Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nadal Shocked - Sent Packing

So, something happened that has never happened before, it was the unthinkable - Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal finally lost on the famed red clay at Roland Garros. The #1 seeded player and the closest thing to a lock for a victory in the 2nd Grand Slam of the season and by far the best Clay court player in the game today was ousted. Nadal fell to the huge underdog #23 ranked Robin Soderling from Sweden. The French Open title was probably already half engraved with Nadal’s name and with good reason, he had never lost, why would we think he would start now?

One almost has to think that Nadal had something wrong as he just didn’t look like the dominant clay player we have seen throughout his career. What this loss does mean in the greater scheme of things as history is concerned is that it opens the door for Roger Federer to finally grab this title and continue his quest for the often just out of reach Grand Slam and get him one step closer to being the greatest or at least the most successful of all time. Novak Djokovic was also upended taking away another foe of Federers that could have been a huge hiccup for Federer.

It is now American Andy Roddick who could be the only one left to make things interesting for Roger Federer, especially if Roddick brings in his wife (the lovely Brooklyn Decker) to watch if they do end up against each other. You would have t be made of stone not to be distracted by this SI Beauty.

Ding Dong LeBron is Gone.

In an unlikely and unforeseen turn of events Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic did a disappearing act. It wan’t Copperfield and the Statue of Liberty, it was LeBron James and the Cavaliers from Cleveland. After going 39-2 at home on the season and being the #1 seed going into the playoffs “ LeBron (King) James just didn’t get enough help from the rest of his teammates to keep up with the red hot Magic and there inside man and 3 point threats.

Orlando was just on fire from 3 point land in the close out game (not to mention wight Howard imposing his will inside) and made 3pt shooting the backbone of their attack through the whole series. When they meet up with the Lakers they will no doubt keep with that same approach and if they are as good as they have been it could be a long series for Kobe and his Lakers. Now LA isn’t shy about jacking up the 3’s either but at first glance they aren't nearly as consistent. Kobe does have a lot more help then Lebron did. If Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom play up to potential they should be able to match the Magic’s offense if not it will be a lengthy series that will probably go 7 long games. Odom if on could be the X factor, if health and execution are there, watch out. It has the potential to be great for the viewers and fans of the NBA but very stressful for the 2 teams involved.

Everyone had it almost a lock that it would be a LeBron-Kobe final and I am sure the NBA wanted it that way for rating purposes. At least this championship game will have 2 superstars pitted against each other, they just won’t be guarding each other. The veteran Kobe against the young “Superman” Dwight Howard.

In any event the NBA Finals should prove to be a very exciting high paced and a showcase of talent and team depth. Who will come out the victor, only time will tell. ENJOY!

Friday, May 29, 2009

NHL Finals

I would like to thank the Detroit Red Wings for disposing with the Blackhawks last night and punching their tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. Had they not won last night the Finals would not have started for over a week. Even to the hard core Canadian fan that is on the verge of being too much time and runs the risk of making it an irrelevant viewing option. I was almost starting to worry that the NHL Draft may come and go before the NHL’s Champion was crowned. July 1st Free Agency may have already started and teams may have lost players that were still playing. Clearly I say this in jest but they may have been cutting it close to draft day had they delayed the beginning of the Cup Finals.

We all know that the NHL is not the USA’s #1 viewing choice. In fact the Scripps Spelling Bee will probable shame the NHL in the ratings department. Had it slipped to next weekend to start it could have been a disaster for the league and the networks. I find that it is sad that despite the poor ratings that the NHL still bends over for NBC and will do just about anything to appease them. When they do show the 1 game a week they do a good job but this isn’t 1988 and the Saturday or Sunday game of the week just doesn’t cut it. If they were actually getting some good revenue from them that would be one thing but I don’t think there is a lot of money pouring in from that deal. If there is any way to get back on ESPN and away from Versus or even share some rights amongst the 3, they may need to seriously look into it. Just take whatever you can get and don’t think that playing hardball is a good strategy

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Look But Don't Touch??

I am not a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan or the biggest Sidney Crosby supporter. Sure, I respect his talent and ability but he just doesn’t captivate me. That being said I found it was a solid move to grab hold of the Wales Trophy after his team moved past the Hurricanes and into the Stanley Cup Finals. The same can’t be said for assistant captain Henrik Zetterberg who avoided the Campbell Trophy like it was the plague. It is similar to thanking God after a big win, like he had a $5 Proline ticket and was rooting for only your team. Not once have I ever heard a player after losing say "We were doing great and poised to win until Jesus made me fumble"

Posing for a picture, but making sure not to touch the trophy I find is just silly. I understand that it is not the ultimate goal but it is not only a stop on the path to the promised land but is a very big deal in its own right. I am sure that there are many a team that would be more then happy to grab hold of it at this point. However you look at it, it is an accomplishment and should be celebrated as such.

