Saturday, February 28, 2015


Andrew Shaw-The Kid from Ameliasburgh

There was an element of euphoria around the B B & T Centre in Sunrise, Florida before the start of the game last Thursday night. The Chicago Black Hawks were in town to face the Florida Panthers. Earlier in the day, it had been announced that the Panthers had traded the New Jersey Devils a couple of draft picks to land Jaromir Jagr. Jagr will enter the Hall of Fame once he retires, and he may become the most prolific scorer ever, depending on his desire to play more hockey. He did not dress for the game, but remained out of sight in the bowels of the arena.

That state of excitement was quickly diminished once the puck was dropped, for two reasons. More than seventy per cent of the fans at the game began a chant of “Let’s Go Hawks” as the game began. In many sections, seat after seat was occupied by a fan wearing a Hawks’ sweater. Secondly, with just over three minutes gone in the period, Andrew Shaw pasted a Panther defender against the boards in the Panther corner, stole the puck, and fired a perfect centering pass to Teuvo Teravainen. The Finn made no mistake, firing the puck past Roberto Luongo. Game winning goal, before most of the fans had taken their seats.

                                            Great Shaw fans from the Quinte Area

There were many Shaw fans in attendance, which one could tell by the number of folks who had shelled out their hard-earned dollars for the Black Hawk red sweater. I spoke with two of them between the first and second periods. “He is my favourite player,” Phil Harvey told me as he scooped up his fries and pop. “He never quits, always works so hard.” Lee Deller, also a fan from the windy city, seconded the motion. “Shaw is such a scrappy player. We love his determination.”

                                              Steve and Jodi Knack, with Andrew Shaw

After the game, Jody and Steve Knack, also from Chicago, had a chance to meet with the kid from Ameliasburgh.“It is such a thrill to meet some of these guys in person,” Jody stated. “We never get a chance like this to see the players up close. This is a moment we will remember forever.”

The Shaw contingent was bolstered by a large group of fans from the Quinte area, roughly ten percent of the population of Metro Tweed. Doug and Darlene Shaw were also on hand, making the event a family affair. It was perfectly evident that Andrew appreciates the support he gets from family and friends, beaming for the twenty odd minutes he had before the bus rolled away. The Hawks had a date in Tampa Friday night. Unfortunately, that did not go as well. They were shut out by the Lightning, 4-0.

 Jonathan Toews, explaining the situation.

When asked about the trade deadline, and how players respond to it, Jonathan Toews was more than tactful, and very polite. He explained that trades were part of the process, and that he could understand why some players were a little anxious at this time of year.

Several of the other Hawk players also enjoyed a moment with friends, and family. Most Northern folk arrive here for the weather, and a great NHL game is treated as a bonus. None of us spent much time scraping our windshields after the game.

The Hawks were pressed at the end of the game as the Panthers pulled Luongo for an extra attacker. With the heat on, Shaw iced the puck with 1:54 left in the game. Coach Joel Quenneville called a timeout, to rest the boys on the ice. A minute later, Saad stole the puck and fed Hossa at centre ice. Hossa deliberately hesitated for several seconds, spotted Toews on the wing, and fed a perfect pass to his captain. Toews made no mistake, firing the puck into the yawning cage.

The Panthers hope to benefit from the Jagr deal this year. They are in the hunt for a playoff spot, and he could be the spark plug to ignite them to that plateau. And then, folks, the other season begins. Anything can, and often does, happen at that point.

James Hurst
February 27, 2015  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


FGCU Eagles Continue to Soar

On Wednesday night, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles men’s basketball team closes out its regular season with a game against Northern Florida Ospreys. The Eagles have been on a roll recently, with ten straight victories. But the last time these two teams faced each other, the Ospreys beat FGCU in Jacksonville 80-64. That was in early January, and there has been a lot of water under the bridge since that game.

At a recent game, White Sox starter was recognized by retiring his jersey at centre court. He is a great guy, from all reports.

