me to task about this on several occasions. I finally did some research to show him why the big fella has not been chosen. To my surprise, I now agree with my son. Lindros compares favourably with a recent inductee, Cam Neely. Lindros played 760 games, Neely played 726. Lindros had 865 career points on 372 goals. Neely had 694 points on 395 goals. Lindros spent more time in the penalty box than did Neely.


The other player passed over once again is Paul Henderson. He certainly proved his worth in the 1972 series against the Russians. But in 707 NHL games played, he had 477 points with 236 goals, well short of the numbers Lindros put on the board. Decisions on both players will be made in future years.


Chris Chelios played 26 seasons in the NHL, a record he shares with Gordie Howe. He began his career with the Montreal Canadiens, joining them late in the 83-84 season. He was selected to the All Rookie team, and was runner up to Mario Lemieux as the Rookie of the Year. He spent seven seasons with the Habs before moving on to the Chicago Black Hawks. After nine seasons with the Hawks he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.


Always a fierce competitor, Chelios could clear traffic in front of his net as well as anyone. He picked up Stanley Cup rings with the Habs and the Red Wings, adding a Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman. He played 1651 games in the NHL.


Shanahan hails from Etobicoke. He played two seasons for the London Knights, and was selected Second Overall in the 1987 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. He signed with the Blues as a free agent after four seasons with the Devils. The Devils received Scott Stevens as compensation for the signing. He spent two seasons with Hartford, then spent nine years with the Red Wings. He spent two years with the Rangers, and finished his career with the Devils. He played 1 524 games in the NHL, bending the twine 656 times.


Scott Niedermayer picked up Stanley Cup rings in New Jersey and with the Anaheim Ducks. He began his NHL career with the Ducks in 1991, and spent 13 seasons there. He signed with the Ducks as a free agent, and spent five years in Anaheim. He represented Canada at several World events, capturing Olympic Gold in 2002 and 2010. He also won the Norris Trophy in 2003-2004. He fished his career with 740 points in 1263 games.


Geraldine Heaney was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She began playing with the Toronto Aeros at age 12, and spent 18 years with that organization. She played in every Women’s National Championship from1987 to 2001. She won international gold seven times. Because of her prolific defensive skills, she has been dubbed, “The Bobby Orr of Women’s Hockey”. She accumulated 93 career points in 125 games for Team Canada.



James Hurst

Friday, July 19, 2013


Hockey Free Agency 2013

If you go to an NHL game at the beginning of the season this fall, you may hear yourself muttering, “Pass over that program, Mabel, I don’t know any of these guys”.


As is often the case in early July, quite a few players have jumped to different teams in the wake of early free agent signings. There’s not a lot of loyalty to teams, these days. Then again, the owners are not terribly loyal to their players.


Once the clock hit the deadline, there was a mess of early signings.


The Toronto Maple Leafs elected to sign David Clarkson to a healthy contract. He is 29 years old, and he will not have to dicker about the price of a new snowblower. He is slated to receive more than five million dollars a year, for the next seven years.


In the 2011-2012 campaign, he scored 30 goals for the New Jersey Devils, the only team for which he has played in the NHL. Prior to that, he had scored 52 goals in 300 games.


Clarkson spent most of two seasons as a youth in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, one with the Port Hope Clippers, and one with the Aurora Tigers. He also played 25 games with the Belleville Bulls during that time. The following year he was traded to the Kitchener Rangers, and experienced three fine seasons in the OHL.


He played two years in the Devils’ farm system, one with the Albany River Rats, and one with the Lowell Devils, before moving up to the NHL squad. Clarkson will be 30 years old in March.


To his credit, Clarkson is a gritty player. He knows what is required to play in the trenches, and he thrives on the hard work. In 48 games last season, he had 15 tallies and 24 points. In his seven full NHL seasons, he has averaged more than 100 penalty minutes per season. He does not skate away from skirmishes. “I try to come out every night and wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s just the type of player that I am. I try to do different, little things, whether it’s scoring or hitting. Every night, I’m going to go out there and put the hard hat on and go to work.”


Daniel Alfredsson decided to head to the Red Wings next season. It will take some adjustment for the Ottawa fans to see their favourite son with the winged wheel on his chest. The Leafs saw Mike Komisarek move to Carolina in a move that was not exactly a surprise.


Another former Belleville Bull, Matt Beleskey signed a two year extension to stick with the Anaheim Ducks. “Being back with the Ducks is exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else, and it worked out the best way possible.” The deal is reported worth $ 2.7 million.


Belleville’s Brad Richardson will be playing for the Canucks next year. He spent the previous five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, and prior to that skated with the Avalanche. TSN reported that his contract is for $ 1.15 million for two years.


Another former Wellington Duke is also on the move this summer. The Minnesota Wild were pleased to grab Matt Cooke from the Pittsburgh Penguins. “We know him well from his days in Pittsburgh,” the general manager Chuck Fletcher reported on the team’s web site. “We look at him as an ideal third-line centre.”


Matt knows that he will have to earn the respect of the fans. “There are probably a lot of fans who might not be too fond of me from my days in Vancouver. But I hopefully can change their opinions.”


There are still many players out there looking for new homes. Daniel Cleary and Kyle Wellwood are two former Bulls trying to pitch their wares to the highest bidder. Jaromir Jagr would make a nice fit on some teams. More than a few goalies have thrown their helmets in the ring for a chance to move: Tim Thomas, Jose Theodore, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Johan Hedberg top that list.


At times, it appears to be a big league game of musical chairs, with slightly higher stakes. By December, we will not need the programs.



