Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Oilers in town to face the Panthers
Last week I had my first chance to see Connor McDavid in action. The Oilers were in Sunrise to play the Florida Panthers. There wa s a distinctive buzz in the arena. Some of it pertained to the exciting young Oilers team. But there is also excitement about the Panthers.
They had just completed that deadly five game road trip to the West Coast. It remains a difficult chore for all sports teams. Even the Raptors never look forward to that trip. The Panthers emerged from the trip with five victories, first time in the history of the franchise.
After picking up my pass, I headed down the hall to the elevator. Three guys were ahead of us, turned, and asked directions to the elevator. At that point, I almost blurted out, “You look quite familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?” But I bit my tongue and said, “Sure, follow me,” when I realized it was Wayne Gretzky. He was with his brother Keith, a former Belleville Bull, and Peter Chiarelli, president and General Manager of the team. Keith Gretzky is listed in the official guide as “Assistant General Manager”.
Both the Panthers and the Oilers have several young, exciting players. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, it is only natural that they might slow down a little at this time. Not on this occasion. It was full tilt all the way. McDavid raced around defencemen to nullify icing charges. He scooted through the neutral zone to set up two on one opportunities.
But the Panthers returned the favour to the Oilers. Huberdeau, Barkov, Trocheck, Ekblad, Marchessault, Matheson....they keep coming off the bench to provide the Panthers with spirited play. James Reimer got the nod to play between the pipes.
Oscar Klefbom opened the scoring for the Oilers in the first period. He was handed the puck on a giveaway at the blueline, and ripped a shot into the net. The period ended with the Oilers leading 1-0.
Alexander Barkov evened the score at the 21 second mark of the second period on a power play goal. The teams traded markers during the period. With just 3.9 seconds remaining in the period, Yandle hit Marchessault with a long pass, and the game was tied 3-3. Plenty of fireworks from both teams.
With almost 8 minutes gone in the third period, McDavid raced from his own end with the puck, dropped a pass to his linemate Leon Draisaitl. Leon shuffled the puck to Kris Russell who hit the twine for the winning goal, his first of the season.
The Panthers had some excellent chances near the end of the game. The puck trickled off Jagr's stick as he stood alone in from of the Oiler net. Moans and groans, but the red light remained unlit.
Attendance for the game was listed at 15, 300. There were some empty seats, some of them going for twenty bucks apiece. Not quite the case at the Air Canada Centre, nor the Bell Centre. For those of you heading south for a little sun this spring, it is a perfect opportunity to see the game at its best.
The Panthers need to maintain the momentum they picked up on the West Coast. They added Keith Yandle in the off season from the Rangers. He spent most of his ten years in the NHL with the Coyotes. When asked about the loss, he referred to the preceding games: “We just weren't able to get that one at the end of the game that we needed. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be coming off the road.”
McDavid Family gathering, with Janet and Wayne Gretzky
That is often the case, and can be a coach's nightmare. For the Panthers, that is part of the challenge for the remainder of the season. The Oilers are pretty well assured of a playoff berth. At that point anything can happen.
February 26, 2017.
