Tuesday, May 27, 2014


And the Winner is?



Barring unforseen miracles, the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup final this year. Each team has taken a commanding lead, three games won, one lost. Each is playing with great confidence.


The Chicago Black Hawks and the Montreal Canadiens will likely be the last two teams to fall by the wayside this year. They fought valiantly through the playoffs, but the Kings and the Rangers seem to have that little bit extra in their tanks. That is what leads to success.


Injuries have taken their toll in this year’s hockey playoffs. Where would the Habs be had Carey Price not been run over in the first game against the Rangers? Jonathan Toews does not appear to be too healthy, and knee on knee collisions are just not helpful. Local favourite Andrew Shaw had to sit out several games with a “lower body injury”. He has returned, but is not up to full speed. The coaching staff from the Kings picked up on a flaw in his repertoire, and Shaw lost his first seven face-offs in the fourth game.


I may be going out on a limb with this observation, but I would like to compare the Kings’ defenceman Drew Doughty with two other former NHL stars: Paul Coffey, and Bobby Orr. They have similar styles: great skaters, slick passers, and brilliant hockey minds. When necessary, each could mix it up in a physical way to let the opposition know that they are not just pretty faces.


Doughty spends a lot of time on the ice. It is not uncommon to see him quarterback the power play for an extended period of time. He kills penalties, unless he is in the box! He is usually the first one back to grab the puck behind goaltender Jonathan Quick, surveying the ice, wheeling from behind the net or passing to an open man. Therein lies another of Doughty’s skills: his passes are almost always on the tape, and he seldom forces the issue with long stretch passes that do not guarantee success.


Short “easy” passes get the job done. Because of the speed of the game, it is important to control the puck as much as possible. Turnovers lead to transition, and when the puck changes hands quickly, players must be prepared to go from offense to defense instantly. Doughty is always ready to make the change. He never loafs, which is a very good thing for the Kings.


Henrik Lundqvist is in his ninth season with the Rangers. He has played most of the games for the New Yorkers in that time. He is called “The King”, for good reason. He has played brilliantly throughout his career, and he would dearly love to put a Stanley Cup on his mantle. He suffered disappointment in the Olympics at the hands of the Canadians, and he would love to pick up a little hardware for his troubles this year.


I suppose I am getting a little ahead of myself, in all of this talk about the Kings and the Rangers. The semi-finals are still under way, and the faithful still cling to the prospect of a Habs or a Hawks victory. Alas, I fear, those are pipe dreams; however, stranger things have happened. We shall see.


A final note: in case you haven’t noticed, the Toronto Blue Jays have had a magnificent month of May, and lead the East in the American League.


Thank goodness for remotes!!


James Hurst




Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Tim Horton-Memories

Tim Horton-Memories


Last week I posted a note on Facebook regarding the Fiftieth Anniversary of Tim Hortons. The restaurant people celebrated by giving customers a piece of cake and a coffee. There are several thousand Tim Hortons shops in Canada, and a few in the northern states. I discovered one in Florida! It is in Sunrise, in the arena where the Panthers play. A little bit of home for Canadian visitors. When the Canadian troops were in Afghanistan, there was also a restaurant in Kandahar. Nice touch.


As often happens in the Facebook world, I heard from a friend who remembered visiting the Tim Hortons restaurant on North Front Street in Belleville. He happened to be walking down the street when he heard a bit of a commotion, on the very first day of business at the shop. Tim Horton had stopped by to greet the patrons, and he signed an autograph for my friend Kam Tom.


Kam and I spoke about that encounter, and reminisced about other early Belleville experiences. Kam arrived in the city as a six-year old from Hong Kong. He had been whisked out of China, and was sent to live with his grandfather. They lived above the Paragon Café, which his grandfather owned, on Front Street in Belleville.


Kam attended Queen Mary School, switched over to Prince Charles School, then returned to Queen Mary to complete his primary school education. He attended B. C. I., and began his post secondary education at the University of Toronto. He later received his degree from Carleton. For many years he has worked in the field of photography, and motion pictures.


