Tuesday, June 30, 2015


2015 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees



The 2015 class has been selected to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is a large group, with five players in the “Player” category, and two in the “Builder” category.



One of the members selected to the Builder Category is Bill Hay, much more commonly known as “Red” Hay. During his playing days, he did have red hair; however, he is a little longer in the tooth now, approaching his 80th birthday in December. He is a little gray at the temples now.



Red was a member of the Chicago Black Hawks for his entire NHL career. He was the “Rookie of the Year” his first season. For much of his career with the Hawks, he played on a line with Bobby Hull and Murray Balfour. It was dubbed “The Million Dollar Line”, and he was the playmaker on the line. They won the Cup in 1961, following a drought that began in 1938. As all Hawks fans realize, it was a number of years before the Hawks reached the pinnacle again.



When he retired from hockey, he immersed himself in the oil business for 23 years. Following that stint, he joined Hockey Canada at age 55. he has been involved in hockey operations since that time, serving most recently as the Chairman of the Hall of Fame.



Peter Karmanos is the other nominee in the Builder group. Born and raised in Michigan, he has worked tirelessly to promote hockey. “Hockey has a special place in my heart. It is the greatest team sport, and I believe the greatest game a boy or girl could play,” he indicated when told of his honour. He has been involved in the game at all levels. He was awarded a franchise in the Ontario Hockey League, now known as the Plymouth Whalers. In 1994, he purchased the Hartford Whalers, and later moved them to Carolina as the Hurricanes. In 1998, he purchased the Florida Everblades, and the Germain Arena in Estero.



Naturally, hockey fans are more interested in the players who will be inducted. The key this year is that three of the four NHL players to be honoured are defencemen. Not always the case. The female selected, Angela Ruggiero, also patrolled the blueline. An American from California, she played her college hockey at Harvard. In 2003, she was ranked as the top woman defenceman in the world. She retired in 2011, but continues to work in the sports field with the International Olympic Committee, and with the World Anti-Doping Agency.



Sergei Fedorov was the first Russian to score 1 000 points in the NHL. He won three Stanley Cups with the Wings, after escaping from the Soviet Union in 1990. He won the Selke Trophy twice as the top defensive forward in the NHL. He won the Hart Trophy as the League’s MVP in 1994, and was an all star six times.



Phil Housley scored more points than all other American defencemen. He played in Seven All Star games during his 23 year career in the NHL. He played for seven teams in the league, mostly with Buffalo. He played his first NHL game the year he finished high school. On many occasions he was a stalwart on the blueline for American squads in international play.



The James Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the league’s top defenceman. Nicklas Lidstrom has received that award seven times, second only to Bobby Orr. He was runner-up three times. He won four Stanley Cups with the Wings, anchoring the defence. He is most gracious about his acceptance to the Hall: “I took a lot of pride being dedicated to the game, so it means a great deal to me to be recognized by those who know the game the best”.



Chris Pronger is not everyone’s favourite player. One tough customer, he won the Norris Trophy and the Hart Trophy in 2000. He combined with Al MacInnis when he was with the Blues to form the most dominant defensive pair in the NHL. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, and also won two Gold Medals for Canada in the Olympics.


The ceremony takes place in early November. Should be a great night!


June 30, 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Alex Rodriguez-Almost a Great Yankee



More than 18 000 ballplayers have donned uniforms to play Major League baseball. One of the milestones considered important in the game is the 3000 hit plateau. Only 29 players have managed to reach that height. The latest is New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.


He joined the 3000 hit club recently by smashing a home run off Justin Verlander. Two other players reached that number with a home run, as opposed to any other kind of hit: Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter.


The New York media had a field day with Rodriguez’s accomplishment. Alex had a little help with some of those hits: he has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. The tabloids in Manhattan showed no mercy when documenting Alex’s achievement. The New York Post had a fine photo of A-Rod, with 3000 just below the picture. They doctored the numbers by placing hypodermic syringes on each of the zeros. Ouch!