Teams have both won and lost after not touching their respective Conference Championship trophies. If you have faith in your team then there should be no reason not to at least acknowledge it. I was hoping that the Red Wings would do the same when they won, that way it will prove that it makes no difference one team will win and one will lose and the game is to be decided on the ice. Henrik Zetterberg foiled that plan, I am sure that had Lidstrom been in the lineup he would have grabbed hold of it. Even with the injuries I like Detroit in the finals and still kind of want to see them go back to back but the fact that Crosby bucked the trend I give him a little more street cred and may have to pull for the Pens to take the Stanley Cup back to Mellon Arena before it gets blown up. This may change how I choose to evaluate this match up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gagne - Not The Pride Of Canada Anymore

Former Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne has signed with the Quebec Capitales of the independent Can-Am League. This is quite a fall from grace for the Canadian pitcher that was at one time the most dominant pitcher in the game. Too bad that the Ottawa Rapidz folded. It would have been great to go to Lynx Stadium for a chance to heckle him behind his back and try and hang out with him and be fake to his face.

Gagne began as a starter while in Los Angeles but was a colossal failure. I remember that he was referred to as a "Piece Of Crap" weekly if not daily on the Jim Rome Show. He was then moved to the pen where he became the Dodgers closer and quickly began dominating the National League, rattling off a record 84 consecutive saves. He was basically untouchable during that stretch. At this point he was praised for turning his career around and becoming a dominant force. If the storey ended there he may have had some play for post career awards, sadly it does not. A series of arm issues and shoulder problems kept cropping up and made him very vulnerable to the opposition. After teams kept wasting big money on this known risk and signing him on the basis of long past good performances they ended up getting what they deserved . Texas, Boston, Milwaukee this means you.

On December 13, 2007, Gagné was listed in the Mitchell Report and has been linked to HGH. So it is now pretty clear on why he was so good during that stretch and why he was so bad early as a starter and then all of a sudden he was "re-discovered" as a dominant closer. I guess that is what happens when you are cheating (allegedly). We will see if his attempted comeback as a starter will work out but he has one huge hill to climb.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Action Off The Ice Too

On a night that could see the Pittsburgh Penguins sweep out the Hurricanes in 4 straight and send them back to the Stanley Cup finals in a probable rematch of last years finals with the Red Wings there are some other very interesting happenings off the ice that are worth mentioning.

In the City of Champions the Oilers have announced that they have solidified their bench by hiring both Pat Quinn as the new head coach with former Rangers coach Tom Renney being named an associate head coach. It was much rumored that Quinn was a front runner for the job, but it is a little surprising that Renney would be hired too as an associate. With all the openings for coaches one may have thought that he may have opted to take a run at a Head coaching gig. Maybe he did and there was no interest but he is a good hockey many and you would have thought that he may have at least been interviewed a few places first. In any event the Oilers have a pretty solid duo to lead the young team going forward and maybe this will help the recruitment of some free agents this off season.

Next up is the Calgary Flames where Darryl Sutter says he’s the best man right now to coach the Calgary Flames but will look at other candidates before making a final decision. It was an interesting decision to go public with comments like this. If he does hire someone other then himself he is already telling them that they are at best his second choice. Sure He may like to get brother Brent to take the job but that is very doubtful to happen with his position within the Devils.

The KHL may not be the safest place or the highest level to play but it just keeps attracting some native Russian talent. Jaromir Jagr went back last season and Alexander Radulov went back home too. Now it looks like Viktor Koslov and Sergei Federov are both planning to apply their craft back home. At the very least it opens up some positions and could possibly weaken the team a bit in Washington and also keeps the door open for other players to follow them and head over. LA Kings Jack Johnson has been linked to have some interest in that for at least a season. Things could be worse it could be more devastating to loose top level veteran talent to this league if it weren’t for the great development and influx of youth from the junior ranks that can more then make up for the loss of some ageing talent at the pro level.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Around The Horn

Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 and was able to take a drink of that delicious victory milk. This was the 3rd time he has won the historic race.
This was a great win for Castroneves, just the fact that he was available to participate after avoiding a possible 6 year jail term for tax evasion only a week or so before and survived a stint on Dancing with the Stars (which he won). Just goes to show that a good team and a fast car can beat the field and the IRS.

Whoever green-lighted the new Fox show Michael Strahan’s "Brothers" must be out on a limb, or should be on a ledge. It will be very interesting to see how this show will go but it has the potential to be a train wreck. Strahan is not your typical actor type, sure it has Darryl "Chill" Mitchell but that can’t be enough to hold this show together I wouldn’t think.
Maybe they should have waited until next year and they could have cast Strahan with Prime Time wannabe actor/dancer and occasional DE Jason Taylor, you know, after he bows out of the NFL after his recent return to Miami.

Michael Vick has been released from jail and since there was no beds in the halfway house he was placed in basically house arrest where he will be monitored.
Now the rumors can begin on if there is a team that will take a chance on him to resume his position in the NFL. We can only presume that he was already asked to assume the position at some point over the last few years in the Big House (and we aren’t talking about the Big House in Michigan).

I was saddened to see that there was soccer on my TV for a brief few seconds. I thought with the Setanta Network that I don’t have access to I could avoid it, guess not. People say that soccer is the most popular game in the world... My response to that is if it is in fact true then they don’t need me to watch it or have any interest in it.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks has been charged with using his truck to hit a police officer.
I can’t see Bill Parcells being too happy with that behavior. Does Starks think he is a Cincinnati Bengal or something, is he wrangling for a trade perhaps? Lets hope that the rest of the ‘Fins can keep it on the straight and narrow.

