Monday, September 28, 2015


Autumn Football Nights

Autumn Football Nights


Ottawa REDBLACKS football fans have turned game days into real festivities. They arrive early to the game, and they are not shy about wearing team colours. There are several fine eateries near the stadium. Last Saturday night was a beautiful September evening, perfect for the REDBLACKS fans. Well, nearly perfect.


The Toronto Argonauts took the opening kickoff and methodically moved the ball into the Ottawa end zone to score the opening touchdown. Trevor Harris was accurate with his passes, and capped off the drive with a strike to Kevin Elliott for six points. The Argos added another touchdown when the remarkable Chad Owens returned a punt for 86 yards. The Argos led 14-0. The REDBLACKS had run two unsuccessful offensive plays, an incomplete pass, and a sack for Henry Burris.

Chad Owens- The Flyin' Hawaiian

On the ensuing drive, Ottawa did move the ball into Toronto territory, but had to settle for a field goal. The Argos then scrimmaged the ball at their own 35 yard line, and ran a couple of running plays before Harris threw a pass that was picked off by Damaso Munoz. Munoz scampered into the end zone to narrow the Argo lead to four points. And the best part of all those fireworks was that we still were in the first quarter!


The Argos continued their impressive offense throughout the game, and never trailed. Harris was sharp, and the Argo defense rose to the occasion when required. Greg Jones intercepted a Burris pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. Final score? Argos 35-REDBLACKS 26.


With the win, the Argos moved into a second place tie with the REDBLACKS, trailing the Hamilton Tiger Cats by two points. The Argos will travel to Ottawa on October 6th for a home game. You did read that correctly. The Argonauts play their home games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, as does a certain baseball team. For the first time in 22 years, the Toronto Blue Jays have qualified for post season play, and they have first dibs on the stadium; consequently, the Argos will play their home game in Ottawa.


The Ottawa faithful will not mind a bit. The Argos have now beaten the REDBLACKS on the last two occasions. The crowd will be fired up as it seeks to avenge these losses. There are playoff positions on the line, and the Tiger Cats are now in a hole, as they have lost their starting quarterback with a serious leg injury, likely for the remainder of the season.


The game last Saturday night was marred by innumerable penalties, many completely unnecessary. In the first quarter, Toronto receiver Kevin Elliott took two unnecessary roughness penalties on the same play. He redeemed himself by scoring two touchdowns in the game.


For your information, there is a fine working relationship between the team and the Ottawa Transit group: If you show your game ticket to the driver, your trip is free! There are “Park and Ride” lots in the suburbs, and there are special routes that go directly to the park on game days. Two major bus routes run from downtown to the stadium, along Bank Street. Parking near the stadium can be a hassle.


The Senators have begun their pre-season schedule. When the REDBLACKS host the Argos again, the Blue Jays will be vying for the World Series trophy. The Raptors are warming up for their first game. Almost enough to take your mind off politics!


James Hurst

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


The Terry Fox Run-2015


It was thirty-five years ago when hoards of people started participating in what is known as the “Terry Fox Run”. I was there on that occasion. In fact, I pushed a stroller around the course that day, and on several other runs. I have traveled the course with two dogs, and I remember dragging Loki, the Bouvier des Flandres, over the finish line.



But I have not always been faithful to the Terry Fox Run. There is an element of guilt here. Occasionally, I was far away from a site, once in Australia, a couple of times in Europe. I did a walk for Terry’s cause when I was away, admittedly half-heartedly.



Last Sunday, I rolled into the parking lot in Belleville at West Zwick’s Park. I was a little early, and there were very few vehicles on the lot. My heart sunk a little as I murmured to myself, “Oh no, the spirit is gone. Nobody cares about this. It has gone to way of all good things.”