Moe Berg-Keeping an Eye on Things
When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan, in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included. Although he played with five major-league teams, from 1923 to 1939, he was a very mediocre ball player. But Moe was regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time. In fact, Casey Stengel once said: "That is the strangest man ever to play baseball".When all the baseball stars went to Japan, Moe Berg went with them and many people wondered why he went with "the team"Lou Gehrig and Babe RuthThe answer was simple: Moe Berg was a United States spy, working undercover with the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of today's CIA).Moe spoke 15 languages - including Japanese. And he had two loves: baseball and spying.In Tokyo, garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the daughter of an American diplomat being treated in St. Luke's Hospital - the tallest building in the Japanese capital.He never delivered the flowers. The ball player ascended to the hospital roof and filmed key features: the harbor, military installations, railway yards, etc.Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg's films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo.His father disapproved and never once watched his son play. In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. Moe read at least 10 newspapers every day.He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton having added Spanish,Italian,German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver. During further studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris, and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese,Chinese,Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian - 15 languages in all, plus some regional dialects.While playing baseball for Princeton University, Moe Berg would describe plays in Latin or Sanskrit.Tito's partisansDuring World War II, Moe was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assess the value to the war effort of the two groups of partisans there. He reported back that Marshall Tito's forces were widely supported by the people and Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic's Serbians.The parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge.But there was more to come in that same year. Berg penetrated German-held Norway, met with members of the underground, and located a secret heavy-water plant - part of the Nazis' effort to build an atomic bomb.His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombingraid to destroy that plant.The R.A.F. destroys the Norwegian heavywater plant targeted by Moe Berg.There still remained the question of how far had theNazis progressed in the race to build the first Atomic bomb. If the Nazis were successful, they would win the war. Berg (under the code name "Remus") was sent to Switzerland to hear leading German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Laureate, lecture and determine if the Nazis were close to building an A-bomb. Moe managed to slip past the SS guards at the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student. The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide pill.If the German physicist indicated the Nazis were close to building a weapon, Berg was to shoot him - and then swallow the cyanide pill.
Moe, sitting in the front row, determined that the Germans were nowhere near their goal, so he complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked him back to his hotel.Werner Heisenberg - he blocked the Nazis from acquiring anatomic bomb.Moe Berg's report was distributed to Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and key figures in the team developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt responded: "Give my regards to the catcher.”;Most of Germany's leading physicists had been Jewish and had fled the Nazis mainly to Britain and the United States. After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom - America 's highest honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept it because he couldn't tell people about his exploits.After his death, his sister accepted the Medal. It now hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.Presidential Medal of Freedom: the highest awardgiven to civilians during wartime.Moe Berg's baseball card is the only card on display at the CIA Headquartersin Washington, DC.Now you know.
Thanks to Will Pringle for this.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Bunton: Ivy League Player of the Year.
Bunton: Ivy League Player of the Year
Belleville's Hanna Bunton of Cornell battles a Dartmouth foe during 2016-17 women's Ivy League hockey action. (Cornell Athletics photo)
Belleville's Hanna Bunton is the NCAA Div 1 women's hockey Ivy League Player of the Year.
The former Belleville Athlete of the Year led Cornell to its 13th Ivy League title this season, pacing the Big Red with an overall team-high 26 points on 10 goals and 16 assists. Bunton was second overall in Ivy League scoring with five goals and a dozen points; her two game-winning goals and three power-play tallies tied for top spot.
Bunton, a senior at Cornell (Ithaca, NY) was also named to the Ivy League First All-Star Team. She achieved a plus-5 rating in 31 games overall and ranks in the top-25 in the ECAC for points (17th), assists (17th) and goals (24th); her team-leading five power-play goals and four game-winners rank in the top-five in the ECAC.
Last season, in her junior year at Cornell, Bunton was named an Ivy League Second Team All-Star. She was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2013-14 and earned selection to the ECAC All-Rookie Team.
The St. Theresa Secondary School graduate and former Belleville Bearcats girls minor hockey standout has accumulated career totals of 37 goals and 50 assists for 86 points in 122 games with the Big Red — including 12 game-winners, 10 on the power play and two shorthanded.
Cornell captured the six-team Ivy League title this season with an undefeated 7-0-3 record to finish five points ahead of runner-up Princeton (5-3-2). Overall, the Big Red were 19-7-5 in 31 games.
• Need to know: Bunton assisted on the O.T. game-winning goal in the 2013 IIHF U18 women's hockey final as Canada beat the arch-rival Americans 2-1 in the gold medal match.
Monday, February 20, 2017
AProud Canadian in South West Florida
Butch Wilhelm with Rod Spittle
Occasionally, I like to focus on a fine athletic achievement. If it so happens that a Canadian is involved, all the better. We have been accused of not being a terribly proud people. That may be true, but certainly not in this case.
