Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Hockey Night in Belleville

The final score of the hockey game last Saturday night was…..unimportant. After all, it was an exhibition game, and the players are just working out all of the kinks from a summer away from the game. The Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets faced off at the Quinte Sports Centre to the delight of thousands of hockey fans from the area.


Understandably, the star of the show was Alexander Ovechkin,  the Russian Rocket who has been a star in the NHL since his debut. But for the hockey fans from the Quinte area, it was also an opportunity to watch four young players with local roots sporting the NHL jerseys: Edward Pasquale, Eric Tangradi, Austen Brassard, and Phillip Grubauer. Pasquale played for the Bulls, as did the others; but he also had a stint with the Wellington Dukes.


                                                                 Austen Brassard
Edward played 18 games for the Dukes in the 2006-2007 season. He also played for the Belleville Bulls that season, and was traded to the Saginaw Spirit the following year. He spent three seasons with the Spirit before moving on into the ranks of professional hockey. His first pro season, in 2011-2012, was split between the Chicago Wolves and the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL. We were fortunate to see him in action in Fort Myers as his Gladiators tangled with the Florida Everblades. “Eddie” has been with the St John’s Ice Caps of the American Hockey League for the past two seasons.


Eric Tangradi has had the most experience of all of the former Belleville Bulls who played Saturday night. He has dressed for 81 NHL games, mostly with the Penguins. He played 36 games for the Jets last season. After finishing his OHL career with the Bulls in 2008-2009, he was chosen in the second round of the draft by the Anaheim Ducks. He has played for the Penguins and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past four seasons.


A native of Rosenheim Germany, Grubauer played in two seasons for the Bulls, then spent time in Windsor and Kingston before turning pro. He also tended the twine in the ECHL, with the Carolina Stingrays and the Reading Royals. He played for the Hershey Bears last year, but also dressed for a couple of games with the Capitals.


Austen Brassard began his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires, and was traded that year to the Belleville Bulls. He played in four seasons for the Bulls, and was selected by the Jets in the fifth round of the draft. He is entering his first season of professional hockey, and is excited about the prospect. “It was great to come back to Belleville, and to play on the big ice here. I also was happy to visit with my billets here, Anne and Danny Morrison.”


Tangradi also noted that he was pleased to visit with his Belleville family. “I got to hang out with my former billets here-Rob and Irene Cooke-and it was a lot of fun.”


I spoke with Bulls’ coach George Burnett after the game. He was thrilled to see his former players in NHL jerseys. “It was tremendous to see four former players on the ice for the game. They are all trying to break into the NHL, on a permanent basis, and it is great to see these kids following their dreams. I did have a chance to talk to the three players with the Jets, but not with Phillip. It was a special occasion for all of them to re-connect with their billets.”


The game was covered by the CBC, with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry doing their “Coach’s Corner” during the intermission. Cherry, a Kingston boy, referred to the Belleville McFarlands as “my heroes”. Likely tongue in cheek. In those mid-sixties days, Cherry and fellow Kingstonians had a bitter rivalry with the Macs. There was no love lost in those battles with the Aces and the McFarlands.


The final score was 4-3 for the Capitals, as Washington defenceman Mike Green beat Ed Pasquale in the shootout. As I said, completely irrelevant.


James Hurst

September 17, 2013.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The Season Begins-2013 National Football League

Last Monday night, The Philadelphia Eagles dodged a bullet in the fourth quarter as the Washington Redskins gave them all that they could handle. The Eagles received the opening kickoff, and proceeded to run a “firewagon” brand of offence. They passed, they ran, they eluded tackles, and stormed down to the Redskins goal line.


Michael Vick, the Eagles’ quarterback threw an overhand pass into the flat which was deflected by a Skins’ lineman. The ball fell onto the turf, and resembled an incomplete pass; however, it was not a forward pass, and it was scooped up by the Redskins, and easily trotted down the field for six points. Stunned as they were by that turn of events, the Eagles regrouped and scored the next 33 points. At that point, it should have been game, set, and match.


Not as far as the Redskins were concerned. They methodically took charge, and put the next 24 points on the board. With less than a minute remaining, Washington tried a short kickoff into the Eagles’ territory. Had they recovered the ball, they had a chance to score and win the game. No such luck.


But the Redskins had reinforced the notion of playing to the final whistle, and scared the pants off the Eagles’ coaching staff. The Redskins’ coaches, father and son Shanahan had made the better adjustments at half time, and won the second half soundly. They just didn’t put enough points on the board.


Most of the rest of the league started the season on Sunday. Local focus, naturally, was on the Buffalo Bills. They were playing under a new head coach, Doug     Marrone, with a rookie quarterback, E. J. Manuel, at the helm. They faced their traditional rivals, the New England Patriots. Pats quarterback Tom Brady, now 36 years old, rallied his troops on several occasions to lead his team to victory.


