Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Seasons Come, Seasons Go.

The best part of the changing seasons, and naturally I am referring to sports seasons, is that they overlap. Therefore, it is critical to have fresh batteries in your remote channel changer to keep up with the action.

In short order on Monday evening, I was able to catch glimpses of the Jays-Yankees, the Thunder-Warriors, the Penguins-Sharks, and a rain-delay replay of Milos Raonic’s loss at the French Open.

First-born son Arty became a dad himself this week in Ottawa, for the first time. Congratulations to him and his wife Merran. Their daughter, Alice Louise arrived at 9 pounds 14 ounces, ready to bat cleanup. My wife is staying with them for a week or so; consequently, I am in charge of the remote. “The Voice” is nowhere in sight.


On Monday evening, the Toronto Blue Jays were on the winning end of a tremendous pitching performance from Marco Estrada. They have pulled up their socks, lately. At this point in the season, with almost one-third of the games completed, the Jays have not lived up to the pre-season expectations. Mind you, they have performed well lately, and do not trail the first place Red Sox by a great deal.

The Red Sox have won 31 games, the Blue Jays 27. The Jays trail the Orioles, now in second place. As expected, the American League East Division is a tight race, and will remain that way until October. Over in the National League, the Chicago Cubs have won 35 games, and appear destined to hoist the hardware for the first time in a century.

Each spring I buy an informative magazine: Lindy’s Sports Baseball Preview. It describes itself as “The most authoritative baseball preview available”. The writers boldly predict the results of the 2016 season. At this point, they are slightly off the mark. Jays are to finish first, then head to the World Series. The Orioles are predicted to finish in the basement. I realize it is a long season, and results can be skewed by injuries, slumps, suspensions…The list is long. I believe the Blue Jays miss Chris Colabello, serving a drug-related suspension.

The Penguins and the Sharks clawed their way to the Stanley Cup finals, and there is no reason to expect a short series. The Pens jumped out to a 2-0 lead Monday night, only to see it erased by the speedy Sharks. A late goal by Bonino stood as the winner, off a nifty play by Sidney Crosby.  As expected.

The Golden State Warriors lost the first game of their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder at home! They then went down three games to one. Their main men, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson then began to shoot out the lights. As a result, the Warriors now head to Cleveland for the NBA Finals. That is the home of Lebron James. You may remember him from the recent series against the Raptors.

Raonic lost in the fourth round in the French Open. He has contended better than any Canadian ever in international tennis competition. Canadian tennis fans look forward to the day when he accepts the accolades and awards at centre court, somewhere, in his career.

We have plans to head to Wimbledon this summer to catch some tennis action. Perhaps Milos will save his best tennis for us, in July in London.

James Hurst

May 31, 2015.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


NBA Conference Finals-2016

Last Monday night, the Toronto Raptors scored an impressive 105-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the most important victory in the history of the team, and evened their series at two games each.

The Cavaliers had prepared for the series by cruising through the playoffs without losing a game; consequently, they were a lot fresher than were the Raptors. The Toronto squad had clawed their way through a tough series against the Miami Heat, and were battered and bruised.

                                                                  LeBron James

LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers. He is generally recognized as one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest. Compared to most of the other players on the court, he is a giant. He can crash the basket, he can sweep the boards to get rebounds. And yet, when required, he can shoot the lights out with a deft touch. He has been the Most Valuable Player on several occasions.

But this is a team game, and Lebron and the Cavaliers realize he cannot do it on his own. The management of the Cavs brought in help for the big fella, and that has worked up to this point in the playoffs. Their latest addition, Channing Frye, cannot be ignored when he positions himself outside the arc. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are also key players for the Cavs.

        Kyrie Irving                                                         Kevin Love                                                      

At half time Sunday, those that doubted the Raptors had serious second thoughts. Toronto had led by 18 points at one time. They had dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Cavs 30-17. Kyle Lowry had 15 of those points. The other key player on the Raptors, Demar De Rozan, also had a great game. As those two go, so go the Raptors.

                                                                 Kyle Lowry

Each of those teams also has a Canadian representative: Corey Joseph for the Raps, and Tristan Thompson for the Cavs. They both played well Sunday night, playing significant minutes. Both are from the Toronto area. The fact that they are playing at the highest level indicates the influence the Raptors have had on the game in Canada.

                                                                 Demar DeRozan

The series now heads back to Cleveland for game five. Game six takes place in Toronto, and the areas outside the doors of the Air Canada Centre will be packed with fans. They call that zone “Jurassic Park”. The fans there do their best to get their signs, pictures, and little faces on the television screens as the camera pans that area frequently during the game. (“Did you see me mom?”)

The Western final has also been somewhat surprising. There may be an upset in the making there as well. As the fine commentator Jack Armstrong noted, “It is not preordained that the Warriors and the Cavaliers should play in the final”. It just ain’t necessarily so. The Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry, were supposed to get by the Oklahoma City Thunder without much trouble.