Kam also joined the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, only a short stone’s throw from his residence. The Memorial Arena was also closely located to his place on Front Street. He loved the arena, and became a very proficient skater. One of his buddies at that time, Doug Dickie, suggested that Kam should sign up to play hockey as well. Much to his dismay, his grandfather refused to allow him to play. The reason he gave was that he could not afford the cost. Kam also figures he did not want his young grandson to get hurt.


He spent hours with the rest of us at the Quinte Tennis Club. He recalls at least three marathon matches that he and I had at the Club. In one instance, we began in the morning, with little settled. The rest of the crew headed home for lunch, returned, and found us still sweating it out on the court. We both chuckled when I remarked that neither of us had a power game. The main focus was to get the ball over the net, and allow the opponent to make the mistake. That makes for very long matches.


 Tim Horton certainly had a legendary career in the NHL. He was recruited by the Leafs in 1949, and left Cochrane, Ontario, to play for St. Mike’s. He and Allan Stanley were defensive partners for Stanley Cup wins in 1962, ’63, ’64, and ’67. He also played for the Rangers, for the Penguins, and for the Sabres. He travelled the Queen Elizabeth Way from Toronto to Buffalo when he played for the Sabres. Tragically, he was killed on one of those trips.


He partnered with Ron Joyce in 1964 to open the first donut franchise. One of his teammates, Bob Baun, successfully managed two donut shops in the Toronto area.


Horton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. Kam Tom still has his autograph.


You will find me working at that same Tim Hortons on June 5th, Camp Day. Make that a double-double!


James Hurst


Monday, May 12, 2014


The Road to Hockeytown with Jimmy D.


To say that Jimmy Devellano is a sports fan would be a gross understatement. He lives and breathes sports virtually 24 hours a day. He has executive roles with the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, and he follows other sports and teams as well.


Jimmy grew up in Toronto, and spent his week in school as a kid, anticipating his next trip to Maple Leaf Gardens. He attended as many games as he possibly could, soaking up the atmosphere, and all the aspects of the game. Little did he know at that time that he would become the most important decision-maker in the Red Wing organization, and that he would one day possess enough sports rings to cover both hands, and then some.


He has seven Stanley Cup rings: three with the Islanders, and four with the Red Wings. In 1979-80, the Islanders won their first of three consecutive Cups, with Al Arbour behind the bench, and Bill Torrey as the General Manager. Devellano was the Director of Scouting.  His four championships with the Wings came when he was Senior Vice President. His other rings in the drawer come from winning the Calder Cup (Adirondack), the Adams Cup (Fort Worth and Indianapolis), and the Riley Cup (Toledo Storm). He has one baseball ring, as the VP of the Tigers when they won the American League title in 2006.


Remarkably, Jimmy quit school after he had completed Grade Nine in 1959. Through the early Sixties, he went to almost every Toronto Maple Leaf game. He really enjoyed the work of “Punch” Imlach, the Leaf coach. He witnessed the Leaf triumph in 1967. Some of you remember that as Canada’s Centennial year. Others remember that as the last year that the Leafs won the Cup. Jimmy also involved himself in the game by coaching and watching hockey at all levels.


He spent almost ten years as a civil servant in Toronto, working for the Unemployment Insurance Commission. I told him that I remembered the occasion when they moved their headquarters to Belleville. He chuckled when I told him that. “That’s when I decided to quit, and involve myself in hockey on a full time basis.” In 1967 he wrote a letter to Lynn Patrick, the G. M. of the Blues, and he offered his services to the Blues as a scout, and indicated that he did not expect any wages. He heard back from Patrick, and the rest in history.


In the book, he takes the reader through his times of triumph with the Islanders and with the Red Wings. He was introduced as the General Manager of the Red Wings in 1982, succeeding Jimmy Skinner. The following year, Jimmy went to the NHL draft with the fourth pick. It looked as if the Wings would miss out on the top three players: Sylvain Turgeon, Pat Lafontaine, and a kid from the Peterborough Petes. The Minnesota North Stars had the first pick and they chose…….Brian Lawton, from an American High School. That left the door open for Jimmy to pick that kid from the Petes: Steve Yzerman. A wise selection for his first draft pick.


Yzerman stayed in Detroit 22 years, He served as captain longer than any other player in history, and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He has left Detroit to serve as the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Devellano went on to wheel and deal, adding enough pieces to put together the Stanley Cup teams in Motor City.