For many years, I have followed the golf exploits of Rod Spittle. Rod grew up in the Niagara area, Chippewa to be exact. They have announced that he is from St. Catherines and Niagara Falls. No matter. He was fortunate enough to attend Ohio State on a golf scholarship. Once he graduated, he chose to stay in the United States to sell a little insurance and play a little golf.
Around the time of his fiftieth birthday, he toyed with the idea of trying to make the grade for the PGA Seniors Tour, for those over 50. Despite some initial setbacks, he has achieved success on the tour, finishing well and even winning one event. When he arrived at Naples, Florida this week, he had no guarantee that they would even let him play. He was the “Fifth Alternate” on the list of players who would be allowed to play, if others dropped out.
We ran into Rod, and his caddy Butch Wilhelm, on the practice range on the day before the tournament. One after another, he was cracking drives 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. He mentioned that his wife Ann had traveled with him from their winter home near Dunedin. Apparently, she was back at the hotel packing the bags to head to Dunedin because Rod had not been informed that there was a place for him.
So, on the first day of the tournament, Rod hung around, just in case. Ten minutes before the start, he was informed that he was in the field. “You know, we can't make this up! I was the first alternate last week, same thing, so I was around for three days. And then I got the call.”
He birdied the first hole, and finished four under for the first round. As he prepared for the second round, I chatted with Butch near the range. I mentioned that a friend of mine from Belleville had been in touch with me, and wanted me to ask about Rod's putter grip. It is called a “P2”, and comes from a local golf guy named Steve Auger. Butch pulled the club, and we talked about it. The putter head cover was adorned with Canadian flags.
The "P2 Grip", available from Steve Auger at Black Bear
or at the Loyalist Golf Centre.
“Rod met Steve at the PGA show recently, and loves the grip. Mind you, he did make a slight adjustment to it. He reversed the grip, bottom up.” Rod's wife Ann confirmed that bit of information. He scored rounds of 68, 68, and 69 to finish in a tie for third with Jerry Kelly and Jeff Sluman. He pocketed $ 96 000 for his efforts.
Miguel Angel Jiminez
Fred Couples finished first, 16 under par. Miguel Angel Jiminez from Malaga, Spain was second, at 13 under par. The victory for Couples was his 12th on the PGA Tour Champions, the first since 2014. The win vaulted him to the top of the Schwab Cub Standings, ahead of Bernhard Langer. Spittle also made significant gains in the standings.
Langer won the tournament last year. In fact he has won the tournament three times in the last six years, but never in successive years. That is a word of caution to all players in case he plays next year!
Playing conditions were perfect all week long. The start for the final round was delayed slightly, due to an early morning fog. Most players felt that the course at Twin Eagles was in superb condition. Attendance was up significantly, due, in part, to the presence of John Daly.
Rod and the boys move on to Tucson to play this coming week. He has earned an exemption into that tournament. When asked whether or not he might take a little confidence from his play this week, Rod replied, “Without a doubt. I'm healthy and rested and practiced up and ready to go This is a great way to get started.”
And so, the “gentle giant” from the Niagara area made us all a little proud, this past weekend. The television announcers were really impressed with his game. They referred to it as the “feel good” story of the week.
You can also check Rod's progress at PGA.com, or on the golf channel.
February 20, 2017.
Friday, February 17, 2017
Milt Schmidt, Bruin Legend
Major Mat Joost and Joanna Calder, RCAF ~
Milt Schmidt, the last surviving member of hockey’s famed “Kraut Line” and a former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, died Jan. 4, 2017, in Massachusetts. He was 98, and the oldest living former member of the National Hockey League (NHL).
It was an iconic moment in hockey history.
On Feb.11, 1942, the “Kraut Line” led the Boston Bruins to an 8-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the Boston Garden.
Then, as the crowd cheered and the Boston Garden’s organist played “Auld Lang Syne”, members of the rival Bruins and Habs teams hoisted the three members of the Kraut Line – Milton Conrad “Milt” Schmidt, Woodrow Clarence “Woody” Dumart and Robert Theodore “Bobby” Bauer – onto their shoulders and carried them off the ice.
