Tuesday, July 25, 2017


L:ate Summer Scuffle

                        Floyd Mayweather                           Conor McGregor

On August 26th, Floyd Mayweather is scheduled to fight Conor McGregor in Paradise, Nevada. Boxing fans, and those who pay attention to mixed martial arts, cannot wait for the event. It will undoubdtedly be the largest payday for all involved; the fighters, their entourage, the lawyers, the event host, the television people, and yes, the taxman. Apparently, Mayweather already owes the taxman several hundred thousand dollars.

It will also be the most publicized, nost hyped event in, dare I say, American history. And yes, the promoters did slip north of the American border with the fighters to promote the event in Toronto, as part of an eight-city tour. If you happen to see these two, with a smiling Dana White standing behind them, cover your children's ears. There will be a stream of profanities from each of the fighters, all in the name of promotion.

Neither of the two opponents was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. McGregor apprenticed as a plumber before entering the world of mixed martial arts. Mayweather grew up in a difficult world, often surrounded by addicts. Mayweather's father was a prize fighter, and often took his son to the gym.

Floyd Mayweather had a brilliant professional career, never defeated. The sports network, ESPN, ranked Mayweather as the greatest fighter, pound for pound, of the last 25 years. He is similar in stature to McGregor, around 155 pounds, roughly 5' 10”. Sometimes referred to as “Pretty Boy”, Mayweather was once listed by Forbes Magazine as “the highest paid athlete in the world”. Mayweather was born in 1977, and is now 40 years old.

McGregor is 29 years old, and that may prove to be advatageous to the Irishman. He began scrapping in the world of martial arts in 2008, and rose in the ranks to become the reigning lightweight champion. He fights under the arm of the “UFC”, the Ultimate Fighting group headed by Dana White.

This is not the first time that combattants from different worlds have met in the ring. Apparently, boxing rules will be used in this event. But don't be surprised if the rules won't be slightly twisted. Athletes from many sports worlds have sparred in the ring over the years. “The Big Train”, Lionel Conacher, went a few rounds with Jack Dempsey. Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain strapped on the gloves for a few extra bucks. Even baseball's Jose Canseco pulled on the gloves for a few rounds. Even Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister, went a few friendly rounds!
                                                   Justin Trudeau with James Hurst

But this event has the flavour of battling kangaroos, or scuffling clawless bears.

There is one certainty that will result from this match. Someone will demand a rematch. And another to follow, until the public decides that enough is enough.

When they step into the ring in August, each fighter will wear ten ounce gloves. Once done, they will both have a few bruises, and fatter bank accounts. But they won't get a dime from me.

I didn't even watch Michael Phelps and the shark.

James Hurst
July 24, 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


The End of an Era

I spent last Saturday roaming the hills north of Belleville at the Trillium Wood Golf Club. The were in the midst of the 30th Annual Rick Meagher-Medigas Celebrity Golf Tournament, helping raise funds for less fortunate individuals. When the tournament wrapped up, the event had raised more than three million dollars.

The tournament was the brainchild of Rick Meagher and friends. It just so happened that many of them worked at Medigas; however, Rick's family was also very involved at that time. As most of you know, it takes many hands to pull off a successful golf tournament.

On hand this year were many celebrities. To their credit, most of them stayed through the dinner and auction, and added to the fun. From the world of baseball, Kelly Gruber and Al Woods from the Blue Jays. Kelly lives in Texas nowadays, but likes to come to Canada to help out with events. He was on his way to another event in Prince Edward Island. I asked him if he planned to try a little lobster while in PEI. “No”, he replied. “ I plan to try a whole lot of lobster while I'm there!”

I spent the afternoon traveling nine holes on Rob Ray's golf cart, chatting about this and that. I congratulated him on his selection to the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame. Their Induction Ceremony takes place in September, and I do hope Rob will be able to attend. He spends his winters behind a microphone, chatting about Buffalo Sabres hockey. He also owns a restaurant in Buffalo, and often helps out there in the summer. Rob is in great shape, but confessed that he likes to nibble on the product while at work.
                                                      Rob Ray and Darryl Sittler

The ever-present cell phone sat between us on the golf cart. His eight year old son was playing against West Seneca in a ball tournament. Rob got several updates from his wife during the afternoon. He tried to mask his disappointment when he heard that his team was losing, and that his son had struck out. They also have a 13 year-old- daughter.

