Sunday, September 25, 2016


Senators Preparing for 2017-2018


Whether or not the hockey faithful in the Quinte area will subscribe to this move is anybody's guess. It will be good for the city. There are always spinoffs from such a venture. But there is a little cloud hanging over the move. The Senators are preparing to move downtown, in Ottawa in the not-too-distant future. That would leave their current location free for the Baby Senators. The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoy having bot the NHL and AHL teams in the same city, for obvious reasons.Would that happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

The city should certainly try to get a long-term commitment out of the Senators. That would help smooth the feathers of those who are opposed to paying for the renovations at the Yardmen.

"The Ottawa Senators have called a news conference for Monday morning at 11 o’clock at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre. A Press Release states the NHL team and the City of Belleville will make a signifcant hockey announcement. Dignitaries will include Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Senators Assistant General Manager Randy Lee as well Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher.
The Senators American Hockey League affiliate has been located in Binghamton New York since 2002," as reported by Quinte News.

Furthermore, it was reported that, "Belleville Council will meet in open session tomorrow morning at 8 to consider a 20 million dollar upgrade to the 39 year old Yardmen Arena. The most significant changes include reducing the ice surface from Olympic size (200×100) to a regulation NHL size of 200 x 85 and adding 1400 seats to bring the total to 4200." 

The relocation of the Belleville Bulls to Hamilton last season was a real kick in the head to the hockey public in the city. It came completely by surprise, and was obviously done for financial gain.

There are many truly bitter fans in the city who will have to be coaxed back to the Yardmen.

Personally, I am excited by the prospect. AHL hockey is a small step below the NHL. That just happens to be the best hockey league in the world. Quite often, players are called up to the NHL from AHL affiliates. Without question, this will be the best hockey ever played on a weekly basis in the city of Belleville.

Agreed, the McFarlands' brand of hockey was superb. but there was an American League  when the Macs played, and it was also superior hockey.

I can't wait for the puck to drop.

Where: Main foyer of the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre, 265 Cannifton Rd., Belleville, Ont., K8N 4V8.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


A Very Long Struggle 2016

There are four teams in the American League East Division that are virtually deadlocked as we approach the final weeks of the season. Following tonight’s game, the Toronto Blue Jays head west to take on the Los Angeles Angels and the  Seattle Mariners for their last western road trip of the season. Traditionally, western road trips have never been too kind to the Jays. They finish up the season with three games in Boston.

From here on in, there will be a lot of scoreboard watching for the Blue Jay Nation. Of course the team must do well. But its fate also lies in the hands of the Red Sox, the Orioles, and the New York Yankees.

Last Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays were at the Rogers Centre. In these situations, the Rays could be classified as “spoilers”. They cannot win any championships this year. But they know they must take the field, they have to dig in at home plate to face the pitching. There is always pride on the line. There are quite a few younger players looking for jobs next year, and they are showcasing their talents. And yes, there are contracts to be signed!

Jose Bautista hammered his first home run this month. We are almost half way through September, and he has rarely experienced such a drought. Another Jay, Josh Donaldson, is having his troubles at the plate. He has gone hitless several games. As they say, he can’t buy a hit. Anything he crushes ends up in a glove. Sharp ground balls cannot find gaps in the infield, and get registered as routine outs. Such is the nature of the game.

With all opponents in the division, no lead is safe. The Jays went ahead near the end of the game, with a slight amount of breathing room. Evan Longoria and Brad Miller smacked back-to-back home runs to silence the patrons right smartly. A few key strikeouts, and a fine catch by Michael Saunders snuffed out any hope for the Rays. Unfortunately, the Red Sox knocked off the Orioles to stay two games ahead of the Jays.

David Ortiz homered for the Red Sox Monday night. He had moved ahead of Jimmy Foxx on the all time list with that dinger in Toronto, and now is tied with Mickey Mantle. Ortiz is in his final year of major league baseball, and has a couple of weeks to move ahead of Mantle. I would suggest that he will have no trouble entering the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in five years.

Although the Minnesota Twins have had a dismal season, second baseman Brian Dozier has not been affected by the malaise. He hit his 40th round tripper this week to put him in select company. The only other Twin to hit that many home runs in a season is Harmon Killebrew, who did it several times. Killebrew entered the Hall of Fame in 2000, and stands 11th on the all time home run list, just below Babe Ruth.

It will be an interesting, perhaps nerve-wracking couple of weeks for the Jays and their fans. September baseball, with all the trimmings. Pass the mustard!

September 13, 2016.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Labour Day 2016

Last week, I gave you an update on the Canadian Football League. I trust you enjoyed the annual Labour Day Classics, in both the East and the West. For those of you more attracted to the American game, the NFL breaks camp this week and gets the season underway. They will battle until the Super Bowl next January.

Patriots’ fans will have to wait four weeks for the return of their quarterback Tom Brady. He was given a brief suspension with regard to the amount of air in the footballs used in an AFC Championship game. It became yet another occasion when lawyers received buckets of money.

Tennis fans are following the U. S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. All Canadians have been eliminated this year. Genie Bouchard had nasty blisters that affected her game. Milos Raonic could not get his first serves into the court, and that is his bread and butter.

For the next month, most of our attention will be focused on Canada’s only Major League baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I do hope you are neither surprised nor disappointed with their current play. I have warned you several times in this column not to expect this year’s edition of the Jays to run away with the pennant. It will be a struggle to the end. Some say that now is the time that the games really count. I advised that the games count just as much in April as they do in September.

For the Jays to be successful, they must get good pitching, both from their starters and their relievers. That is not rocket science; however, along with good pitching efforts there must be run production. Lately, that has been a weakness for the Jays. There are no Blue Jay starters currently batting above the .300 mark. They do have their good power hitters, but run production increases when there are men on base for the sluggers.

The Jays have been fortunate with some of their mid-season acquisitions. Jason Grilli brings good emotion and good pitching to the mound almost every time he gets the call in the bullpen. But some of the starters are becoming suspect, and struggle to finish five innings. Dickey, Stroman, Estrada, Happ, and Sanchez must deliver the goods in order for the Jays to get into the post season.

The Jays will rely heavily on Francisco Liriano, if Brett Cecil continues to falter. Melvin Upton Jr. is beginning to find his stride, finally, after coming over from the Padres.

They will battle the Red Sox, and the Orioles, and possibly the Yankees, who are getting stellar play from their rookies and call-ups. For the month of September, every team is allowed to increase the roster to 40 players from 25. There are many reasons that the game allows this, primarily for the bottom feeders to have a look at their younger players, under the Major League spotlight.

Rest assured, it will go down to the wire!!!

James Hurst

September 5, 2016. 

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