They were heading to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the war in Europe that summer.
They were heading to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the war in Europe that summer.
The three long-time friends from Hamilton, Ontario, had been dubbed the Kraut Line when they joined the National Hockey League because of their German heritage.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget what happened,” said Schmidt in an interview before he died. “The players on both teams lifted the three of us on their shoulders and carried us off the ice and the crowd gave us an ovation. A man couldn’t ever forget a thing like that.”
On July 23, Schmidt was posted to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. Three months later he and Woody Dumart were posted overseas to No. 6 Group (Royal Canadian Air Force), which was part of Bomber Command.
Even overseas, though, they couldn’t leave hockey behind. Both played in the 12-team RCAF League – although as opponents. Dumart’s RCAF Station Linton-on-Ouse team won the championship against Schmidt’s RCAF Station Middleton St. George team.
Schmidt was commissioned on Aug. 17, 1943, and held the rank of Pilot Officer. At this time, he was the Middleton St. George sports officer. Physical fitness was an important aspect of life on any station and as sports officer he oversaw many activities, including basketball, soccer and softball, recreational swimming at Thornaby Baths, as well as intra-unit sports. He was also involved in the station hockey team, which played one game in November 1943 and four games in December at the Durham ice rink.
In the 1943-44 RCAF Overseas hockey season, Pilot Officer Schmidt was on the same team as Bobby Bauer, who had arrived in the United Kingdom that summer. This time, Schmidt’s team beat Dumart’s. This was a special time for Pilot Officer Schmidt as he was promoted to the rank of flying officer on Feb. 17, 1944, and his team won the league championship on March 9.
After the war came to an end, he was posted to No. 1 Repatriation Centre on Sept. 27, 1945, for return to Canada. He was released on Oct. 31, 1945.
Schmidt played with the Bruins for his entire career until he retired in 1955 at the age of 36. During that time, he played in 776 games.
Before going to war, he led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup victories in 1939 and 1941.
Following his return to hockey for the 1945-46 season, he went on to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1951. After he retired he coached the team to the Stanley Cup finals in 1957 and 1958.
In 1966 he became assistant general manager and the following year was promoted to general manager. During his tenure in 1970 and 1972, the Bruins took home the Stanley Cup. He moved up to an executive position but then, in 1974, he became the first general manager of the Washington Capitals.
Schmidt remained involved with the Bruins through their alumni team and their “Boards and Blades Club”.
The day following his death, the Bruins honoured Schmidt’s memory before a game against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Yesterday, our Bruins family lost a man we have all come to know as the ultimate Bruin,” the announcer said. “Milton Conrad Schmidt arrived here [at the Boston Garden] in 1936 and, in many ways, he never left… Milt Schmidt embodied everything we know about being a Boston Bruin and no one was prouder to represent the organization, as he had for more than 80 years.”
“Uncle Milty”, as some called him, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 and his No. 15 jersey was retired in 1980.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Mav in Binghampton with the Slap Shot Crew.
Mavety remembers as Slap Shot turns 40
Shown in this publicity shot as a member of the minor-pro Denver Spurs (1968-71), former longtime Belleville Bulls GM-coach Larry Mavety appeared in the 1977 hockey movie Slap Shot while playing in Binghamton. The film celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. (Getty Images)
Yes, the iconic hockey movie turns 40 this month.
"Wow,” says Larry Mavety, speaking via cellphone from his home in Kingston. “That's a long time ago.”
Mavety, the former longtime Belleville Bulls GM-coach, appeared in the Hollywood shinny cult classic filmed mostly in Johnstown, PA, and released in 1977, along with several of his minor-pro teammates then skating in the old North American Hockey League for the Binghamton Dusters.
"Heck, I got more money for five seconds in the movie than I did playing for Binghamton for a whole week,” said Mavety, a rugged defenceman with solid offensive skills. “Then, they fed you on top of that.”