With a win, the Eagles will become the Atlantic Sun Conference champions for the second consecutive year; however, if the Ospreys win this game, and their final game on Saturday, they will take the crown. The winner gets to host the playoff games leading to the National Basketball Championships. Home court is a bonus in this game.

All of the seniors on the team will be recognized for their efforts on Wednesday night. They start as freshmen, become sophomores, then juniors and seniors. The high profile players never get to graduate, let alone become seniors in the American basketball world. Teams in the National Basketball association pluck the college stars from their schools with the draft. A case in point is Andrew Wiggins, now with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Andrew went to school barely long enough to get his sneakers dirty, from the small Ontario berg called Toronto. An early signee for FGCU next season is Eli Long. Eli now attends John Carroll High School, a well respected American High School; however, he hails from Mississauga.

American basketball legend Dick Vitale is also scheduled to attend the game Wednesday night. Vitale spends a good deal of time in this area during the winter. He is quite familiar with the Eagles, and is a big supporter of Coach Joe Dooley. Vitale, now 75 years old, finished his singles tennis game and spoke with Fort Myers News-Press after his game. “”I’ve known Joe for a long time. I think he does a great job.” Vitale will be signing his latest book, “Tt’s awesome, Baby,” in support of pediatric cancer research.

The Eagles got a significant scare last week in their game against the Kennesaw State Owls from Georgia. At one point in the first half, they were down by 12 points. They rallied somewhat, but still trailed by eight points at half time. The Eagles once again relied on Brett Comer as a sparkplug to ignite the offence. With a couple of incredible drives to the basket, aggressive defense, and timely foul shooting, the Eagles watched the clock tick down with a one point win, 54-53. As I am wont to say in these situations, “Never in doubt”.

I saw a chap wearing a University of Western Ontario sweatshirt in the stands. His name is Larry Haylor, and he coached football there for many years. I told him that I had spent a year there in 1964. “Before my time,” he stated, without suggesting that I am ancient. He coached Andy Rossitt during his university days, an outstanding quarterback from Quinte Secondary School in Belleville. He also remembered Mike Schad from his college days at Queen’s.

Can’t wait for the tipoff against the Ospreys. Understandably, one of these teams will claw its way to victory. That’s just silly. I apologize!

February 24, 2015  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


ACE Group Classic-Champions Tour in Naples

 Spectators were permitted to walk down the 18th fairway on the last round...until the playoff!

There were typical, somewhat nasty breezes pushing golf balls around the fairways at Twin Eagles Golf Course in Naples throughout the weekend. They did not affect Colin Montgomerie significantly, as he carded a five under par 67 to lead the field after the first round.

I spent the day following Rod Spittle, Marco Dawson and Gene Sauers. Dawson played well, and finished at three under, two strokes back of Montgomerie. Spittle bogeyed the first hole, recovered to birdie the third. He also birdied the 11th, and finished the day at one under par.

“I played pretty well today,” he told me after the round. “Good, steady golf”. Several opportunities to birdie holes fell just short, or rimmed the cup. These putts were not short ones, all outside ten feet. But they were not dropping, and that affected the bottom line.

                                     Harry R. Meek, Ohio State supporter of Rod Spittle
                                      (Walked the entire course all three rounds.)

I believe he was in the sand but once, and, on that occasion, chipped close enough to hole the putt to save par. He plays methodically, as did his playing partners. In fact, many of the fans observing these pros on the Champions Tour remark at how accurate they are. On most holes it comes down to the simple game itself. Par four: drive, chip, two putts, par.

Spittle ended the tournament with three identical scores of 71 for each round. That placed him in a group that included Fuzzy Zoeller, and they received $ 14 920 for their efforts. Dawson finished at nine under par, and pocketed $ 54 400.

The tournament ended in a truly amazing fashion. Lee Janzen trailed Bart Bryant by one stroke as they headed to the 18th tee. The hole can be a real killer, as the pin was set near the edge of a nasty water hazard. It is reputed to be the second most difficult hole to birdie on the entire tour. Both players drove to the centre of the fairway. Janzen chipped to with 12 feet. Bryant pared the hole, and Janzen, remarkably, sunk his birdie putt. They headed back to the 18th tee for a playoff.