I walked to the bandshell and discovered several people there in bright green shirts, with “Volunteer” written on the backs of their shirts. That was a good sign, but it did not mean that the “Run” would be a success. There were hot dogs on the grill, hot coffee and tea, cold drinks, snacks for energy and the ever-present Hawkins Cheezies!



I mention this product in particular, because the Cheezies’ plant manager 35 years ago, Shirley Woodcox, was a driving force behind the inaugural Terry Fox Run. She spent a good deal of time with him, and paved the way for some of his success. He began his journey on the East Coast, and traveled through the Maritimes and Quebec without a great deal of fanfare, and had difficulty raising funds. The momentum began in Ontario, and built until he ended his journey at Thunder Bay. The journey was called “The Marathon of Hope”


                     Vicki Samaras, Ms. Bertelink, Wally Sawkins,  Mayor Taso Christopher 


Belleville’s mayor, Taso Christopher was on hand to thank the volunteers at the site. In particular, he had high praise for Vicki Samaras. She is the President and a partner in the Hinterland Wine Company. She knows how to get things done.



In 2012, she got geared up for the “Run” at Zwick’s Park. When she arrived at the site, she was told that run had been cancelled. To Vicki, that was completely unacceptable. The legacy that Terry had left us could not be tossed along the wayside by a cancellation. That provided the impetus for her to gather the troops to continue the fight against cancer.



Christopher told the gathering that he had watched the movie about Terry’s life the previous evening. He became emotional when talking about the movie. If you have not seen it, it really is a must. It shows Terry Fox as a human being, as a young very driven individual trying to make a difference.



And what a difference he has made! At last report, almost $ 700 million dollars has been raised to eradicate cancer as a result of his efforts. The “Run” in Belleville was well attended with almost 300 participants, raising almost $ 30 000. Online pledges are still being accepted.



I was really impressed with the Woodley family. Young and old, they gathered for the journey-26 of them. As is the case with many of us, we reflect on lives lost to that despicable disease as we strolled around the park. Volunteers cheered on our efforts. At ten o’clock in the morning, I tore into a fine hot dog from the Agrarian. No serious repercussions.



That being said, to you I throw the torch to do what you can next year in this great pursuit. My old knees were not up to a run. I strolled the route casually with my friend Wayne Baker, a long-time supporter of the cause, and a survivor. You could tell by the smile on his face that it meant a great deal to him. See you there next year!



James Hurst

September 22, 2015.


Saturday, September 12, 2015


Lessons From Behind the Glass-Allyson Tufts

Allyson Tufts is a hockey fan. She grew up with the game in a large family. She married a hockey player. She raised a hockey player. That does not make her much different from many other mothers in Canada. The difference in her case is that she took the time to write about her experiences. She shares the triumphs, the tragedies and the passion involved in the game. She shares with the reader the lessons she has learned, as it says, “From Behind the Glass”.


In the introduction, she writes: “I have to say my toughest love affair has been with hockey”. Growing up, she quickly learned the importance of hockey in the Canadian mosaic. She experienced the excitement of the game as a child watching the Belleville Bulls. Although she does not specifically mention the teams, nor the cities, we can assume that is the case. She also indicates that she has changed the names of the figures in the game. So be it.


Allyson has broken the book down into ten chapters. Essentially, the lesson is that you should let your kids play and enjoy the game. But she also cautions that there are lessons to be learned from the related activities behind the scenes, namely the politics involved in the game.


If you happen to be the parents of a young athlete, you will benefit from a read of this book. Allyson indicates in several situations in the book that it is necessary to step away from the game in order to appreciate it. Move away from the coaches, the managers, the agents, the other parents, even away from the other kids. When players continue to rise in the ranks of hockey, and in other sports as well, the pressures mount, as do the expectations.


As an example, Lesson #2 suggests that you should leave your baggage at home. There are so many situations that occur in the games, and on other occasions with the team that defy explanation. Especially to the parents. The children that do well in sports are expected to climb the ladder in the levels of the games in Canada. One begins at a house league level, rising through a select or “rep” level to play “AA” or even “AAA” depending on the size of the community.