Jose Canseco looking for an MMA career I guess (but more likley he needs more money). Canseco is set to fight seven-foot-two 330-pound super heavyweight Hong Man Choi of South Korea on the Dream 9 card Tuesday in Japan.
This is one of the reasons that I can’t get behind any MMA or UFC stuff. It is like WWE wrestling without the entertainment or showmanship. Canseco has already boxed Danny Bonaduce, from the Partridge Family to a draw. If that is the best you can do to Danny it may be fun to see versus a 330 pound dude.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

King's Court - Pass It To LeBron

The Cleveland Cavaliers were down to their last second, down in the 4th quarter and in jeopardy of being down 0-2 and faced with going on the road to Orlando in a huge hole but someone forgot to tell the King that. As if it was the plan all along a cool LeBron James took the ball off the inbounds from behind the ark and raised up and dropped a 3 ball right in the face of the Orlando defender. It will surely be played on replay for years and years of NBA promos... it was almost Jordan esque. May have even had a hint of Christian Laettner to it.

If you have seen any of the highlight shows either on TSN or Sportsnet there always seems to be a clip of Lebron, in practice with no shirt on hitting ridiculous shots from half court, behind the backboard or even sitting down. This time all he needed was 1 second to catch and shoot a conventional shot and ti was MONEY! If it were an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air it would have had an announcer over-dubbed “In your Face” Hedo Turkoglu!!

Funny thing is this was just how the game ended, the rest of the game was as entertaining...maybe more as entertaining. After being down 14 after 1 the Magic mounted a comeback over the course of the next 3 quarters and that is what set up the epic ending.

Had that shot not dropped the Cavs would have been in some serious trouble. For a team that was nearly perfect at home this year it would have been beyond devastating to loose 2 games. Guess that MVP trophy that LeBron grabbed is in fact well deserved.

Going down 2 games on home court and faced with that deficit going to Orlando had the potential to de-rail the collision course of the much anticipated and much hoped for Cleveland LA Lakers final. Now things are getting interesting, going to have to keep and eye on the NBA now

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NBA Draft Lottery, Interesting Not Earth Shattering

The NBA held it’s draft lottery before the Lakers-Nuggets game and as with any lottery anything can happen, anyone can win. Just ask the good people at Proline (which is actually barely factual if any are familiar with my history playing Proline and my 1 victory). It was not much of a spectacle as one may have hoped. The Deputy Commissioner has all the razzle dazzle of an accountant so that didn’t help the pageantry at all.

Here is a list of the possibility of the teams in the running to get the number 1 pick and where they will actually pick:

+2 Los Angeles Clippers 17.7% (1)
+4 Memphis Grizzlies 7.5% (2)
+1 Oklahoma City Thunder 11.9% (3)
-3 Sacramento Kings 25% (4)
-3 Washington Wizards 17.8% (5)
-1 Minnesota Timberwolves 7.6% (6)
0 Golden State Warriors 4.3% (7)
0 New York Knicks 2.8% (8)
0 Toronto Raptors 1.7% (9)

There was little movement at the back but there was a little shuffling at the top.
3 teams moved up 3 moved down. The largest gainer was the Memphis Grizzlies (+4) and the Clippers who took over the #1 slot, it is just too bad that there is no clear cut Lebron James caliber player in this draft. This is not good for a clippers team that has such a rep for being a basketball talent wasteland. Last time they had the number 1 pick they took Michael Olowokandi and that worked out real nice.

The Raptors go 9th and hopefully can get a player that can help them soon and not have to get a player to replace a Chris Bosh, should he be on the move a year from now as a free agent.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Ok, here is the rational on why I am allowed to talk about Dancing Wth The Stars and it is for one simple reason and that is the fact that the winner was Shawn Johnson. Shawn is a actually a star despite the majority of the contestants they trot out on the show that are has beens, but more importantly she is a legitimate athlete with a Gold Medal to back it up. Sure, it is true that much like swimming and the 100m that people may only care about it once every 4 years it is tremendous what they can do and the athleticism that she (they) possess.

Granted the Dancing show has far less pressure and a lot less people watching it then say the Olympics but it is still a pretty stressful endeavor, especially for a 17 year old. It is amazing that someone that young has the poise and maturity to engage in such a demanding program. Now granted there were a few routines that I had to cringe at just for the fact that the dude she was dancing with was clearly older and that made it a little sketchy, some of the stuff just looked wrong and inappropriate, you know kinda nonce like....but on the whole it was entertaining it wasn’t bad

I was a fan of Shawn during the Olympics and was rooting for her to do well, she just had the look of enthusiasms and always a big smile no matter the situation. Her “stage presence” in the gym equaled that of her presence on the ballroom floor. Unlike Jason Taylor who had no place to be on the show in the first place and should have been in minicamp so not to have stolen $8mil from the Redskins, and running himself off the Dolphins. With this performance Shawn can show up in the gym with pride where as Taylor should be ashamed to show up in Miami again.

I am sure that it won’t be log until we see Shawn pop up on TV in some capacity or another. She just seems to command the camera and plays well to it in whatever role that she is in.

Congratulations on your well deserved victory Shawn and we look forward to seeing you more in the future. And this completes the Dancing with the Stars update and rest assured that it will be back to the real original reality TV and that is sports here at!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Layn’ The Smack Down

The WWE and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets have a bit of a problem. Both are slated to be in Denver next Monday. The Nuggets are to host the LA Lakers in the Conference finals while the WWE has booked the arena for their show Monday Night Raw. There does not seem to a clear direction on how this is going to end but you get the feeling that it should end with a steel cage match rather then any litigation or legal involvement.