On many of my late night journeys from Belleville to the County, I often listen to a radio station out of New York-The Fan on 660 AM radio. I realize that is pretty “old school”; however, the announcers and the folks who call in with their opinions are well versed in the game. Occasionally, I listen to the Yankee games from the station. John Sterling and Suzy Waldman serve up large doses of Yankee information during their broadcasts. When the Yankees win, Sterling informs us of the outcome by repeating, several times, “The Yankees win, the Yankees win”. And when the games come from Yankee Stadium, you can hear Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” echoing through the stadium.


The Yankee announcers are unabashedly Yankee fans. They are big A-Rod supporters, and made a lot of noise about his accomplishment. They will continue to sing his praises as he zeroes in on other milestones.



He has been the Most Valuable Player in the league three times. He has won ten American League Silver Slugger Awards, he has been selected as an all star 14 times. The list goes on and on. He is one of the greatest players of all time.



I suspect that he will never enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, because of his use of performance enhancing drugs. A-Rod denied using anything of the like for a long time. So did the other cheaters: Bonds, McGwire,  Clemens, Sosa, et al. It has always been, “Deny, deny, deny”, until you are caught.



In the most recent selections to the Hall of Fame, the steroid users were stoned by the selection committee. It appears that none of the users will ever get to the Hall. According to this writer, that is what it should be. Another red flag has popped up recently regarding Pete Rose, and his alleged gambling activities. There is no room for him.



I suspect that Rodriguez regrets using the banned substances. He is a proud individual. After sitting out last season, he has really played well this year. He has made buckets of money, and some of that came as a result of drug usage. But it is all tainted, and there will be an asterix beside every one of those amazing statistics, forever.



But if I am pitching, I might cringe a little if I see him in the on deck circle, with the bases loaded.



James Hurst

June 23,m 2015   

Monday, June 22, 2015


Belleville Minor Football League 2015 Finals

 by Paul Svboda-Intelligencer Sports

The Hotch's Auto Parts Razorbacks put the capper on an undefeated season and the Quinte Pediatrics Saints avenged a regular-season loss to the McConnell Funeral Home Centre Hastings Centurions during Championship Day for the Belleville Minor Football League, Saturday at MAS Park Field 2.

• A Final
Hotch's, which ran roughshod over the opposition en route to a perfect 7-and-0 regular-season record, made it eight in a row by pitching a shutout in the A Final for the Pat Carty Memorial Trophy with a 44-0 win over the SWE Autoglass Chargers.
Brandon Vance was the offensive catalyst for the Razorbacks, rumbling for four rushing touchdowns, while Eric Conlon (2) and league MVP Daniel Panetta also had TDs for Hotch's. Panetta added a convert.

• B Final
In the most exciting game of the day, Saints and Cents did not disappoint in a rematch of their regular season battle at Cooke Field in Madoc where Centre Hastings wiped out a two-touchdown deficit to win by a point in the dying seconds of the contest.
Saturday was no different, as the lead changed hands several times before the Saints punched in a pair of fourth-quarter majors to seal the deal, 30-16, and take home the Mike Schad Bowl.
Mac Kinnear had a hat trick of TDs to lead the Saints while Mike McFaul also scored a major. Matt Berry recorded three two-point converts.
Connor Kennedy handled all of the scoring for the Centurions with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.

• C Final
In an all-Quinte West confrontation, the Trenton Kiwanis Club Tigers proved too much for the Trent Hills Titans, scoring a 32-19 win for the Red Townsend Memorial Trophy.
Collin Miller scored three touchdowns to lead the Tigers attack while Dalton Stephenson and Wyatt Vreugdenhill each contributed with solo TDs. Shawn Bryans produced a two-point convert.
Scoring details for Trent Hills were unavailable.

• D Final
In a rematch of last year's D Final, the Bancroft T-Hawks won their second straight Vern Goyer Memorial Trophy by grounding the Scott's Haulage/Diamond Electric Falcons. Scoring details were unavailable.

