Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Everblades are back on the Ice

The Florida Everblades played their third game of the season last Saturday night at their home arena, the Germain Arena. The arena is located on I-75, between Fort Myers and Naples, close to the municipality called Estero. More than 7 000 seats fill the barn, and tickets are most reasonable-starting at $ 16.

The Blades faced their upstate nemesis, the Orlando Solar Bears for the first of 15 games they will face each other this year. This year will certainly be one of transition for the Everblades, as the coach Greg Poss, and the team President and General Manager Craig Brush, were not happy with the results last year. In a recent interview, Poss set forth his position on last year’s team: “the intrinsic motivation of the players wasn’t the level we needed. Instead of 100 percent, we were maybe 98 per cent. The heart of the team wasn’t quite beating as we would like.”

During one of their scouting trips, one of the players that caught their eyes was Patrick McEachen. Patrick graduated from Queen’s University earlier this spring, and played all of his inter-collegiate hockey for the Gaels. Many of you will remember that prior to his days in Kingston, Patrick played very solid defense for the Wellington Dukes. He was exactly the type of played that Coach Marty Abrams was looking for at the time, and he fitted in perfectly.

I chatted with Patrick throughout the game. He is one of nine defensemen on the roster, and the only rookie; consequently, he has to show a little patience as the season gets underway. He knows what he needs to do to make the squad, and he is prepared to work hard to fill one of the spots on the roster.

One of the first things he told me was that he was fortunate to have the “best billets in the world”, at the home of Connie and Pierre Lebrun. He is not the only former Duke to pay respects to billets. Great billets are critical to the success of junior hockey programs in Canada. Patrick also got back to wellington for the final game at the old DukeDome, and the first game at the new arena. “Just awesome,” he commented on the new arena.

Patrick remembered his days in Kingston. “We had a fabulous season my last year at Queen’s. We had a 21 game unbeaten streak. I believe it was the most successful season ever for a Queen’s hockey team. I owe a great deal to my coach, Brett Gibson, who was selected as the “Coach of the Year” for CIS hockey. I asked him about a popular activity at Queen’s, attending football games. “Unfortunately, all of our hockey games took place at the same time as the school’s football games. So I never went to see the football Gaels.”

One player familiar to McEachen is goaltender Daniel Altshuller. Daniel also spent a little time in the camp of the Belleville Bulls. They met at the camp of the Carolina Hurricanes this summer. McEachen played a couple of games with the rookie ‘Canes in Traverse City against the Wings and the Stars. The games are used by the scouting fraternity to assess the young talent on their teams.

The Blades lost 5-1 to the Solar Bears. They scored in the dying minutes of the game to break the goose egg. Their record stands at one win, one loss, and one shootout loss. If you are in the area, check the schedule. ECHL hockey is great hockey, always entertaining. There are always several future NHL players on each roster.

James Hurst
October 25, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014


2014 World Series

The 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals opened on Tuesday night in Kansas City. The teams will play two games in Kansas City, fly out to the West Coast to play two games, potentially three, then fly back to KC for the final games.


Both of these teams arrived rather unexpectedly in the final. They were both “Wild Card” teams. A brief explanation: each time did not finish well enough in the division to merit an automatic berth in the playoffs. They both had to sneak in the back door by winning a qualifying game; however, when they got to play in these playoffs, both teams turned it up a notch or two, and charged to the finish line.


The Giants were led by All Star catcher Buster Posey. He is a team leader on the field, and with the bat. But it is a team game, and the Giants have received unexpected help from other sources. Michael Morse came off the bench against the Cardinals and clubbed a decisive home run to help the team advance to the finals. With the Series starting in Kansas City, he has earned himself a spot on the roster as the Designated hitter.
The Royals have just completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, in four games straight, to win the League Championship Series. The Giants knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. This is the third time in five years that the Giants have gained a berth in the finals. Naturally, experience can play a big factor in these things, and the Giants will rely on that as they take the field.


On the other hand, it has been quite some time since the Royals dug in at home plate in Championship play. In 1985, they faced the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. In order to get to the finals that year, they had to dispose of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays led the Royals three games to one, only to lose the final three games. Those were exciting times in Toronto, the first post-season experience for the Jays. They borrowed from that year less than ten years later, when they went on to win the World Series in 1993 and 1994. Only the work stoppage in 1995 prevented them from accomplishing a “Three Peat”, according to many baseball analysts.


The Giants have a strong starting rotation to begin the Series led by Madison Bumgarner. He is a crafty left-handed pitcher who relies on his slider to confuse opposing batters. The North Carolina native averages a strikeout per inning, and he has pitched more than 200 innings the past four seasons. Another brilliant Giants hurler, Tim Lincecum, has yet to pitch in the post season this year for the Giants. The enigmatic Lincecum began his career in San Francisco in 2007, winning Cy Young Awards and world Series rings. But it has been a rocky road for him lately, undoubtedly due to injury.


The Royals will rely on speed and defense. That was the assumption going into the playoffs. I recently heard a report indicating that the Royals outfield, led by Lorenzo Cain, ranks with the best in baseball history. They are quick, and have a lot of ground to cover in both cavernous stadia. But they also have been swinging the bats on their way to the championships. They have won eight straight games in the playoffs, going back to 1985. The Giants have a string of 8 straight playoff series titles. Neither team is interested in breaking those strings.


Pablo Sandoval leads the Giants from the cleanup position. The popular player, affectionately known as “The Panda” caries almost 250 pounds on his frame, less than six feet in height. He also turns in spectacular plays from the “hot corner” at third base.


To those of you who put all your sheckles down on both teams in Vegas prior to the start of the season, I tip my cap. A most unexpected pairing in the final games of the season. In this World Series, I predict that anything can happen!