Any PR for the WWE is good PR and this is all good for them. There have been many statements put forth by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon that have called out Stan Kroenke (owner of the Nuggets and the Pepsi Centre). The WWE who reserved the Pepsi Center on Aug. 15 and had already sold more than 10,000 tickets for its the Monday Night Raw event. It would appear that Yanni has more power then the WWE as the NHL bowed to him whereas the NBA has said that the playoff date is not movable and for the Nuggets to figure it out themselves, but basketball was going to be played in Denver that night.

So far McMahon has stated "Quite frankly, it's my view that Stan Kroenke should be arrested, should be arrested for impersonating a good businessman, because he's not a good businessman," McMahon said on ESPN. "A good businessman doesn't book a World Wrestling Federation live televised event on Monday night realizing that his team in all likelihood would not make the playoffs." and McMahon blamed Kroenke for not believing his team was good enough to still be playing in mid-May.
"The fans in Denver had a lot more faith in making the playoffs than the owner." Ironically it sounds just like an interview you would see on RAW.

Rest assured they will come to a resolution and the WWE will come out ahead in the public opinion poll and will no doubt be well compensated. Worse case scenario McMahon said he needs to fulfill his obligation to the USA network and put on a card...even if it means putting on a show in a parking lot. (And don’t think for a second that he would do it and it would probably be a success.

Here is a great Idea for a match - a Battle Royal between the Nuggets Cheerleaders and the WWE Divas....then everyone is a winner.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday Bloody Sunday

At least it was for the Blackhawks Adam Burish who took a teammates skate in the neck. He was very lucky that it was just a glancing blow and was just a flesh wound and he was able to stay in the game. It could have been a very bad situation as we have seen with Richard Zednik not that long ago.

Beyond that it was a very busy Sunday with a little something for just about any sports fan.
~There was the Game 1 in the NHL Playoffs between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks.The Wings managed to outwork the Hawks and take Game 1 at home.

~Then there was The game seven in the NBA between the LA Lakers and the Houston Rockets. This was a series that became a lot closer then most thought it would be. With a depleted Houston team missing 2 of its stars they managed to give the Lakers a scare. This was essentially a series of home court advantages. It seemed that the visiting team could never get going and the home team just played with a swagger. It is crazy that the home court in the NBA seems to carry so much more weight then in any other sport. LA had home court advantage and rolled to an easy win. Now they have to turn their focus to the Denver Nuggets. Hmmm, Kobe in Colorado again this could go bad but the potential for jokes may prove to be epic!

~Want more hockey? Then there was the Memorial Cup with Rimouski playing Windsor. In what figured to be a game that Windsor should have the advantage in turned out to not be that way. The home crowd may have been an extra player for Rimouski and they played with a lot of emotion and managed to knock off the OHL champs 5-4. The loss could prove to be an exit ticket for the Spitfires and sets Rimouski up to go further then you would have thought after game 1 versus Kelowna. In a crazy finish with the Windsor goaltender out the Oceanic managed to hold off the furious attack until the clock struck 0:00.

~ Again a game 7 in the NBA. This was the defending champion Boston Celtics in tough versus the Orlando Magic. The Garnett-less Celtics couldn’t keep up with the 3 point shooting of the Magic and wound up falling to the younger team from Orlando. The game was never that close and the end result was never really in doubt as the “Truth” Paul Pierce just didn’t have it on this day and Dwight Howard and crew rolled for the right to face LeBron James in the Conference Finals.

~Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal to end his 33-match winning streak on clay 6-4, 6-4. This is either a great sign going into the French Open that Federer may actually be able to upset Nadal in Paris. Either that or he has just opened Nadal’s eyes and have re-focused him and only make him stronger and more dangerous.

~ Usain Bolt, the worlds fastest man, ran the world's fastest 150 metres to win a soggy street sprint in England. He won the race 14.35 seconds, breaking Canadian Donovan Bailey's 12-year-old world best of 14.99 in the rarelyy run150 m. This was also his first race since being sidelined after a car crash that required him to have foot surgery.

And this doesn’t include any of the baseball games or touch on any of the events of Saturday which saw the less then impressive return to the pool by Olympic hero Michael Phelps after his suspension and questionable behaviour of late and Rachel Alexandra becoming the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924,doing so with the Kentucky Derby winner and feisty Mine That Bird nipping at her heels in the final stretch. If she does run in the Belmont she may be considered one of the greatest of all time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No Playoffs...No Problem.

After the first 2 days of the Memorial Cup in Rimouski you shouldn’t be. These young men have more then done their part to give viewers ample reason to tune in to Sportsnet.

The Friday game with host Rimouski vs the WHL Champs Kelowna was a very fun game to watch. Sure the 4-0 final may make it sound 1 sided (which it was) but also it was high paced and entertaining up and down hockey. As for yesterdays game with Drummondville and Windsor it was one great Junior game. For two teams that have some of the most offense in all of junior hockey it was low scoring game and ended up being decided 3-2 in overtime. For a good portion of the game it looked like first goal would win. This too was a great high paced game with a ton of great scoring opportunities, but it was the goaltending that kept this thing tight. Windsor was probably the favorite going into the tournament but now find themselves in a bit of a hole.
Kelowna looks very strong and World Jr. standout Tyler Meyers looked like a monster on the back end. Rimouski looked over matched and will need a lot of help versus the other 2 teams. Drummondville and Windsor looked evenly matched and both have the potential to get even better as the tournament goes on.

