Monday, July 25, 2016


Tennis, Anyone?

“In the good old summer time…”

It’s baseball, hot dogs, apple pie…all of those things, and more.

And tennis, of course.

This is the week of the Rogers Cup in Canada: the men are in Toronto this year, the women in Montreal. Not long ago, there was some serious tennis played in London, at a place called Wimbledon. I had the great fortune to be there, for a fine afternoon. I will share a few things that I learned on the excursion, in the hope that you will also get the opportunity to visit tennis’s greatest venue.

The first thing that we learned was that you do not go to the Wimbledon stop on the tube. The courts are more accessible from an earlier stop. By the way, it is a good idea to buy a special travel card called an “Oyster Card”. It gets you through the turnstiles quickly, and saves you a ton of money. Once you arrive at the stop, you follow the crowd, and read the signs that say “Five Minutes to the Courts”. That is, if you are a young Roger Bannister!

Then there is the matter of THE QUEUE. It is simply a method to provide the possibility of securing “Premium Tickets on the day of play”. The directions in the booklet indicate that if you decide to queue overnight, the stewards will awaken you at 6:00am. We had decided to go to the matches on Thursday, and figured it might be a tough ticket.

How wrong we were! We paraded right up to the ticket window and were offered two choices: general admission, which would allow us to tour the grounds, and sit on the grass to watch a big screen; or better still, to purchase seats at court level for Court Number One, for 58 pounds each.

                                        Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza

We saw three fine matches, all quarter finals: Ladies’ Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Men’s Doubles. Martina Hingis was the defending champion in mixed Doubles. She and her partner Leander Paes from India eventually fell to Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen. Watson hails from the UK, and was naturally a crowd favourite.

As was a certain Andy Murray, who emerged as the Men’s Singles Champion, much to our dismay. He played Milos Raonic in the final, and breezed to victory. Murray is a steady competitor, and returned serve well. Raonic scored an impressive win over Roger Federer to get to the final.

Raonic is playing in the Rogers Cup this week in Toronto, as is Novak Djokovic, the number one player in the world. They are both in the same grouping, and may meet in the semi-final. No matter. There will be some great tennis this week on the grounds at York University.

I took the opportunity to watch some wheelchair tennis as well. Pretty incredible stuff. Great shots, fine returns. Gordon Reid, the number four seed from the UK, took the championship.

It is truly “Tennis Week” in London. There are 20 courts at the site, accommodating tennis at all levels: boys’ and girls’ singles and doubles, and invitational events as well. The city is decked out in traditional attire for the tournament. They do serve strawberries and cream too!

James Hurst

July 25, 2016.                           

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The Open

The Open, that golf tournament played at various locations in the United Kingdom, wrapped up on Sunday afternoon.

The final pairing of Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson was electrifying. Both had distanced themselves from the rest of the pack after the end of the third round. And then it came down to the final day, even down to the final holes. Stenson birdied 14, 15, and 16 to move ahead of Mickelson.

Stenson played the round of his life. He broke the record of Open Championship strokes below par of 19 under, held by Tiger Woods. He shot 63, tying a major championship scoring record. He ran in long putts when required, obviously tough on Phil. As the day wore on, Phil became increasingly frustrated. His complaints about cameras and distractions came though loud and clear. Interestingly, they were ignored by the announcers.

Stenson is the first Swede to win a major championship. Another fellow countryman, Jesper Parnevik, (the guy who turns up the front of his cap), came close to winning, but fell just short. Parnevik sent Stenson a message: “Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish.”

The Open, the Masters, the U. S. Open, and the PGA Championship are the Majors. Of course there is a fair amount of coin that goes with a win-more than a million dollars. The winner also gets to keep the trophy, the Claret Jug, as it is called. But just for a year. It is a replica, and the original rests on permanent display in the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse.

It was just a fortnight ago that we walked the course at Troon. The locale is wonderful, on the West Coast of Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde, off the Irish Sea. Freighters can be seen entering the channel leading to Glasgow. Police on horseback casually patrol the beach area, keeping those who might try to sneak into the grounds at bay. Across the water lie two islands: Arran and the Ailsa Craig. I an sure you will be pleased to know that most curling stones are quarried there!