Awards for the 2015 season were presented during Championship Day with Daniel Panetta of Hotch's earning MVP laurels while Dray Hopkins of Bancroft was named Rookie of the Year.
Other award winners were:
Lausen Mitchell, Titans, Coaches Award; Austin McCracken, Centurioins, Commissioner's Award; Ayden McLean, Chargers, outstanding defensive lineman; Cooper McKeown, Tigers, defensive Player of the Year; Connor O'Donnell, Falcons, outstanding offensive lineman; and Mike McFaul, Saints, offensive Player of the Year.
During the trophy presentations, former BMFL commissioner James Hurst pointed out that Belleville native Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks was the league's Rookie of the Year in 2003. Shaw was recently part of his second Stanley Cup championship as the Hawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year's NHL playoff finals.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Crawford: Family of Champions



On May 14th, the remarkable documentary about the Crawford family was shown at the Empire Theatre in Belleville. The movie presentation is part of a deal put together by the writer and producer, Aaron Bell. He has written the book, Crawford-Family of Champions, and prepared the DVD as well. For $ 50, you get copies of the movie and the book, and two tickets to the documentary at the Empire. Remaining tickets for the book launch and movie screening will be available at the door of the Empire Theatre on May 14th.


Floyd Crawford, the patriarch of the family, was born and raised in Toronto. He participated in a variety of athletic activities growing up in the city, but chose to pursue hockey as his prime interest. It led him to the province of Quebec, destined to become a member of the Montreal Canadiens. A devastating injury temporarily sidelined him, and during his recuperation in hospital, he met a young nurse, Pauline.


Thus began the remarkable story of the Crawford family. Well into his hockey career, Floyd was coaxed to Belleville by Drury Denyes, the manager of the Belleville McFarlands. Crawford anchored the defence on the team, leading it to the Allan Cup, emblematic of the Senior “A” title as Canadian champions in 1958. In 1959, Crawford and the rest of the McFarlands headed to Europe to capture the World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia.


For more than half a century, the Crawford family maintained its roots in the city of Belleville. Most of that time was spent on Charles Street, a wonderful place for a family of nine children to develop. They attended school in Belleville, they participated in all sorts of activities in the city. Naturally, many of those activities involved sport, primarily hockey. Three of the boys went on to play in the National Hockey League. Marc had his name etched on the Stanley Cup after he guided the Avalanche to victory as their coach.


Lou coached the Belleville Bulls to their only Ontario Hockey League Championship, and took them to the Memorial Cup in 1999. Were it not for a series of injuries to key players on the team, there is no doubt that the Bulls would have become Canadian champions. Lou is still involved in hockey, as are several other members of the family.



Eric played for the Wellington Dukes during his junior days. He now looks after player personnel for the Vancouver Canucks. It is always a pleasure for me to chew the hockey fat with him in an arena: Toronto, Fort Lauderdale, Belleville. Always on the prowl for that extra piece of the puzzle.



Pauline was an outstanding athlete as well. She hit a lot of tennis balls at the Quinte Tennis Club with my sister Josephine, once the spring had arrived, and the courts were prepared, The Club was also used in the winter as a skating rink, and the local lads chased the young damsels for hours on the crisp, natural ice. I imagine the Crawford boys were no exceptions to that.



Todd has been campaigning for several years to establish floorball in Canada, a game similar to ball hockey. His efforts have been rewarded. The World Championships will be held in Belleville in 2106.



There are episodes involving Peter, Susan, Danielle, Michael, and Bobby in the movie. Although it was presented to a packed house during the documentary festival in Belleville, an additional 20 minutes have been added to this presentation.



Advance tickets are available at: familyofchampions.ca, or by calling him at: 613-920-4774. I have a few as well: 613-399-2278. After the presentation, you are invited to meet the family at a reception at the Belleville Club. There will be many stories shared that evening, some of them true.



James Hurst


May 5, 2015     

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


In the beginning…


There may not have been a sports collector’s world had it not been for the efforts of Sy Berger. Berger passed away late last year, and I was unaware of his passing until I received an article in that regard from my sister.