Play ball!


James Hurst

October 21, 2014 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Exciting Stuff for Young Bulls

Last Wednesday night, Matt Luff walked into the local restaurant and dropped a puck on the table in front of his mother. Not just any puck, mind you, but a most significant puck. It was his first goal as a Belleville Bull in the Ontario Hockey League. Details of the event are always marked on the side of the puck by training staff, once it is taped. You will find the same procedure takes place in all arenas after significant goal-scoring takes place.



Luff earned the honour of being selected as the second star of the game. On Saturday night, he was also selected as the second star. He had another goal and two assists in that game. With six points, he is tied for third in the league in rookie scoring. He realizes that it is a team game, and that he needs to contribute wherever it is necessary.



Going into Saturday night’s game, the Bulls could brag about the fact that they had the best goaltender in the OHL. Charlie Graham has simply been outstanding. He has a .962 save percentage, and a Goals Against Average of 1.20, remarkable statistics for a Junior goalie. Graham did stop pucks in a Wellington Dukes cage before getting the call up to Belleville a couple of years ago. He has won all six of the games he has started this year.



I spoke with Bulls’ assistant coach Jake Grimes before Saturday night’s game. “Granted, we are playing really well at this time,” he told me. “Maybe a little better than expected. But I do believe that we can and will play better. And we are getting great goaltending.” Grimes patrols the bench along with Bellevillian Jason Supryka, assistants to George Burnett, the coach and General Manager.



Last year was not a banner year for the Bulls. They missed the playoffs, and spent the summer regrouping. It appears that they made some good decisions, based on the results thus far. Another former Duke, Jake Marchment, is the team captain, and also scored his first goal of the season Saturday night. At the 12 minute mark of the first period, the Bulls had scored four times on nine shots. A goalie change for the Niagara Ice Dogs stemmed the tide to some extent; nonetheless, the Bulls went on to win 8-5.



There were a lot of empty seats at the Yardmen Arena. I know there are a lot of “Band Wagon” fans in the area, and they will start to come out soon. Rest assured the boys can use fan support at any time in the season. I still believe that Cogeco coverage of the game, and radio coverage does affect the number of fans in the seats, perhaps even more so in the colder weather.  



The Ice Dogs had seven drafted players in their line up whereas only three Bulls have been drafted: Marchment (Los Angeles Kings), Jordan Subban (Vancouver), and Remi Elie (Dallas).



After Wednesday’s game, Coach Burnett summarized the efforts of Luff and Brandon Saigeon. “They’re playing good, sound minutes for us so we are certainly pleased with where really all of our young players are at. But like our team, they have to continue to try and get better each and every day.”



The Bulls travel to Niagara for a game Thursday night, then return home to play Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday, and Sarnia on Sunday.




James Hurst


October 13, 2014 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Jeter Hangs 'em Up

Jeter Hangs ‘em Up



It took a little while for Derek Jeter to hang up his spikes. An entire season, in fact. It has become a tradition for the very best players in professional sports to play their final games in stadia throughout the year, and receive gifts and accolades from the fans. I call it the “victory lap”.



In the world of baseball, no one is more deserving than Derek Jeter. On May 29, 1995, Jeter got the call to suit up for the New York Yankees for his first game. He had been a Yankees fan, growing up, as he had attended games with his grandfather. His favourite player was Dave Winfield.



He had been drafted by the Yankees in 1992, and spent time in the minor leagues. (A note to aspiring young athletes: the road to success in sport can be rocky. In his first season in pro ball, Jeter batted .202, just above the Mendoza Line. He ran up long distance bills of $ 400 per month to keep in touch with his parents. He was frustrated, and he was homesick.)



To his credit, Jeter has emerged from the murky waters of professional sport unscathed. He was never associated with the drug scandals. His father may have played a part in that. Jeter Senior is a substance abuse counsellor. There is no doubt in my mind that he may have had some “fatherly advice” for his son over the years. In addition, Derek signed a contract every year as a youth. It stated that he would follow “acceptable forms of behaviour”.



Tony Fernandez signed with the Yankees for the 1995 season. It was when he went down with an injury that Jeter got the call. Jeter struggled somewhat in his first season, then seemed to find the magic. He won “Rookie of the Year” honours in 1996, due to the fact that he played fewer than 130 games in 1995.



The New York Yankees have seen  quite a few good players pass through the locker room over the years. Mantle, Maris, Ruth, Gehrig…it is a long and impressive list; however, Jeter surpassed many of those legends in several statistical categories in his 20 year career with the Bronx Bombers: hits, (more than 3 000), doubles, games played, stolen bases, at bats…It is a very long list, which says a lot about his character as well.



Jeter wears five World Series rings. He contributed significantly in all of his years in New York. He played 16 times in the post season, a tribute to his teammates as well. He batted .308 in the post season, and .310 for his career. He won several “Silver Slugger” awards, and “Gold Glove” titles as well. He patented a move at short stop, fielding the ball, pivoting, jumping high in the air, and firing a strike to first base.


I do hope that Jeter will find a spot for himself in the game. Another former Yankee great, Don Mattingly, now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers. For some of you old Yankee fans, (are you out there, Bruce Insley?), there is an adjustment when you see “Donnie Baseball” in the Dodger uniform. For better or for worse, that is the nature of the game today. Close your eyes and picture Jeter in a Blue Jay inform! It could happen!



From the game itself, Jeter put $ 265 million in the bank. He has also done quite well in the endorsement game. Only Ichiro has made more from activities off the baseball field, especially in the Japanese market.



And now, back to the game. The Orioles and Kansas City! As Dizzy Dean would say, “Who woulda thunk it!” Dust off that plate, umpy, and bring on October baseball.



James Hurst


October 7, 2014       

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