But the Thunder stole one of the two games played on the coast, and basketball fans knew that the Warriors were in trouble.

The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In the third game of their series, Westbrook had 30 points, and Durant had 33. They ended the game with 133 points, matching a franchise record for the most points in a playoff game. That gave the Thunder a 2-1 lead, with the fourth game last night in Oklahoma.

                                                                 Bismack  Biyombo

Before the series began, Jonas Valanciunas, the key big man for the Raptors, was injured. Bismack Biyombo, a towering transplant from Africa, was called off the bench. He has given the team more than they could imagine, sweeping the boards of all unsuccessful shots on both ends of the court. His infectious smile, and pleasant demeanor, have captured the hearts of all Raptor fans.

 Fasten your seat belts, girls and boys. For Raptor fans, this is by far the best ride that they have ever had!!

James Hurst

May 24, 2016.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


The Puck

The Puck

                                                   Danny Lewicki and Daniel Donohue

It was on April 21st, in 1951. The Canadiens and the Leafs battled in the Stanley Cup final at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The game went into overtime. One of the stalwarts on the Leafs blueline, “Bashin Bill” Barilko creased the twine behind Gerry McNeil to win the game, and the Cup.

                                                                 Gerry McNeil

Old hockey fans, myself included, know the rest of the story. That was the last goal Barilko ever scored, his last time on that sheet of ice. In late August, Barilko headed out to Quebec in a single engine plane with his dentist, Henry Hudson. On the return trip, the plane went down, and was lost for almost 11 years. It was discovered by a helicopter pilot, about 35 miles off course north of Cochrane, Ontario.

At least two books have been written about the tragedy: Kevin Shea’s Without a Trace, and John Melady’s The Bill Barilko Story. Kingston’ Tragically Hip recorded a song in 1992 about Barilko’s fate: Fifty Mission Cup.

                                                                     Bill Barilko

Barilko played his first game for the Leafs in 1947. He had been with the Hollywood Wolves in the Pacific Coast Hockey League. He was good enough to play in the All Star games in 1947, 1948, and 1949. and he won four Cups with the Leafs. He wore # 5 in his last year with the Leafs, and that number was subsequently retired.

Daniel Donohue’s father and grandfather were at that game when Barilko scored. His grandfather had season tickets, which he used occasionally. He often doled them out to his patrons at his bar near Hamilton. They were good seats, not far from the ice. Harken back with me to the arenas in those days.

There was no glass around the arena. Patrons sitting behind the net were protected: otherwise, those seated at ice level paid attention during the play. Pucks flew over the boards easily, as did players, on occasion.

Naturally, there was mayhem on the ice when Barilko scored. Daniel Donohue’s father sized up the situation, got his grandfather’s permission, and went into action. He jumped over the boards, raced to the Montreal net, and dove into the net to get the puck. That puck has remained with the family since that game.

Donohue told that story recently at the monthly gathering of NHL Alumni and friends at the Shopsy’s in Markham. Several members of the Society for International Hockey Research were in attendance. Paul Patskou, noted hockey historian from the Hockey Hall of Fame also heard the address. After all was said and done, no one doubted Donohue, a partner in a Toronto consulting firm.

                                                                Danny Lewicki

Danny Lewicki was impressed with the story. He played for the Leafs in that game. It was Lewicki’s first year with the Leafs. Both he and Barilko were of Ukranian descent, both from Timmins. Lewicki spent nine years in the NHL, and finished his career with the Quebec Aces.

There was some discussion as to the value of the puck, once its authentication is confirmed. Your guess is as good as mine. But if it were the ball that won the World Series for the New York Yankees that either Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle drove into the stands, there would be a bidding war. Likely nothing short of a million.

Another fine tale from the monthly Monday luncheons.

James Hurst

May 17, 2016.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


World Championships-2016


                                                         The Canadian Women's Team

The World Under 19 Women’s Floorball Championships concluded last Sunday in Belleville. The Canadian team played its way successfully into the Gold Medal Game in the “B” division. They had to play Germany once again, certainly their nemesis in the game.

 Trailing 5-3 in the final period, the Canadians tied the score in the dying minutes of the game. And then the Germans scored to nail down the victory, on a somewhat contentious goal. In the “A” Division, Sweden defeated Finland 6-3 to win the title.

As a spectator at several of the Games, the rules, and the application of those rules, proved to be somewhat confusing, at times. Even though the game appears to be cloned from hockey, there are variations that are certainly derived from soccer. There is contact, and it is supposed to be incidental. On a couple of occasions, players were sent sprawling over the boards, with no call. And yet, moments later, players were sent to the penalty box for virtually no reason.