If you really need the pro game and are going into withdraw due to the 3 days of no playoff hockey, don’t worry, the puck drops today when the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Detroit Red Wings. This Original Six match up should be a display of great skill, speed and hard hitting...what more could a fan want?
Prediction: Detroit in 6

As for Mondays Eastern Finals with the Penguins and the Hurricanes It should prove to be a tight match up. Hard hitting and aggressive. I doubt that it will take long for there to be some bad blood and some blood spilled for that matter. The battle of the brothers Staal should be fun, Seeing what Crosby and Malkin can do will be interesting but it may come down to a battle of the goaltender between Marc-Andre Fleury, and former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward. If one of them get hot it could push their respective team into the Cup Finals.
Prediction: Penguins in 7

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shots From The Point

Mats Sundin says he has no regrets over his decision to play for the Vancouver Canucks and has yet to decide if he wants to return next year to play or not. He said that it wouldn’t be a money issue if he were to return to play.
Just like last year that money wasn’t an issue and then signed for a pro-rated $8+ million. He better make up his mind in a more timely fashion this year. It took a long time just to get close to game pace and game shape let alone be a serviceable player. Between him and Brett Favre, retirement questions have just become insufferable.

Greg Paulus is returning home to give football one final shot. Paulus will battle for QB job at Syracuse for the Orange. The former point guard for Duke is a former 2 sport star in High School.
Paulus is jeopardising advancing his career as an NFL QB by going to the ‘Cuse and not Michigan, where he was rumoured to go. Everyone knows that the Michigan pedigree for QB’s is legend....wait for it....ary!!!

MLB’s replay policy has taken down the first 2 home runs following a review. Adam LaRoche and Ross Gload both had home runs taken off the board.
"If I could have bet the day this started, I would have put a lot of money on myself to be the first," LaRoche said after the game.
I am all for getting the call right for Home Runs and have no problem with the replay system. I just don’t want to see them on ball/strikes or base calls for the same reason that the steroid issue matters more in baseball then football. It becomes a matter of purity, numbers and history. It is the human element that helps make the game great.

Former Dancing with the Stars contestant and one time decent football player has fox-trotted his way back to the Miami Dolphins. Jason Taylor is set to rejoin the Dolphins for 1 year, at $1.5 million, far less then his past salaries.
I guess Parcells believes that Taylor may actually want to play football again and not go Hollywood just yet and has brought him back to Miami. At his well reduced rate if he is a bust it will be easy to throw him back into the sea.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 Memorial Cup

The CHL’s Memorial Cup is set to begin on Friday. First things first, I am one that believes it should be the Memorial Cup...not the Mem Cup. That name is meant to honour and I don’t like when people use the short form, seems a little disrespectful.
Many sports shows like to use the short version, I don’t thinks it sounds right and find it in poor taste. Just a personal opinion.

The Windsor Spitfires, Rimouski Oceanic, Kelowna Rockets, and Drummondville Voltigeurs are the 4 representatives. The action kicks off with the host Rimouski vs. Kelowna on Friday night. All game should be on Sportsnet and should all be shown in HD. For those who like (or love) the World Junior’s this is another short tournament where every game is as important as the one that follows it, maybe more as important. A first game loss can put you in a huge hole that can be very difficult to get out of. It is that kind of pressure game that makes this such a fun tournament to watch.

It is very helpful too for the more casual observer that there are actually some names that people will recognise. Not a lot of people follow Jr. Hockey too closely to know the players. If you watched the World Jr’s or have an eye on some of the scouting for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft to see who your team may be in the running to draft come June you will surely see some familiar names. That just makes it a little easier to get into.

Granted it is in tough for ratings and exposure since it is going up against the NHL Playoffs that are actually proving to be close and very competitive due to the "parody" that currently exists due to the Salary Cap. If you do get a chance to watch some of these games I suggest you do so, it is a high paced game at that level and usually will have a good amount of offence.
What more could a fan ask for?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Doctor Is In... He’ll Cure What Ails You.

Last night Roy Halladay faced off versus former teammate and friend AJ Burnett. Lets be clear on this...this was Doc vs AJ not the Yankees vs the Jays and Halladay prevailed in showing his former young protege that he was still the master.
In his first 2 years in Toronto all that you would hear on the talk shows was how bad a signing it was to acquire him for such a large amount of money. In his 3rd year (where he had an opt-out clause) he blossomed into a good pitcher and one that could potentially cash in if he so chose...and that he did just that in New York.
Last night marked the first time facing his old team and the first time that he would be pitching back at the Roger’s Center.

