Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A Look at the Sochi Games

Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014: 10 Amazing Facts About The Most Expensive Games Ever

thumbnail-3The Winter Olympic Games set to unfold in the Russian beach resort town of Sochi was plagued by controversy right from the start.
When organizers struck down a request by NGO Pride House to set up shop in Sochi, Russia’s policies on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights came under close scrutiny. Then there are widespread allegations over corruption in the provisions of services and facilities. Critics accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of cronyism in awarding contracts and mismanagement of funds.
The facilities needed for games, from venues to cargo terminals, were heavily criticized for environmental and geological hazards they might pose. The skewing of real estate prices in and around the venue was also put in question. Meanwhile, political activists have not made it easier for the organizers to market the games. Safety and security are very real concerns in an area that has traditionally been a hotbed of political dissent and conflict.
Despite all these, sports enthusiasts the world over remain steadfast in their faith. The Olympic spirit represents all that is true, good, and beautiful in the human spirit and when the history of the Sochi games are remembered, the controversies will be documented, the interesting facts archived,  but amazing tales such as these will be be remembered and talked about for a long time.
The infographic features a selection from the many tales of triumph, tragedy, pride and glory in the history of the Winter Olympics. There will always be enduring achievements that will be forever remembered, such as Bjorn Daehlie’s 12 Olympic medals, or the Eddie Eagan and his singular achievement of being the only athlete to win gold at both the Summer and Winter games. And there’s the fact that Russia, famous for its cold and cruel winters, chose to host the Winter Olympics in the subtropical resort town of Sochi, where palm trees sway amidst the new venues constructed at the beachfront Olympic park.



Super Bowl 48

In just a few days, the football will be kicked off to start Super Bowl  XLVIII at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City. In its supposed wisdom, the National Football League decided to try a game in the colder climate. That decision has been called into question, especially considering the type of winter that has been experienced thus far in North America. For the record, I have always maintained that there must be a roof on every stadium north of the Mason-Dixon Line. All games that are designed for fair weather should be played in fair weather situations.

The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will simply have to deal with it. Naturally, the quarterbacks will be the players most involved in the game. Both Peyton Manning from the Broncos, and Russell Wilson from the Seahawks have experienced nasty weather conditions in their careers. But this is the big game, on the big stage, and the quality of football should not have to suffer at the hands of Mother Nature. Rest assured, it will. Balls that should be caught will be dropped, there may be some slipping and sliding on a frozen turf, punts will not behave normally.

                                                                   Peyton Manning

We are now in the second week of anticipation before the Super Bowl. I am certain that most players are chomping at the bit. Enough media coverage. Enough practice. Enough of the inane questions often irrelevant to the game. Fans have their chip bowls full, the fridge is packed with favourite bubbly, all of the squares on the pool sheets are full. There is more anticipation for this championship game than any other, considering the time lapse between the semi-finals, and the big game.

The Seahawks are highly touted as the best defensive team, the Broncos as an offensive threat. That will make things interesting. In most similar circumstances, the opposite occurs once the game gets under way. The Hawks defense will suffer lapses, and the Broncos offence will stutter. It always happens that way. The teams are drilled by a large number of coaches, and they are prepared for almost all eventualities. The game will be won by the team that gets the most breaks, the team that makes the fewest errors, the team that shows some ingenuity.

                                                                  Russell Wilson

Ingenuity comes in the form of quirky calls and unintended plays. Punters fumble snaps, look downfield and find open receivers. Disaster is averted, resulting in first downs. Receivers tip balls into the arms of other players, hopefully ones who wear the same coloured jersey. Fumbles squirt along slippery fields into the arms of friends and foes. Defensive backfielders appear out of nowhere, snatch errant passes, and head to the end zone. Hopefully, the game will not become a comedy of errors due to the playing conditions. But I would not rule that out.


Both quarterbacks are brilliant, and will be responsible for the success or failure of their teams. But there are 10 other players with them on every play, and they are important as well. The Hawks are led in their ground game by Marshawn Lynch, and quarterback Wilson, always a threat to run. The Seahawks hope to have Percy Harvin in the lineup, recently plagued by injury. The Broncos are in the hands of Manning, tossing to the likes of Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Willis McGahee out of the backfield.