Berger was born in 1923 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and moved to the Bronx at a young age. He was a passionate baseball fan, naturally siding with the Bronx Bombers, the New York Yankees. His favourite player, however, was Wally Berger. Berger played for the Boston Braves, but was not related to Sy Berger. He did spike Berger’s love of the game. Before an afternoon game at the Polo Grounds, home of the Giants, Berger took Sy through the gates and sat him down in the dugout while the players warmed up for the game. How thrilling would that have been!



Sy Berger collected cards as a kid. There were baseball and hockey cards prior to the 1950s. They were not terribly popular, but were collected by a few stalwart fans. Berger had all of the cards in the set, with the exception of a Jesse Petty card. One of his pals had the card, and would not part with it. Berger challenged him to a game of “Flips” for the card. Cards were flipped towards a wall, and closest to the wall won the cards that were thrown. The other game kids played was called “Topsies”. Cards were held against the wall, and allowed to flutter to the ground. Once a card landed on top of an opponent’s card, the winner gathered all of the cards.



Berger managed to win not only the Jesse Patty card, but also his pal’s entire collection. It took him four or five hours, he remembered. “The last card I won was his Jesse Petty card.”



In the 1950s, Berger drove the sports card hobby to its greatest heights. The 1952 Topps Baseball Series was his pride and joy. In 2004, Berger told the Society for American Baseball research: “We came out in 1952 with a card in colour, beautiful colour, and a card that was large. For the first time we had a team logo. We had the 1951 line statistics and their lifetime statistics. No one else did it.”



The card that really captured the imagination of baseball fans was the Mickey Mantle card. It became the most sought-after card at that time, and still is the most important baseball card in the hobby today. Ralph Branca’s Brooklyn Dodger card was also in the set.



Branca was a pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1950s, and was warming up in the bullpen in the final game of the season between the Dodgers and the New York Giants. Also warming up was Carl Erskine. Many of Erskine’s pitches were in the dirt, and he didn’t seem to have his best stuff. The coaching staff elected to send Branca to the mound with two men on in the ninth inning. At the plate was Bobby Thompson.



Thompson drove the ball over the fence in the hit forever known as “The Shot Heard ‘round the World”. The Dodgers had lost the pennant. It was not long after that occasion that the team was moved from Ebbets Field to the West Coast, as were the Giants.



Great memories from the world of sport.



And yes, by the way, the Chicago Black Hawks are the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions!!



Tuesday, June 09, 2015


2015 Triple Crown


One of the most anticipated events in sport history took place last Saturday in New York State. American Pharoah broke from the post and led the Belmont Stakes race from wire to wire to complete the Triple Crown.



The win capped an amazing season for the horse, his seventh victory in a row. It also ended the drought regarding the Triple Crown, the first in 37 years. With jockey, Victor Espinoza in his back, American Pharoah easily outdistanced the field, and won by 5 ½ lengths. It was the first Triple Crown victory for a Mexican jockey, and the first for trainer Bob Baffert.



One of the questions that always arises after such an event is whether or not they will let the horse run again, or turn him out to pasture. There is a fabulous amount of money to be earned once such a horse finishes a career; however, Baffert has indicated that Pharoah’s career is not over. In no uncertain terms, he stated that the horse will definitely race again.



The Triple Crown’s first event is the Kentucky Derby. It more or less is the start of the season in early May, although there are preliminary races beforehand to weed out contenders. Eighteen horses started the Derby. Pharoah was sent off as the betting favourite, but the race was by no means a cake walk for the colt. He took the lead in the stretch, and won by a length. Espinoza went to the whip 32 times to coax Pharoah to the finish line. The chief steward at the track, Barbara Borden stated that his use of the crop did not exceed the regulations, and no discipline was warranted.