I figured that before the game that with it being a Tuesday night game that the crowd would be good but I was shocked to see that the place was packed with over 43,000 in attendance and as loud as it used to be back in the days when they were winning World Series. Former catcher Daren Fletcher said that he had not seen the building with as much enthusiasm ever and he had been with or around the team since 1998. For a divisional game in mid May it was something to be seen, it was as close to a playoff atmosphere as the team has seen in well over a decade. By all accounts the people got their moneys worth. Jays win, Doc get a complete game win, AJ and the Yankees lose and Aaron Hill continued his hitting assault with 2 hits including a home run off Burnett. The game length was a mere 2h:22min, typical of an efficient start by Halladay. He is probably the best pitcher in baseball and is now 7-1, perhaps even on his way to another Cy Young.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Goodbye Holly

The AVP is losing one of the true greats in the sport and one that was a pioneer in helping grow beach volleyball in the US. Olympic medalist and 72 time beach champion Holly McPeak has decided to hang up her bikini for good as she has announced her retirement effective immediately. It was believed that she was going to retire after last year but decided to take another run in 2009, but a few tournaments in and a few 9th place finishes was enough for her to decide to retire. McPeak who is married to former AVP commissioner Leonard Armato, he also recently stepped down from his post.

Holly was one of the first players that I became a fan watching. Well watching as best as one can when you get little to no TV coverage in Canada except for during the Olympics or on Country Canada (a sister station to CBC) at 2:00am.
McPeak won the Bronze with Elaine Youngs at the Athens Olympics.
A true pioneer of the game Holly was the first woman’s players to reach the $1 million mark for career earnings (she currently ranks 3rd behind Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh).
McPeak has done some announcing work with the AVP on NBC in the past and has done a good job. With her vast knowledge of the sport she is a natural and hopefully she will do more TV work. McPeak was a standout at UCLA and then played her way to being a great champion and a great ambassador. I was lucky enough to get an autographed and personalized promo piece from Wilson of her. She is A-OK in my books for sure!

I am sure that whatever she decides to do going forward that she will be as successful as she has been on the court.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Around The Horn

President Obama welcomed the National Champion North Carolina Tar Heals basketball team to the White House. Earlier in the year Obama scrimmaged with the players during a campaign visit to Chapel Hill and then went on to pick them to win it all in his bracket. Obama stated “I’m not sure whose luck rubbed off on who.” and thanked them “for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation.” Obama is known to play a little round ball and is apparently pretty good at it. Even though he is from Chicago he clearly has some fondness for the Tar Heals. I wonder who was more excited about the visit, Roy Williams and his team or the President himself?

A message to Kenyon Martin, apparently “yo momma” isn’t safe from the trash talk any more then you are. Mark Cuban’s latest outburst had a verbal altercation with Kenyon Martin’s mom. Apparently a fan yelled out that the Denver Nuggets were “thugs” and that he told her “That includes your son.” Another version of the story as presented by Martin’s agents stated that Cuban said to Martin’s mom “Your son is a punk,” and he claimed that that comment was unprovoked. There are always 3 sides to every story...his version, her version and the truth. Whichever one you choose to believe it is still funny.

Maria Sharapova plans to be back on tour next week. She had been sidelined by shoulder surgery but plans to play her first competitive tournament in nearly 10 months on the clay-court tournament in Warsaw, Poland.
Finally I can start paying some attention to woman’s tennis again.

Vikings president says team still assessing Favre situation. How is this issue even in the news?
Only 2 question...why is this still news and should we even care? The on-again-off-again saga on Brett Favre will wind up doing him more harm then good. His legacy won’t be hurt on the merits of what he does or doesn’t do on the field through production or jumping from 1 team to another...players more and that is the way the NFL is set up. It is the Soap Opera that is so mind numbing and aggravating to fans and surely has to be hurting him in the court of public opinion. Stay, Go whatever but just end it once and for all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Canada and Russia renewed acquaintances yet again in the finals of the World Championships. This game may not have the same pressure as those versus the Soviet union but whenever you are playing under your flag and for your country there is a huge level of pride that goes into it. Unfortunately for Canada they came up on the short end in this game. In a match that they had both control of the play and the majority of the chances, Canada ran into a hot goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov who made 37 saves en rout to a 2-1 victory. Canada sent a very young team and used it almost like an in game audition for the summer selection camp and to help the young stars of tomorrow gather some great experience in international play. Player that were targeted as being potential core pieces going forward were Drew Doughty, Steve Stamkos and Luke Schenn. Yet another great plan by Hockey Canada, go for a gold but not at the expense of program development. Second place may be the first loser but Canada has to look at this as just one battle on the way to winning the war (sorry i hate to compare sports to war but they have yet to come up with the equivalent statement), Maybe the team can use this a some added motivation on the way to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. This game also had up for grabs the world #1 ranking and Russia gets to take those bragging rights with them.

In related Hockey Canada news they have been awarded the rights to 7 more International Tournaments: Four World Junior Championships and three World Women's Championships. Canada will host next year's World Junior Championships in Regina and Saskatoon and the 2012 event in Calgary and Edmonton. It will also host the events in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021. The woman’s events are slated for 2013, 2016 and 2020. We know that it is a money issue and that Canada will be the most profitable as the gate revenue is probably going to exceed any other location. They just have to be careful to not over do it and reach that point of over saturation and making it less of a premier event. If it is always in Canada every year the prestige is bound to drop. You have to keep it moving a bit to keep the interest in the rest of the world and keep growing the game. The World Juniors are very important to Canada, The World Championships are important to the rest of the World and for the Women they just need it to grow in countries other then Canada and the USA to get some more competitive balance and create some new rivalries and passion. Canada-USA can only play so many times, you know each other too well and the passion is bound to drop with so much is like playing your own team in practice. Sure the games are fun but you are bound to lack passion over time, it becomes less of a game and more of a chore.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Quick Hits

The Capitals and the Penguins have to play back to back nights in 2 different cities due to a scheduling conflict in Pittsburgh. “Pop singer” Yanni was scheduled in Pittsburgh Tuesday night forcing the quick turn around Friday and Saturday. I thought that the league had rules about booking events in NHL cities during the playoffs just for this reason. Guess not. Yanni didn't express apologies or regrets. He did comment and use his experience "as a former national champion swimmer" for native country Greece.In a statement put out by the musical he stated "I empathize with the athletes competing in the NHL playoffs and understand the pressures under which they perform." If you can’t trust the word of a champion swimmer who can you trust. Maybe if it was Michael Phelps and not Yanni it may have been ok...Shop American.