One last thing. I do hope that Roger Goodell and his henchmen will look at the kickoff rules after the game. The purpose of the kickoff is to start the game, usually with some fanfare. More often than not, receivers down the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Dead play. No fun. Fix that, Mr. Commissioner, when you have a moment.

January 28, 2014 

James Hurst 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Friday, January 17, 2014


International Hockey-Juniors and the Big Boys

Last week I shared some information with you about the Post Cereal Canadian Hockey League cards. Many of those players spent the holidays in Malmo, Sweden, competing in the World Junior Championships.

There was a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth after the dust had settled from that tournament. The Canadian boys lost the Bronze Medal game to the Russians, for a second straight year. The Russians had advanced to that game by way of a defeat to the Swedes. The Swedish team was strong, and the stands were packed with fans supporting the home squad.

The Russians had defeated the Americans in the quarter finals, which was somewhat shocking, as the Americans were the defending champs. The Canadians had also beaten the Americans, in the preliminary round.  The Canadians bested the Swiss in the quarter finals to face the Finns in the semi-final game.

The Finns won the tournament, to everyone’s surprise. They defeated the Canadians 5-1 in the semi-final, and the Swedes in the final.

Canadian teams always fare better when the tournament is held in North America. Certainly, there is always that jetlag factor to consider. We fans never really know the extent of injuries to the players. The kids are thrown together for the tournament. They are in the middle of the hockey season with their own teams, trying to get to the Memorial Cup. It is not the best time of year to showcase the best we have, as a country.

And that is what is expected for the Olympics. The team has been chosen, and they will depart for Sochi, Russia in a couple of weeks. There was a good deal of speculation regarding the selection of players. The chatter on sports television was almost endless. Personally, I leave those choices in the hands of the people who know what they are doing in their selections. Steve Yzerman chose to leave one of his own players from the Tampa Bay Lightning off the team. Martin St. Louis is a very fine hockey player, and he may be offended by Yzerman’s decision. What comes of that decision is anybody’s guess.

Most local fans were pleased to see that P. K. Subban was chosen to play on the Olympic team. The talking heads in the sports world had Subban “on the bubble” as a member of the team. He did, after all, win the Norris Trophy last year as the league’s best defenceman. He scored a winning goal the other night in overtime to give the Habs a victory. He certainly plays an unconventional style, sometimes throwing caution to the wind; however, with a sensible choice of a defense partner, P. K. will provide a spark to the Canadian game.

These Olympic Games have already been controversial. They are the most expensive yet to date, and have serious political undertones. The Russian government is not exactly in favour of same-sex marriage. Well, what did you expect? The Americans boycotted the Games in Moscow in 1980 because the Russians had invaded Afghanistan! And the Russians boycotted the games in 1984 in Los Angeles because the Americans had boycotted their Games! Around and around we go…..
Here in Fort Myers, I will have to adjust to American coverage of the games. It may be somewhat slanted. Perhaps a little!

James Hurst
January 17, 2014 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Hunter and His Honeycombs

Our grandson Hunter really enjoys his Honeycomb cereal. To add to his pleasure, and to his education, Post Cereal has recently added a program to keep his interest at the breakfast table.

There are 24 hockey cards available to collectors in the program; however, Hunter is more interested in the boxes. Six players from the Canadian Hockey League are pictured on the boxes. He can spend as long as it takes to devour a couple of bowls, studying the boxes intensely. Therein lies the education factor.

Without a doubt, he has learned a lot of language from cereal boxes in his seven years. Last year, Post introduced its hockey program, and that was just fine for him. While he ate, he asked about pronunciations, particularly about names uncommon to him. For example, one of the players featured on the boxes this year is Connor McDavid. That is no problem for him, especially since he has an uncle David; however on the Shreddies box is Laurent Dauphin. That was arrived at with some difficulty, as it contains one of those consonant blends, and the “au” vowel grouping pronounced as an “o” in French.

                                     2012-2013 Post Shreddies with Belleville Bull Malcolm Subban

It’s a “Hooked on Phonics” lesson in the kitchen. The other players on the boxes, you ask? Sean Monahan, Josh Morrissey, Frederik Gauthier, and a namesake for him, Hunter Shinkaruk. Helping him with all of those names has been a good lesson to begin with. Add to that the other 18 players in the series, and there is a heap of learnin’ going on.