Contrary to a popular local legend, Mavety, now 74, does not appear in the climactic championship game as Clarence (Screaming Buffalo) Swamptown, who terrorizes the hometown Charlestown Chiefs as one of a cast of crazy call-ups by the arch-rival Syracuse Bulldogs.
You actually have to look really hard to find Mavety when, early in the movie, he lugs the puck behind the net and wheels up ice.
He's right. The scene lasts about five seconds.
"Yeah, I remember when I was still in Belleville and the kids would put that movie on the bus all the time and it would drive me up the wall,” said Mavety. “They always wanted to find me in the movie. And they never did.
"I had the big sideburns back then.”
Even with Hollywood mega-star Paul Newman playing the lead role as Chiefs player-coach, Reggie Dunlop, Mavety and his NAHL teammates didn't believe the movie would amount to much.
"At the time, we thought it was a bit of a joke,” said Mavety. “But now. Who would've thought it would turn out like it did? I don't think we ever dreamed that.”
Along with a nice paycheque, Mavety said another bonus from appearing in Slap Shot was the chance to hang out with Newman.
"He was a good guy,” said Mavety. “He talked to everybody.”
Mavety's Binghamton teammate, Rod Bloomfield, was Newman's double for on-ice action scenes. The highscoring forward grew up in Parry Sound playing minor hockey with the great Bobby Orr and was inducted into the town's Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Another real-life Binghamton player, Bill (Goldie) Goldthorpe, was the inspiration for the oft-suspended wildman Ogie Ogilthorpe, portrayed in Slap Shot by NAHL player Ned Dowd, whose sister wrote the script.
Hailing from Thunder Bay where he earned pocket money as a junior by digging graves in his spare time, Goldthorpe sported a gigantic blonde afro and piled up 285 penalty minutes in his rookie NAHL season with the Syracuse Blazers.
Goldthorpe has told reporters he's forgotten how many brawls he'd been involved in — on and off the ice. One story suggests that once during his pro playing career he was refused entry into the U.S. and re-entry back into Canada — in the same day.
"He's an interesting person to talk to,” said Mavety. “He doesn't pull any punches. He sent me a T-shirt and on the back it's got printed all the cities where he's been in jail. He wasn't a bad hockey player either, but he had to live up to an image of what people thought he was.”
And that meant he wasn't even allowed to play his own character in Slap Shot.
"No, they wouldn't let him in the movie,” said Mavety. “They didn't know what he'd do.”
Today, Goldthorpe lives in Vancouver and is becoming something of a regular on the public speaking circuit. He'll appear in Kingston Friday to sign autographs at the K-Rock Centre during the OHL game between the hometown Frontenacs and Peterborough Petes being billed as Slap Shot Night.
Mavety is glad his former teammate is now receiving recognition for his behind-the-scenes role, after being shut out of the smashing success of Slap Shot.
"Yeah, now he's getting something out of it,” said Mavety. “I mean, you ask anybody. He's Ogilthorpe. And he never got a nickel for that.”
Mavety, of course, doesn't have a nickel left from the paycheque he received for his brief appearance in Slap Shot. Not even the paystub.
"I used to keep it in my wallet,” he said. “It had Universal Studios, California printed on it. But I don't know what the hell happened to it. I spent the money, but I always kept the paystub in my wallet.
"I guess I didn't pay much attention to it. Now, I wish I had.”
• Need to know: Newman's Reggie Dunlop character was based loosely on former Toronto Maple Leafs coach, John Brophy, who played defence in the old Eastern Hockey League (forerunner of the NAHL) for 18 seasons. Including 10 seasons with more than 200 and one campaign with 325, Brophy never earned less than 100 penalty minutes per season during his nearly 20 years in the league.
Mav was a legendary athlete growing up in Belleville. His father, "Red" Mavety, ran the Maher Shoe Store, and was a fixture in Downtown Belleville. Mav was a superb catcher, playing at the highest level of softball for many years, especially at the Alemite. He is a member of the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame.
Following his hockey career, (check hockeydb.com), he managed and coached for many years.