James Hurst

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


2013 Baseball All Star Game

The 2013 Baseball All Star game will take place next Tuesday in New York. Major League Baseball has managed to keep up the All Star tradition, and has tweaked the game so that it means something. Unfortunately, the all star games for hockey, basketball, and football are a joke. Many of the best players will not participate.


The first Major League All Star game was held in Chicago, as part of the World’s Fair in 1933. Only one starting player from that game, Wally Berger, is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


This year’s game will be played in New York City at Citi Field, home of the Mets on Tuesday, July 16. The Mets last hosted the game in 1964.


There has always been some contention about the selection of players for the game. From 1935 to 1946, the managers of the teams selected the players. Gradually, the fans became involved in player selection. Ballots were available at the ballparks, and soon fans could vote for their favourite players on line. There have been cases of fans stuffing ballot boxes. Chris Nandor, a Red Sox fan, used his computer to vote 39 000 times for his favourite player, Nomar Garciaparra. His votes were not counted.


The first player to be selected by the fans as a “write in” was Rico Carty in 1970 when he was with the Atlanta Braves. He finished his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979.


Managers for each league are also involved in player selection. This year, Bruce Bochy from the San Francisco Giants, and Jim Leland from the Detroit Tigers will be at the helm. Players from each of the leagues are also involved in the voting.


(As a side note, the National Hockey League recently announced the All Star selections from last season. Alex Ovechkin was the big winner. He was moved to his off wing before the season started, and played the entire season at that position. Some of the hockey writers were not paying close attention. He was selected to the First All Star team on one wing, and to the Second All Star team on the other wing. This has never happened before, and I am certain it will never happen again.)


The Toronto Blue Jays will have three representatives at the game, possibly four. Jose Bautista will be making his fourth consecutive All Star appearance. He is one of 8 American League players to hit 20 home runs so far this season. Last year, he was one of the finalists in the Home Run Derby, clubbing one home run after another. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list shortly after the All Star game. Many pundits attributed his wrist injury to his appearance in the Derby. Say “No!” this year, Jose.


Edwin Encarnacion will be making his first trip to the All Star game, and it is well deserved. It drives me crazy when I hear all of the different pronunciations of his name. Even Buck Martinez, the Jays’ announcer struggles with it. This is not rocket science. Ready? Ain---car---na---see—own. Five syllables. He is ranked among the top ten in many of the offensive categories for the American League with 66 RBIs, 23 home runs, and 38 extra base hits.


Brett Cecil is one of the stellar relievers on the Blue Jays. He recently established a team record by facing 40 straight batters without allowing a hit. He ranks among the league leaders in ERA (1.43), and opponents have only managed to attain a miserable batting average against him (.153).


Right handed pitcher Steve Delabar may also get to the game. He leads all American League relievers in strike outs, and has a 5-1 track record this season with a 1.58 ERA. Fanes may still vote for him at:, or at Be sure to vote before this Thursday at 4:00pm.


I do hope that common sense will prevail and that Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers will be chosen for the game. He is pure excitement.


Enjoy the game!


Thursday, July 04, 2013


Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer-At the Ball Park

Happy Canada Day, everyone!


What better way to spend a First of July! Sit back, relax, and watch the Blue Jays hammer their way to a victory over the Detroit Tigers by a score of 8-3, with almost 45 000 friends at the Rogers Centre.


It certainly helps to have R. A. Dickey on the mound to start the game for the Jays.

But long before the first pitch was thrown, the festivities began for fans attending the game. They lined up for free face painting, free ice cream, free balloons for the kids, and a host of other goodies. The first 20 000 fans who entered the park received a red Blue Jay hat, compliments of Honda. Many sported red Blue Jay shirts that they received last year, on Canada Day.


Once seated, almost two hours before game time, the fans were treated to all of the typical pre-game activities on the field. By far the most popular event was supplied by the Tigers’ Prince Fielder. He stroked massive home runs into the netherworld in right to the “ooohs and aaahs” of those who arrived early at the park.


He has had trouble finding his home run stroke, as of late. He did have one dinger on June first, but that was the first in 80 at bats. His practice did pay off, as he launched a hit in the fourth inning that cleared the fences. Incidentally, he played his 424th game on Monday, currently the longest active streak in the major leagues.

The Tigers added a couple of other runs in the game, but the Blue Jays counteracted with more than enough fire power, and another great pitching performance from Dickey, with assistance from the bullpen.


The Jays got on the board in the second inning, and added four more in the third to chase starting pitcher Jose Alvarez. His replacement, Luke Putkonen, did not fare much better, as he was tagged for three runs in the fourth.


Jose Reyes, thankfully back from the injury list, smacked a long home run into the second deck in the third inning. Mark DeRosa contributed three RBIs with a home run in the fourth.


The Tigers’ potent lineup was kept at bay, for most of the game. Last year’s triple crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, was held hitless, striking out twice in the process.

Munenori Kawasaki has become a fan favourite in Toronto. He certainly is a sparkplug, showing great enthusiasm on all occasions. His single in the third inning plated the Jays’ first run.


The Jays played without Edwin Encarnacion, their home run leader, who has been sidelined with a hamstring problem. Rajai Davis proved to be a more than adequate replacement, collecting two hits in his first three at-bats, driving the Tigers’ pitchers crazy with his threats to steal bases.

The Jays have their work cut out for them in order to enjoy post season play. Their bullpen has been magnificent, their starting pitching improving steadily. Timely hitting and error-free defence will fit nicely into the scheme of things.

One game at a time. At the halfway point in the season.



James Hurst


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