Canada is going to face Russia for the gold medal at the World Hockey Championships Sunday at 2pm.This is just another chapter in the most storied rivalries in hockey. It may not have the same meaning as it did back in the day during the cold war era but both teams possess a lot of skill and even if there isn’t the true hate there was in the past (as most of these players play with one another) the history and pride in country is still there for both sides.
Kobe Bryant has lead his team to a 2-1 series lead versus the Houston Rockets. In the much publicised match up between Kobe and Ron Artest, Bryant seems to have the advantage and Artest is beginning to get frustrated and discipline is starting to become a factor. If the Rockets want to have a chance Ron-Ron is going to have to start playing with his head or the Black Mamba I speak of Kobe....not Uma Thurman from Kill Bill) is just going inject the venom and finish off the Rockets.

Quote of the Week: "He makes his own decisions and he's making a decision that this is the way he wants to get into the National Hockey League. We don't usually like to pick fights, but we end them." NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on the proposal from Jim Balsillie of the Pheonix Coyotes.

Friday, May 08, 2009

NBA - Inked Up

Watching the NBA Playoffs I feel like I am watching an infomercial for tattoos. or one of those TV shows on TLC, LA Ink or Miami Ink. There is more ink in the NBA then in a Stephen King novel. Even Mike Tyson’s face thinks there are a lot of tattoos... HervĂ© Villechaize(aka Tattoo) believes it also. When you see more ink then skin on a high percentage of the players, it more then stands out and is hard to miss.

Tattoo are a personal thing, I get that. It is a way for people to express themselves and their personality, but strictly at first glance from a casual observer it can very easily come across as being a little thuggish.

One has to look no further then Denver’s Chris "Birdman" Anderson. This guy has had a checkered past and very publicized issues with substance abuse that got him expelled from the NBA for a time but man he has a lot of art. Almost every player you see on the court now is tatt’d up. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are no exception both have their fair share to be sure. Perhaps it stems from the grass roots level, urban living, a sort of streetball mentality, Granted, many of these players use it as a form of respect or in memory or honour of loved ones but at a very quick and superficial glance, it does look like an urban video rather then a major multi million dollar sport.

The majority of thsese players are probably great guys but the image that it projects may not connect with all fans. If one were to take that position, I suppose that one must play devils advocate and say that their target market are young urban youth, typical urban males and that it fits in perfectly with the marketability of the product both in viewership and in merchandising. Just goes to show that you can’t please everyone.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


When they say that it is Just Manny Being Manny I don’t think this is what they had in mind.

In shocking news LA Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez has been suspended immediately for 50 games after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. Up until this point there was never a finger pointed toward Manny and his name was never in the forefront. Who would have thought that Manny would get suspended while ARod has not, despite much publicised reports of past use. Of all the players that could suffer the wrath of the performance-enhancing crackdown one would think that Manny and Albert Pujols would be the 2 biggest and most unlikely to become linked. There has not been much attention given to either of these two but at least in Manny’s case there is.

In the Steroid era I guess nothing should be surprising but I find this, for lack of a better term a little shocking just because Manny is such a pure hitter. I stress hitter, not power hitter. He has one of the best eyes in all of baseball, the most patients at the plate and probably the smoothest right handed swing of all time. Of all the superstars who may or may not be using one would have thought that Manny wouldn’t need it. I mean if he doesn’t have the same power numbers he is still going to be a dominant hitter. Why take the risk of killing your reputation. You are not going to make more money then you are already making. How big must your ego be to jeopardize your career and place as one of the games all time bests? Is it due to injury or rehab, perhaps but how could we ever know for sure.

You can be sure that Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox are glad to have Jason Bay in left and not Man-Ram. I don’t think he will be getting too much support in this matter from Beantown that’s for sure.

This only goes to prove that no one can be above suspicion and that the drug cloud is still looming over baseball.

I feel bad for those who actually do it right and do it clean...but I guess how do we know if there are any in the game that are, how can we not paint everyone with the same brush?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Kitchener Coyotes??

Undeserved market... this is what you are going to hear from Jim Balsillie now and into the future. The future that I speak of involves the Phoenix Coyotes and the news that they have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. We all knew for some time that things were bad in the desert but I don’t think many knew that it was just this bad.

The RIM (Research in Motion) CEO made his intentions known in a media release on Tuesday stating that a $212.5 million (US) offer was on the table to purchase the team. One of the condition was that the team would relocate to an unspecified region in Southern Ontario.