Allyson experienced the frustration dealing with the levels in hockey. I am not letting any cats out of the bag when I write that there are mistakes made in player selection. There are mistakes made in the selection of coaches as well. Certain individuals should never coach. They may know the game. They may have been fine players. But they also may be completely lacking in communication skills, and the abilities required to lead a group of kids. Foul-mouthed immature adults do not belong behind the bench of young hockey players.


I liked the way that Allyson sets out, in each chapter, to present a challenge, then summarizes her results at the end of the chapter. The final chapter is entitled: “Let go of the control-You never had it in the first place.” The conclusion she presents is that getting your child noticed is achieved by how they perform on the ice, and how they present themselves off the ice.


The book is a must read for parents who believe that their child should rise in the ranks of hockey. There are some unwritten rules that need to be followed. The pressures do increase right up to the day of the draft, for players eligible for college or junior hockey. Then there is that tough decision about what fork in the road is the best to pursue.


Ah! The choices of life! If you choose to read this book, there is a copy in the Wellington Public Library.


James Hurst

September 12, 2015. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


My Friend Charlie

Charlie Lemmex will close up shop at the end of September. He is planning to watch the Yankees and the Red Sox at the Rogers Centre, then go quietly into the night.


Charlie has attended a few ball games over the years. He has worked in media for more than thirty years. He told me he has attended 2700 major league baseball games. I usually sit with Charlie in the second row of the media box when I attend the games. If I arrive early, I try not to disturb him as he works on the crossword puzzle from the Hamilton Spectator.


He has been working the Blue Jay games for 34 years, he told me as I settled in for the Jays and Orioles last week. He keeps score, meticulously. “I have the score sheets for every game I have attended,” he told me. He added, with a chuckle, “Maybe they could display them at my wake so that people can check the results of games.”


Charlie also worked other sports over the years. “I really enjoyed the Argos. Pinball Clemons is one of the nicest individuals I have ever met”. Clemons played for the Argos several years ago, coached the team, and has remained with the team for many years. Charlie also worked games for the Leafs, and the Raptors. You could often find him in the pits at the Molson Indy in Toronto.


A few years ago, Charlie would spend some time setting up his area for his assignments. There had to be a working phone in front of him. He would condense the game into a few sentences, then call the particular network that had hired him to do the game. He would relate the details up to that point in the game, recognize the stars and the outstanding plays, then sign off. There is very little call for such an exercise today.


Most sporting events are televised, with many camera angles detailing the game in progress. Fans can catch all of the action on their computers, on their phones, on their personal devices.


A native of Smiths Falls, Charlie studied chemical engineering at McGill. He worked in the industry for twenty years before entering the sports field. At one time, he reported to a radio network affiliated with the American government. When he sent them an invoice, he was visited by a member of the Central Intelligence Agency. The agent did a background check on Charlie, and wanted to know what type of explosive work he had done as a chemical engineer. Eventually, Charlie was paid.


Of all of the athletes he has interviewed in baseball, he cites Cito Gaston and Joe Carter as two of his favourites, He also enjoyed dealing with Ernie Whitt and Jimmy Key. John Olerud once simplified the season for him. Olerud told him that the team would win one-third of their games, lose one-third of their games. He added that what they did with the remainder would make the difference in the season.


One of Charlie’s favourite lines goes something like this: “The last time the Leafs won the Cup I was 25 years old. I had been married five years. I had a three year old son, and my wife was three years old!” He is referring to his second wife Anita. They are currently in the process building a house in Ridgeway. A trip to Toronto would be even further than his current commute from Hamilton.


And so, at 75 years of age, Charlie has decided to leave the games. It is obvious that he loves the games, and is a true sports fan. And a fine gentleman to boot. Enjoy the sunshine years, Charlie.



James Hurst

September 7, 2015.

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