I can personally vouch for the exercise. Cereal companies have been featuring sports cards in their promotional programs for years. When my children were young, Wayne Gretzky was featured in a program. The whole concept began in 1960 with the Post Company. In 1961, they featured baseball players from the major leagues on the back of the boxes, to be cut carefully from the box. The Mantle and Maris cards have increased in value many time over, fetching more than a thousand dollars in fine condition.

I checked on this year’s Post Collection on one eBay site. The Connor McDavid card was advertised for $ 14.95, plus shipping, taxes, and handling, of course. I found an easier way to get McDavid’s card, and it does not cost a dime. Inside the box is a special number. I got on the proper Post site, entered the number, and qualified to receive Connor’s card, as well as three cards from other CHL stars. I was informed that I would have to wait up to six weeks for my cards. Wrong! They arrived in a little cellophane package in a fortnight! In a short period of time, I had the cards for Hunter’s collection.

There are 24 cards in the program, requiring six numbers from the boxes. They feature players from the three CHL leagues: Ontario, Western, and Quebec.

You will find all of the pertinent details on the boxes. There are also Sugar Crisp, Honey Shreddies, and Alpha-Bits in the program. It is a very easy way to encourage a seven-year-old to start his or her day!

Bon appétit!

James Hurst

January 14, 2014 

Sunday, January 05, 2014


Helmer Begins His Coaching Career

I went into the Peterborough Petes dressing room area after their recent game  against the Belleville Bulls to search out my friend Bryan Helmer. He was immersed in post-game discussions with various team officials, including Coach Jody Hull.


I basically dragged Helmer out of the room, and down the hall past the curtain which keeps the public away from the players and management. At that point, he was overwhelmed by the Wellington delegation waiting for him: the Baitleys, and the Lavenders, the Hursts, the Wakefields, and the Benways. As per usual, Helmer lit up in a huge smile as he proceeded to share hugs with everyone. That was his style when he played for the Dukes, and it hasn’t changed one iota. Without question, he remains the most popular Duke ever. End of discussion, as my wife is wont to say, when I am trying to help her understand the real truth about something.


                                              Bryan Helmer, behind the Petes Bench
Bryan Helmer is in his first year behind the bench as the assistant coach of the OHL Peterborough Petes. There are many of us who think that the Petes made a good choice when they called the former Duke. Coach Hull agreed. “I have known Bryan through hockey for a long time. I played for 16 years, and I know he played a little longer, over 20 years. The length of time that he has been in the game, and how he got there helped us make a decision. You know he went from the Dukes right into the American Hockey League”.


I asked Hull about Helmer’s transition from the bench to the shirt and tie. “No problem there. A mutual friend, and former coach alerted me to Bryan’s situation. The transition has been great.”


Helmer is really enjoying the challenge. “I really wasn’t expecting this. But when I got the call from Jody, I responded immediately. In my role as the person responsible for the defense, I hope I can contribute. That’s the position I played my whole life.”


Regarding the game against the Belleville Bulls, both Helmer and Hull reiterated the same view. “They had a really tough game the night before in Niagara. They lost one of their key players. So they were not really sharp against us. And we played well.”


Hull has been with the Petes since the 2005-2006 season. He moved up to the head coaching assignment last season. As an NHL player, Hull saw a lot of North America. He played for 12 teams, including the Whalers, the Rangers, the Senators, the Panthers, the Lightning and the Flyers at the NHL level. In all, he played 831 games at the highest level, racking up 261 points.




Helmer has played for 16 teams since turning pro in 1993. He had stints with the Capitals, Blues, Coyotes, and Canucks, at the NHL level. He did contemplate retirement on a couple of occasions over the past few years, but officially hung up the skates last spring. He will be 42 in July.


If one were to scan columns appearing in The Times over the years about Bryan Helmer, one would realize that the same theme exists year after year: a man of heart, character, dignity, and fierce determination. A hockey guy, through and through. Helmer spent hours in his professional career, visiting hospitals and schools, perking up the lives of the less fortunate.


There will be a tribute to Bryan Helmer at the DukeDome on Friday, January 17th. Thankfully, the Petes do not play that evening! Former teammate Tod Lavender expects fourteen of “Hermie’s” former mates to be on hand. Dukes entertain Trenton that evening. Not to miss.



James Hurst


January 5, 2014 



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