                                              Lee Janzen, after sinking his playoff putt.

                                                             (Courtesy PGA Media)

Bryant chipped his second shot into the drink, and Janzen won easily. It was an emotional win for Janzen, understandably so. His last tournament win was the U. S. Open in 1998. Esteban Toledo finished third, followed by Scott Dunlap and Colin Montgomerie. Bryant tied the course record with his final round 62, which he began with an eagle on the first hole.

Montgomerie is a true competitor. Wherever he plays, he plays to win. He is a very successful professional athlete, pocketing almost $ 10 000 000 last year, with three million coming from the game, the rest from endorsements. His itinerary almost defies logic. In the two weeks surrounding the ACE Classic, it reads something like this: Hawaii to L. A., California to Scotland, to Miami, back to Scotland, then on to Sydney, Australia, to the Middle East, then on to Arizona. "Ive got my season ticket on British Airways, I'm all right," he added. "The Commute is rather long...but well worth it".

I followed Spittle for most of the tournament . He is surrounded by family, for the most part, on his rounds: children, grandchildren, friends, in-laws, and his wife Anne. Even a few supporters from Ohio State, his alma mater. Occasionally, a fan would holler, “Nice shot, Chippewa,” Spittle’s home town. He marks his ball on the green with a Canadian dime.
                                                                      Stephen Ames

Two other Canadians were in the hunt. Stephen Ames finished at four under par, while Jim Rutledge was three over, finishing with a sparkling round of 68.

                                   Fuzzy Zoeller fan, Yvon Guillemette, from Sherbrooke 
                                           (Zoeller signed several balls during the round)

It is great opportunity to see so many of your favourite golfers, up close and personal: Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Bob Gilder, Steve Pate, Jeff Sluman, Duffy Waldorf and Mark O’Meara, just to name a few. The boys head to Arizona in a couple of weeks to continue the tour. You can follow their exploits on the Golf Channel.

                                                 Yours truly with Rod Spittle

James Hurst
February 16, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Preparing for the ACE Group Classic-2015

It’s a little overcast here in Naples, Florida, this morning. Corey Pavin has half a dozen golf balls on the putting green, and is trying to coax them to go into the cup. A light shower begins to turn into a serious downpour, and Pavin takes refuge under an umbrella.

For the most part, the putting area and the driving range are deserted. Most of the competitors on the Champions Tour played yesterday in Boca Raton, and will arrive this evening or tomorrow. They will play in the ACE Group Classic at the Twin Eagles Club in Naples. Last year, Kirk Triplett won the event.

                                                  Kirk Triplett, 2014 ACE Group Classic Champion

Paul Goydos won the Allianz Tournament yesterday in Boca Raton. His birdie on the final hole gave him a one stroke victory over Gene Sauers. He picked up $ 255 000 for his efforts, while Sauers had to settle for $ 149 600. Top Canadian in the event was Rod Spittle. He earned $ 45 900, finishing four strokes off the pace.

                                  Al Stitt, current Bay of Quinte Champion with Rod Spittle

Spittle was tied for the lead going into the final round. He had posted scores of 66 and 69. He started the final round with a bogey, then he birdied the second. He pared the third, then birdied the fourth and fifth. As he began the sixth hole, he led the field by two strokes. To say that disaster struck at that time would be an understatement.

As recorded on the Champions Tour web site, it went something like this: 1. Tee shot. 2. Primary rough. 3. Fairway. 4. Primary rough. 5. Penalty. Drop. 6. Primary rough. 7. Penalty. Drop. 8. Shot onto green. 9. Putt 10. Putt. At that point, most of my clubs would end up in the lake. But the big guy regrouped, and played well the rest of the round. Truly amazing.

                                                       Spittle, with two Canadian fans.

Spittle hails from Chippewa, but is always announced as the guy from St. Catharines. He stands at more than 6’ 5”, drives well and leads the entire tour in recoveries from the sand. He is truly a gentle giant. Last year, he signed a ball for a kid at the end of the final round. The lad’s brother then asked for his golf glove. Without batting an eye, Spittle removed the glove and asked the kid if he wanted it signed. He is always most accommodating to the fans. And a huge Bobby Orr fan too!