   Marco Dawson                                                         Padraig Harrington

I sat in the stands at the first hole, watching players tee off in the practice round. It is a casual day, when players will toss four or five balls into traps, or along the greens, to try to learn the lay of the land. I watched Padraig Harrington and Marco Dawson tee off. Harrington is a former Open champ, and Dawson is always in the running for victories on the Champions Tour.

                                        The first fairway, beside the beach

Bubba Watson did not have his finest hour. But he did take the time to scratch his name on the peak of Joanne's Open cap. Nice gesture. 

Naturally, weather plays a factor in The Open. Tee times are critical, because wind and rain are always expected in links golf in Scotland. I climbed down into a pot bunker just to get the experience. I likely would resort to the old tried and true method to get out: a handful of sand in my left, the ball in my right. Works every time.

                                                           In the Pot Bunker

                                                           At the Swilcan Bridge

We went across the country to tour St. Andrews as well. It has been the site of many Opens, and has a fine history. The British Golf Museum is located near the first tee. A must is to go to the Swilcan Bridge for photos. But since there are several courses on the grounds, it is not uncommon to hear, “Fore!”

                                                   The media Area

It is a tournament that captures world-wide attention. The media room is enormous, perhaps ten times the size of the media area at the Canadian Open.

                                                   Allan and Leeanne Stitt

It was a pleasure to be accompanied by local golf expert Al Stitt on the excursions. He had played several of the Scottish courses, and shared his knowledge with us. “Stay out of the fescue,” he warned. That is a nasty bit of tall grass just off the fairways.

Many of the golfers who played The Open are now in Toronto for the Canadian Open, to be played at Glen Abbey in Oakville. Well worth a trip!

James Hurst

July 18, 2016.  

Sunday, July 03, 2016


A Great Story-Griffey Jr. & Shane Monahan

Worth the reading!

Monahan's roots are in hockey. His grandfather was Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
His great grandfather was Howie Morenz.
Maybe he chose the wrong game!


Please Pass Me your Program!

Please Pass Me Your Program!

Once the 2016-2017 NHL regular season gets underway, we will need a program to identify the players on the ice. Once the dust settles following the trades and drafts from the last week, team owners will have spent millions of dollars in the quest for the holy grail of hockey.

I am referring, of course, to the Stanley Cup. The same one that now resides in Pittsburgh. Had you forgotten? In order to place that mug in your trophy case, you need to get your house in order, with just the right amount of all of those things from the hockey world that make up the perfect lineup.


The hockey world was rocked in Montreal last week with the trade of P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. It was completely unexpected by the fans. Team executives, on the other hand, have been working feverishly behind the scenes to move the former Belleville Bull.


P.K. spent four years with the Bulls, also the junior hocky home for both of his brothers. For those of us who attended games, the Subbans were a familiar sight at the local arena. We have watched the Subban kids grow, and enter the world of professional sport. P.K. has advanced far more quickly that the other boys, gaining All Star status, winning all kinds of accolades, including the Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the league.

He endeared himself to the fans in Montreal. He donated several million dollars to a local hospital. He charmed the locals with that great warm smile. He played with a panache that has not been seen at the Bell Centre in years. He could shoot the puck, make great passes, took guff from no one.

We entertained two of my Montreal nephews on Canada Day. Once I broached the topic, we had lively conversations. Stephane Lecours and his brother Michael are Hab fans, unquestionably. Michael’s initial reaction to the trade? “It was completely unexpected. Time will tell whether or not it was a good trade. Weber’s salary is less that P.K.’s, and the contract is shorter. But he is also older than P.K.”

Stephane had some ideas about how Weber can endear himself to the rabble in La Belle Province. “If he can score three goals in the first five minutes of his first game, all will be forgiven.” I began to understand his pain, at that point.

P.K. and the management of the team did not always get along. More than anything, his style of play could drive a coach insane. He took chances, and things did not always work out as planned. With his acrobatic spin-o-ramas, he could cough up the puck at very wrong times. Habs G. M. Bergevin: “Yes, P.K.’s different. We’re not going to hide that.  But that was never an issue, never a problem.” I suggest reading between the lines.

This is one of those trades that needs time before intense analysis. I suspect it will work out well for both sides. As for the rest of the moves made by the brass of the NHL, plan to spend a day with your hockey encyclopedia.

James Hurst

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?