Rob Ray was a battler in the NHL, to say the least. His name is on everyone's list as one of the toughest guys ever to play the game. But he can also excell when it comes to verbal battles. Part of his foresome was the incomparable Bill Holmes, from Wellington. Right from the first tee, they became sparring partners, adding to the hilarity.

Doug Gilmour, Al Iafrate, Mike Palmateer, Wendell Clark, Stephane Richer, Dale Hawerchuk, Brad Richardson, Andrew Shaw, Derek Smith...to name a few. They all stayed and chatted with friends and fans long after the last ball landed in the 18th hole.

Across the pond, Roger Federer raised the trophy yet again as the reigning Wimbledon singles champion. It was his 8th triumph at the tournament, and his 19th Grand Slam victory. Without question, he is the best male tennis p[layer ever to walk on the courts.

The Blue Jays suffered a humbling loss on Sunday against the lowly Detroit Tigers. They showed some life, winning one of the games in the Motor City. But walking in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning really stung. There are long days ahead for our Jays.

And the RED/BLACKS have yet to taste victory in Ottawa. Again this year, the western teams have dominated. Hope to see you soon for one of their games in Ottawa!

A tip of the old baseball cap to Keith MacDonald. A member of the Belleville McFarlands when they won the World Championship in 1959, Keith has been a community leader for decades in The County. (Please don't mention that I wrote that he is celebrating his 90th birthday!)

James Hurst
July 18, 2017.

Thursday, July 06, 2017


Thornton keeps the fitness call long after hockey

 Gisele Winton Sarvis

COLLINGWOOD - Retired National Hockey League player Scott Thornton has been using his knowledge to build sport for thousands of people in the Georgian Triangle and beyond.
The 46-year-old Thornbury resident is the co-founder of the outdoor CrossFit competition UG Series Beach WOD now in its sixth year.

The July 7 to 9 event is expected to attract at least 1,000 athletes from all over the world plus their supporters to the new location, Millenium Park on Collingwood’s waterfront.
Ironically, it’s not the elite athletes he had in mind when he started the competition and it’s not the pros that keep him inspired.

“Strong athletes are there and represented, but truthfully I get motivated more by our Sunday athletes which are the beginners, the amateurs and our masters,” said Thornton.
“We’ve got a lady in her sixties who is competing. People like that is why I want to do it.
“It’s people who have never joined a gym in their life that have joined in the last two months and are out there having fun competing with their peers. Those are the ones I really get stoked about and really enjoy watching,” he said.

Thornton opened the first CrossFit gym in Collingwood, CrossFit Indestri in 2010. He started his first outdoor event as a motivator for his gym members. It was held in the winter at Scenic Caves with bar bells and kettle bells and logs in the middle of a sleet storm.
“It was exciting and it was outside and we were having fun with fitness,” he said. “We had 100, 110 people. It was a really small group, but it was exciting and fun. I was ecstatic, so then we did a summer event.”

The first UG Series Beach WOD was held in Wasaga Beach in 2012.
“With the beach, we thought let’s do a Navy Seal style event. It was very raw with sand bags, logs to carry, stuff to drag. It was more grunt work rather than skilled fitness.”
Thornton and partner Paul Sproule had a little more than 100 people but everyone found it satisfying.
They had devised divisions from absolute beginner through novice, elite and masters to make it inclusive.

“We made if fun for all which is why the event took off.”

It was held in Wasaga Beach for five years organized by Thornton, Sproule and Jennifer Nichol.
The Wheel WOD for para-athletes was added last year by organizer Chris Stoutenburg and it attracted athletes from as far away as Brazil.

“Adding that to our event was amazing. Those athletes are super inspiring to watch,” said Thornton.
While the Town of Wasaga Beach had always been supportive of the event, organizers were looking to freshen it up and felt a change of location was in order.

“The event itself allows for deep water and now we can do more swimming,” Thornton said.
“We are passionate about the Town of Collingwood and the community. That was a big driver in bringing it over here as well.”