I ran into Jose Coceres in the clubhouse. He started the final round on Sunday nine shots back in 45th place. He played his first 16 holes at ten under par, tying Goydos for the lead. He bogeyed the 17th, ending up with a 63 for the day.

                                           Bernard Langer, after a fine round. (Obviously!)

Kirk Triplett will tee off on Thursday, as will Bernard Langer, who won in 2011 and 2013. Kenny Perry was the winner in 2012. You will also likely see other legendary golfers in action: Tom Watson, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Nick Price, Fuzzy Zoeller, Mark O’Meara, Larry Nelson, and Fred Couples, to name just a few.

                                   Colin  Montgomerie                                                                                                                                 

It is remarkable that there are relatively few fans accompanying the players around the course. You can spend a most enjoyable day in the sunshine, under clear blue skies, watching your favourite player. In February! So I ask, “What’s keeping you?”

Just kidding.
February 9, 2015      

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


Daniel Cleary: Still Lacing up the Skates

More than twenty years ago, in 1993, Daniel Cleary left Newfoundland to pursue a hockey career. His first stop was in Kingston when he was fourteen years old. He played for the Voyageurs in the old Metro Junior Hockey League. He amassed 46 points that season, in 43 games. Coach Larry Mavety and team owner of the Belleville Bulls Dr. Bob Vaughan liked what they saw, and drafted Daniel to play for the Bulls.

Cleary had a remarkable career in Belleville, honing his skills, learning the ropes. It was obvious to those of us who attended the games that he would be an outstanding professional player, once his junior career had ended. Cleary passed the puck effectively, so-called “saucer passes” on the tape. His shot was hard. He owned the puck behind the net, often surprising teammates waiting in front of the net with his deft passes. Above all, he was a great skater, not terribly fast, mind you, but really strong, well-balanced.

                                                 Red Wing Defenceman, Kyle Quincey

Daniel dressed for his 12th game of the year recently in Florida. When you consider that the Wings have played 50 games, you realize that Cleary has been used sparingly. He adjusted to the situation before the season began. “This is what you have to do. If you bring a bad attitude to the rink, that’s no good. You have to bring a good attitude, a good work ethic. Listen, no one likes not to play, no matter what age, what level you’re at. Everyone wants to play, and just be a pro about it.”

In the game against the Panthers, Cleary lined up with Joakim Andersson and Drew Miller. In the first period, eight minutes into the game, Miller snatched the puck from Panthers’ rookie Aaron Ekblad, cruised in alone and slid the puck under a sprawling Roberto Luongo. The goal was short-handed, and those things always hurt. The Wings fell behind, and trailed 2-1 at the end of the first period. Former Panther Stephen Weiss caught fire in the second period, scoring once and assisting on two others.

The Panthers recovered from a 5-2 deficit, scoring twice, and pressured the Wings near the end of the third period. Goalie Jimmy Howard is scurrently on the hurt list; however, Peter Mrazek is playing very well in his stead. He shut the door, winning his tenth game with three losses. The Wings are climbing the standings in the Eastern Conference, and are only three points out of first place overall.

As he always does, Cleary asked me to say hello to the folks back home. He has fond memories from his days in BelleVegas. He is in the midst of his tenth season in the Motor City, following stints in Chicago, Edmonton, and Phoenix. Coach Babcock values his presence with the team: “Having veteran guys around that know how to play, that know what to expect, and know what young guys need to learn to become good pros…that is so important. Young guys have to have the success disease all the time. The Red Wing way is that you do it every day, and you do it right. It doesn’t happen by accident. Having good veterans around is the key.”

As the season winds down, Cleary will bide his time, waiting for the opportunity to ply the trade, a trade he knows very well. “You certainly have to keep the game simple, make sure you’re moving your feet out there. It’s not easy to play sporadically. It’s tough, but it is what it is”. Kudos to Mr. Cleary.

James Hurst
February 3, 2015 


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