Some observers believed that Pharoah might have expended too much energy at the Derby, and might not be ready for the Preakness in Baltimore. Bob Baffert had won the Preakness six times, and was confident in his horse. Again, the bettors made Pharoah the favourite, and he did not disappoint. He jumped out to the lead on a sloppy track, and won be seven lengths.



With his win at the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah convinced a lot of horse people that he is a true champion. He won in all types of conditions, at various lengths, on different tracks. Naturally his feat will be compared to all other great race horses who have won the Triple Crown. All three races take place within a five week span, with much of the travel by air. Therefore, comparisons to other winners in the past may not be justified.


Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. He won the Derby in 1:59, the Preakness in 1:53, and the Belmont in 2:24. Those records still stand today.


The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978, just a year after Seattle Slew won in 1977. Other winners from Thirties onward include: War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), and Citation (1948).



There was a suggestion after the race that perhaps a “Match Race” might be good for the game. I remember Swaps and Nashua going head to head, with no other horses on the track. Those are exciting events.



More than ninety thousand fans witnessed the event. It was reported that they made more noise than you would hear at a Michigan football game. Great stuff for racing fans.


James Hurst


Wednesday, June 03, 2015


The Stanley Cup Final: A Classic Confrontation



The general consensus amongst the so-called experts is that the Chicago Black Hawks will have no trouble disposing of the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s Stanley Cup final. I beg to differ. I believe it will be a battle, and a fine one at that.



The Hawks are favoured because of recent history. They are on a path to win their third Cup in the last six years. You can hear the word “dynasty” bantered about in hockey circles. They are hungry to establish themselves as one of the elite teams in hockey history, joining other teams with multiple Cups over a short period of time: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Oilers, and Islanders come to mind in a flash.



The Lightning are not prepared to roll over right away. They are a young team, and they also would like to sip ginger ale from the mug. They have clawed their way to the final, especially with their recent victory over the Rangers, in game seven in New York.



I spoke with a Ranger scout last Monday in Toronto at the monthly NHL alumni luncheon. Gilles Leger acknowledged that the Hawks were strong, but his sentiments lie with the Bolts. “Well,” he began, “they beat us out, so I suppose I will have to support them in the final.”



Pete Conacher played several seasons in the NHL, and was also a member of the Belleville McFarlands when they won the World Title in 1959. He is still an avid hockey fan. “I am really impressed with the play of Jonathan Toews. He is the best leader today in the NHL. He has elevated his status to be ranked amongst the great hockey captains. He has what it takes to be ranked with Gretzky, Howe and Yzerman.”



Steve Yzerman is one of the architects of the Lightning, and is well respected in that capacity. His man behind the bench, Jon Cooper, is also gaining respect as a fine coach. Rarely rattled, he has guided his team to this plateau in two years. A native of Prince George, British Columbia, Cooper attended university in the United States on a lacrosse scholarship. Hofstra University is located near the rink where the Islanders played, until the end of this past season. One of his high school buddies, Brad Lauer, played for the Islanders at that time.



Cooper was recently quoted in the Toronto Sun: “I remember being in that building. We used to go to games all the time. I just loved being a part of it.” Well, in June, 2015, he has become a major part of the hockey world. His counterpart across the ice, Joel Quenneville, has been through the hockey wars many times. I am certain his experience will come into play at some time in this series.

The Lightning will rely on its leader, Steven Stamkos. But it will also get energy from its second line, affectionately known as “The Triplets”: Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. Defenceman Victor Hedman is one of the top five in the world, and Ben Bishop is usually solid between the pipes.



The Black Hawks have a host of great players ready to go: Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brad Richards, Patrick Sharpe, and, of course Toews. Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks, facing the fire power that the Bolts can generate. Many pundits believe that this will be a high-scoring series. Not this lad. I expect both coaches and their staffs will devise restricting defences to protect the nets. Mind you, that can only go so far. There will be fireworks, to be sure, especially if teams are given power play opportunities.



Does the winning team really have to wear those damn baseball caps at the conclusion of the series? Likely. Such an uncomfortable marketing ploy.


June 2, 2015.



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