After starting the UG Series, Thornton sold his share of the CrossFit gym to Stoutenburg and expanded UG events to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto for a total of 25 competitions.

Thornton has now scaled back to the single annual Beach WOD as he has other local business interests and projects.

Growing up in London, he played Major Jr. A hockey with the former Belleville Bulls for three years.

He was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1989 and went on to have an 18-year career with the NHL.

From the Leafs, the 6’ 3” winger then played for the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks. He finished his hockey career with the Los Angeles Kings, retiring in 2008.

Scott and his wife Joelle, who is a runner, were looking for a good community to raise their son Nash and daughter Zoe, now 21 and 17 respectively, and they chose Collingwood.

“This area encourages recreation and wellness and it’s a real nice place to raise a family.” Organizing the Beach WOD encourages a healthy lifestyle both for competitors and for spectators, who potentially join a gym, he said.

The event needs 100 to 125 volunteers to do time keeping, data entry, set up and tear down.
Anyone wanting to volunteer should go to the website ugseries.com or email: ugseries@gmail.com.

A wonderful guy, and a fan favourite when he played for the Bulls.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


Holy Smoak!

The All Star Break is just around the corner for Major league Baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays have had a dismal June, and July has been even worse. Players have an opportunity to heal some wounds, relieve aching muscles, and rethink their game during the break.

One of the Jays will not have much chance to relax during the break. That would be Justin Smoak, because he was selected, by the fans, to play first base for the American League All Stars. It is an honour, and well deserved, as he is in the midst of his finest season in baseball.

Smoak began his career in 2010 with the Texas Rangers. The following year he became a Seattle Mariner, and he played for the Mariners until 2015, when he joined the Jays. He was a part-time player for the Jays in his first year, but managed to hit 18 home runs in less than 300 at bats. This indicated that he had a power stroke, and he is a switch-hitter. On July 1st that year, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate!

He will be joined by the rest of the American League All Stars when they take the field in Miami.

Behind the plate, Salvador Perez, the lumbering receiver from the Kansas City Royals. At second base is the diminuitive Jose Altuve, from the Houston Astros. His batting average is currently .327, one of the highest in the league. At shortstop is his teammate Carlos Correa. Outfielder George Springer also plays for the Astros. It is no surprise, considering that they have three all stars on the squad, that the Astros are faring well this year. They currently lead the American League West division by 15 games over the Angels, a lead that they most likely will maintain for the rest of the season.

At third base is Jose Ramirez from the Cleveland Indians. Outfielders are Mike Trout, (currently on the disabled list), and the remarkable Aaron Judge from the Yankees. Judge is a giant, even among some very large baseball players. He stands 6' 7”, and weighs almost 300 pounds. He is a “shoe in” as Rookie of the Year, and may well be selected as the Most Valuable Player. Corey Dickerson of the Rays rounds out the AL All Stars as the Designated Hitter.

Buster Posey from the San Francisco Giants will start his fifth All Star game. The Washington Nationals have three starters who have been selected: Ryan Zimmerman at 1st base, Daniel Murphy at 2nd base, and Bryce Harper in the outfield.

Nolan Arenado has 27 doubles so far this year, and leads the league in that category. He represents the Colorado Rockies, playing 3rd base. The Rockies' Charlie Blackmon leads the NL with 104 hits, and 10 triples, and will play the outfield. The other outfielder is Marcel Ozuna, certainly a favourite as he represents the Marlins. The game will be played on his home field in Miami.

Starting at short stop for the Senior League is Zack Cozart from the Reds.

The Boston Red Sox lead the AL East, and the Jays trail by ten games. They are 5 games behind in the Wild Card chase. Perish those statistics, as it is far too soon to focus on them. Management of all teams will give them some consideration as they plan for the rest of the season. If the Jays front office fails to see much light at the end of the tunnel, you will likely see major changes in the next few weeks. You may have your heart broken.

The Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers all lead their divisions in the National League. But the season is not yet half finished, with more than 80 games to play. No one is turning out the lights, not even here in Canada.

Happy 150th, by the way!!

James Hurst
July 4, 2017

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