Brett Davis oversaw the games as the President of the Canadian contingent. When I asked him about the rules of the game, he replied, “Once you get it figured, it becomes a chess match!”

                                                 Brett Davis, with Rosi Oulette

The boards are only about 40 centimeters high, and the ball often flies out of bounds. The ball is awarded to the team not responsible for shooting the ball over the boards. As in soccer. Goalies have no sticks, and rely on instinct and reflexes to stop shots. As in soccer.

But the players do carry sticks, and are adept with them in pushing around a whiffle ball about the size of a hardball.

It was truly a great international event for the area. Flags of the participating nations adorned the Sports Centre. Players, coaches, administrators, and friends from 15 nations interacted in the name of sport. Never a bad idea. Fans came from many European nations to cheer for their teams, in their own manner. That is, an incessant banging of drums, and tooting of horns. Win, lose, or draw: the same noise, constantly. They just don’t quit!

The organizers were thrilled with the turnout for the Games. There were more than 3 000 fans at the first Canadian game against the Japanese. It was great to see so many fans at the Yardmen Arena. Although the games between the European teams were not as well attended, overall attendance was outstanding!

This was the first time that the games had been held outside Europe. The success of these games bodes well for the future of the sport in North America. Organizers are constantly promoting the game, hoping to see it as an Olympic sport in 2024.

Special recognition is in order for the Trenton Golden Hawks. They are on their way to play in the Royal Bank Cup. Wellington Dukes fans know the experience, as we attended two Cups in Prince Edward Island and Alberta.

Congratulations to Marc Crawford on his appointment as an assistance coach of the Ottawa Senators. His brother Todd coached the Canadian team at the Floorball games.

And now? A little time for the Raptors, the Blue Jays, the World Hockey Championships. And yes, time to garden as well!

James Hurst

May 9, 2016.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


2016 World Under 19 Floorball-Women's Championships

On Wednesday, the World will arrive at the doorstep of the Quinte Region. Actually, the Opening Ceremonies took place last night. Elizabeth Manley, Canadian figure skater, was on hand to help open the games. As a matter of historical note, both she and Brian Orser were born in the Quinte Region.

The Canadian team begins their quest for gold on Wednesday morning, playing the Japanese at 10:25am. Both teams are in the “D” division, along with Thailand and Germany. As is the case with these types of tournaments, teams must play reasonably well in their division to advance to the playoffs. Canada plays Thailand at 7:30pm on Thursday. There are tickets remaining for that event, but the game against Japan is sold out! Day passes for the games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are $20. The finals take place on Sunday. Passes for that day are $30.

There are 15 countries represented at the games, including Canada: Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Finland, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Hungary, and USA. The Canadians play Germany on Friday evening at 7:10pm.

                                                               Coach Todd Crawford

There is a strong local contingent at the games. The Canadian team is coached by Todd Crawford. Crawford has extensive experience in international sport, in athletics, and as a member of the Canadian bobsled team. He is heavily involved in coaching at the high school level in Belleville. His father captained the Belleville McFarlands to the World Hockey Championship in 1959. The Crawford family was recently celebrated in print and film, at the hand of Aaron Bell. A fine piece of work, I might add.

Crawford realizes that his work is cut out for him. In 2014, the Canadian team won the silver medal at the Worlds in Poland, squeaking out a 5-4 win over Germany. Currently, the Canadians are ranked 10th in the world. As you skim over the list of teams participating in the event, you will notice that there is a strong European contingent. Japan, Thailand, and the two North American countries are the only non-Europeans at the event.

                                         Thai goalie attempts to block the Canadian shot

“We expect the offence to have balanced scoring as three lines are very deep and the fourth line is extremely active and can be counted on to shut teams down when needed,” Crawford stated. Crawford will rely on the Canadian captain, Hannah Wilson, a Belleville native, to lead the troops on the floor. Other locals involved on the team include: Alex Hoskin, and Madi Brinklow from Tyendinaga.

Braedyn Irwin also hails from Belleville, but she will suit up for the American squad. As a native North American, that is her privilege. She attends Moira Secondary School, and is in Grade Eleven.

Action takes place at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Cannifton Road. Games will be played in the Yardmen Arena, the former home of the Belleville Bulls. There may be hockey there soon. If you wish to participate in the rumour mill in that regard, be my guest! Teams will also play down the hall at “Rink B”. The final game will take place at the Yardmen at 6:10pm, Sunday evening.

The president of the tournament is Belleville’s Brett Davis. This is the first time the event has ever been held outside Europe, and is under the jurisdiction of the International Floorball Federation.  

There are snippets of the game on the web. It appears as if Dominik Hasek trained all of the goalies. On penalty shots, goalies kneel, and then flop. And they don’t have sticks!! It proved to be effective for the Hall of Famer from the Czech Republic.

Let the Games begin!

James Hurst

May 3, 2016

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