In fact, his book is entitled, “The road to Hockeytown-Jimmy Devellano’s Forty Years in the NHL”. For all of you Wings fans, it is a must. One of my friends in Fort Myers, Jerry Lewis, could not put the book down. “I really enjoyed that trip once again,” he told me. “It was fun to get a different perspective on the team.” Jerry has been involved in sport all his life, and still plays competitive baseball in a seniors’ loop. In a recent tournament, he face Bill “Space Man” Lee!


I am going to drop off my copy of Devellano’s book at the Wellington Library tomorrow. It will be there for all of you Red Wing fans until the NHL starts up again in the fall. You need something to keep your interest while others watch their favourite teams. Well, that is stretching it a bit. As the playoffs wind down, there are many of you basking in disappointment.







Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Tooronto Basketball 2014

The Toronto Raptors certainly captured the imagination of their die-hard fans, and a larger group of casual fans last week. They played a tight series in the first round of the National Basketball Association championships, losing 104-103 to the Brooklyn Nets in the seventh and deciding game. It ignited the interest in the game on a national basis. You will recall that basketball was tested on the West Coast, in the form of the Vancouver Grizzlies a few years ago. That franchise now rests in Memphis, leaving the Raptors as the only game in town.



My friend and basketball insider Grant Freestone attended one of those playoff games in Toronto. He was ecstatic with the frenzy surrounding the game. “The square outside the Air Canada Centre was packed with fans. Most of the estimates were in the ten thousand range. They lived and died with every basket. The atmosphere in the Centre was electric. And incredibly noisy too, I might add.



He also noted the behaviour of two of the veterans on the Nets, a certain Mr. Kevin Garnett and a Mr. Paul Pierce. They did not shut up the entire game. They spend the time nattering away at the opposition in an attempt to break concentration. I realize that happens in all sports, at various levels. In the NBA, it has become a science, and Garnett and Pierce each have their doctorates. They work under the direction of Coach Jason Kidd, sometimes known to be argumentative.



The Raptors are a young group, and that likely influenced the final result. One of their best players, Kyle Lowry hobbled through the last few games. Lowry is an experienced player, having spent time with the Grizzlies and the Rockets. He is an accomplished point guard, always ready to assist other shooters.



He was also asked to shoot the last shot of the game for the Raps, a shot that would have moved them into the second round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. That organization puts Dwayne Wade and LeBron James on the floor, two of the very best in the game. They also field Chris Bosh, a former Raptor who skipped out to find fame and fortune in America. There was a distinct bad taste left in the mouths of the Raptor nation when he left, with just cause. That would have been an incredible matchup. Maybe next year.


 I would like to tip my cap to commentator Jack Armstrong for his coverage of the game. He fills the gaps with an incredible array of basketball lingo, and educates the fan on the immediate situation with ease. When there were 25 seconds left in the game, with the season on the line, he pointed out the number of timeouts each team had remaining. That is critical information in a basketball game, as the last 25 seconds on the clock can often feel like they last forever. He told us that the Nets’ Livingston had a difficult shot especially since he was playing in “a hostile environment on the road”. He sunk it easily.


Jack took us through the final seconds, relating that the Nets used some taller players, for rebounding purposes: “They’ve got a lot of length on the floor”. One of the Nets hit a shot with “a good quick trigger”. The Raptors Terrance Ross got caught in the corner with the ball, with seconds remaining, but had the presence of mind to slam the ball of the leg of a Net, sending it out of bounds to give the Raps possession. “You know you will have to make a major play under duress,” he told us as the clock ticked down. He wanted the Raps to try a shot that might result in a rebound, “so you can get the put back opportunity as well”. To no avail.



Kyle Lowry got stuffed in the lane with no time remaining, and the season ended, just like that. Unfortunately, the long-established custom of players shaking hands after a game is long gone in the NBA. There is little respect in that regard as well.



At least 25 sponsors got mention during the telecast. They are paying big bucks, and television is the engine that drives the train in professional sport today. Salaries, arenas, whatever. Part of the great excitement of professional basketball today.



James Hurst


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