Brady was able to find his receivers when it counted the most. Julian Edelman snagged two touchdown passes. Shane Vereen thundered along the ground to complement the passing attack. In the end, the Patriots relied on the foot of Stephen Gostkowski  to seal the deal. He hit a 33 yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game to give the Patriots a 23-21 victory. They don’t get much closer.


But it was the play of newcomer Danny Amendola that impressed the most. Amendola signed with the Patriots last March, and is expected to try to fill the shoes of Wes Welker, who left the Pats for the Broncos earlier this year. Amendola had ten catches on the day, leading the Patriots with 104 yards. “He really toughed it out, which was impressive,’ Brady said of Amendola after the game. Amendola had aggravated a groin injury in the first half, but continued to play until the final whistle.


Amendola first signed with the Cowboys as a free agent, undrafted by all NFL teams. He went to the Rams a year later, and led the NFL in “all purpose yards in 2009 and 2010.


Brady summed up his team’s victory: “I didn’t have a lot of doubt. We’ve got a team full of fighters. There’s going to be some ugly wins, but we’re always going to fight until the end.”


The Patriots won their tenth straight season opener. That ties the streak of the Portsmouth/Detroit team who opened seasons from 1930 to 1939 without a loss, in case you had forgotten.


The Bills and Patriots hook up again later this season. That will be a game to watch.



James Hurst

September 10, 2013  

Monday, September 02, 2013


Wildfire-The Conclusion

Following the golf last Wednesday afternoon, I had a chance to chat with James Allenby, a professional golfer from Langley, British Columbia. The owner of the Wildfire Golf Club, and the host of the Wildfire Invitational, Glen Stonehouse, had a few friends over to his place for a barbecue. He also invited a pal from Stoney Lake to supply the entertainment, the fabulous Ronnie Hawkins.


                                                             Ronnie Hawkins                                               
Allenby was preparing to play four rounds of golf over the next four days, but appreciated the hospitality. “This is a first class tournament,” he told me after his final round on Sunday. “One of the factors that makes for a great tournament is the work of the volunteers. They really came out to help here.”


Allenby and the rest of the golfers from the PGA TOUR Canada group have seen a lot of the country this summer. This week they head to Nova Scotia for the second last tournament of the season. Allenby was amazed at the topography of the Wildfire course. Many of the players and the volunteers arrived at the course by boat, as the Wildfire is located on Stoney Lake, north of Norwood, and east of Lakefield. “I loved the rocks on the course. I missed some of the natural aspects of the area during the first two rounds, then realized its nature. It is carved out of the Canadian Shield, and it is impressive.”


                                           Granite Formation on the Canadian Shield
Allenby comes by golf honestly, as his grandfather built a par three course in Langley, British Columbia. In the winter he works at the Langley Golf Centre. He began playing when he was “ten or eleven. But I really got serious about it when I turned thirteen. I enjoyed soccer, snowboarding, and ball hockey as a kid, but golf has always been my game.”


He went to Oregon State, and enjoyed his years there. “There was a great caring atmosphere there. It was very competitive, in the PAC 10 conference, and I liked that aspect of the game. He touched on his current status in the game. “I have been on the tour for five years. You have to have persistence and determination to play this game, as well as the skill. But to do really well, you must putt well. It almost always comes down to putting. Because of the technology, the guys who did not drive well can hit it out there now.”


His best finish was a tie for third in Saskatchewan at the Dakota Dunes. He finished the tournament at The Wildfire with a fine round of 69. He shot 276 for the four rounds, most respectable; however, he was 12 shots off the pace.


Mark Hubbard from Denver, Colorado, won the tournament, 20 strokes under par. Two shots back was the top Canadian, Mackenzie Hughes. Hughes picks up an extra $ 1 500 as the top Canadian, in addition to the prize money he received for finishing second.


At the end of the day, all of the young professionals were scrambling to move on to the tourney in Nova Scotia, the Cape Breton Classic in Sydney. Most were sharing rental cars, and heading to the airport. Others bade farewell to the host families from the area. Many of the same pros will be back in the area next year for the PGATOUR Canada event at Wildfire. The event is slated for three years at Stoney Lake.


Belleville’s Jeff Mills followed his brother Jon in the final round. Jeff is the Head Professional at Wildfire, and played the first two rounds, narrowly missing the cut. I caught up with them on the 12th hole. It was a nightmare hole for Mills, as he was faced with dreadful choices. He elected to play down 13, and cut over to 12 when he had a shot at the green. He ended the day with a respectable 73, but well out of contention.


                                                                      Jon Mills
Jon knows the ways of the golfing game. He has experienced all of the major tours, and is looking to break back into the PGA ranks, likely through the “Q” school, the qualification tournament that leads to the ticket to play. He told me that he was pleased with his game. “I made a few adjustments as the day wore on. I know the course pretty well, and that always helps.”


Well worth the drive north! See you there next year!


James Hurst

September 1, 2013   

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?