I am all for this move. Take a team from a struggling US market and place them back in Canada in, as we we have heard before, an undeserved market. If it is true that there were talks about a possible second team in Toronto then a team in Southern Ontario isn’t far fetched. Only question is, just because it may be a viable and a good market and the NHLPA would probably be in favor of it, will Gary Bettman want to allow Jim Balsillie into the league. It almost seems that there is a personal vendetta from Bettman and it may be getting in the way of business.

The NHL and the Board of Governors will have some things to say about this for sure and this is sure to be an interesting story not only on sports talk shows but also for the court reporters. Even if Balsillie gets the team, which is not a sure thing, be assured that the NHL is going to throw up some bumps saying that any team movement needs league approval and no doubt use the NHL shield as a battery ram to flex it’s muscle. The potential for a lengthy battle is very probable. This will be very interesting to follow and see what direction this takes. I will be sure to keep an eye on this going forward.

I have also yet to announce the selection of a new favorite team from the west...I had it down to the Blues and the Kings...does a team in the Golden Horseshoe make a re-emergence on the list? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

More Then Just A Playoff Series

The Washington Capitals versus Pittsburgh Penguins second round playoff series has all the makings of being a classic. If not just for the two teams involved that are matched up fairly evenly but each possess some of the best raw offensive players in the game. This was more then proven yesterday when the Caps beat out the Pens is an epic battle where Alexander Ovetchkin managed to score a hat trick and Pens captain Sydney Crosby equalled that feat. Crosby was probably excited, Ovetchkin is always excited and you have to figure the Gary Bettman was more excited then the two combined.

In the US and A hockey is still trying to get any little bit of market share that it can and having the 2 most notable players facing off together and both bringing their “A” game can’t help but make a difference. Even the guys on PTI (an ESPN show shown in Canada on TSN) hit on it. Maybe this will help ESPN in taking another flier on the NHL and actually get it out to the public where people can actually see it.

The longer this series goes the better the league will be for it. This is the one series that doesn’t just have a regional appeal it is much bigger then that. There is more at stake then just 1 team advancing another round in the quest for a championship.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Around The Horn

Carl Crawford became only the 4th player in the modern era to steal 6 bases in one game tying him with Eddie Collins, Otis Nixon, and Eric Young. He stated after the game had he known that he had tied a record that he probably would have stolen 1 more. "I probably would have broken it if I knew. I’d have definitely tried," he added. "I didn’t even try. I don’t know if that will ever happen again." Crawford said.
Kind of surprised that Ricky Henderson’s name isn’t’ on this list. You would have to be in the zone to nab 6 in one game and Crawford dis also go 4-4 as well. I do have a theory on how Otis Nixon got his 6...the pitcher was probably reluctant to check over on him as he is far form the most attractive ballplayer. A great talent for sure but a mug that could stop a train.

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Miami Heat in Game 7 to win their first round NBA playoff series.
For the first time I can actually wear my Hawks sweatshirt and not feel ashamed. Sure I only got it because it was on sale but even still it just never felt right.
The fight of the year between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton ended in the destruction of Hatton. The entire took less than six minutes of actual action.
This is why I find it hard to be a boxing or MMA fan the fight could be an hour or a mere 30 seconds. If you are going to have to pay $50+ for these Pay Per View Events and only have a 6 minute main event you can’t help but feel cheated. Fights on the playground last longer then some of these matches.

The Carolina Hurricanes handed Boston its first playoff loss pretty much because of goalie Cam Ward.
This kid stood on his head and it was as if he were channeling Patrick Roy from the 1993 playoffs. Sure Eric Staal played an exceptional game but it was Ward who looked like an all world player...I think somebody is looking for a chance to play at the Olympics next year

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal captured his record fourth Rome Masters title - on clay.
With the French Open only 3 weeks away It is hard to imagine that anyone will be able to beat him in 3 times in any 1 match, heck he might not lose 3 sets in the entire tournament. Looks like Roger Federer may have to wait a little longer to try and catch up to Pete Samparas’ record This guy is just on another level and it seems like only injury will slow him down right now

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Mine That Bird - Your Upset Special

The 135th running of the Kentucky Derby took place Saturday in Louisville Kentucky, the first leg of the Tripple Crown. The other 2 races are made up by the Preakness and Belmont.

Horse racing is a known as a very civilized sport and is known as the the sport of Kings. Now I do know a thing or two about that (Ryan, meaning Little King in Gaelic) but even with my royal ties just can’t get behind this sport. I suppose that it i just like a track and field race that captivate us every Olympics but there is something about it that just doesn’t make it that attractive.

The favorite going in was a horse named I Want Revenge. This horse may be looking for some of that revenge in the next race as it was scratched from the race after handlers discovered an issue with its ankle. With this horse out of the race it opened the door for some other horses to become a “hero”. Little did anyone know that it was going to be a near impossible winner that came into the race as a 50-1 shot and with a long storey that you have to figure someone will want to make a movie out of. Granted it will be a crappy movie but Hollywood has shown that they arn’t above that.

The track was very sloppy and wet, perhaps that played a role in the race, perhaps not. One can only presume that his Mother was a Mudder...and more then likely his Father was a Mudder!

Mine That Bird with Bennie Woolley Jr. started this improbable journey to come 21 hours and 1,700 miles away in New Mexico. The former bareback rider-turned-trainer hooked up a horse van to the back of a pickup in New Mexico, and headed to Churchill Downs. Jockey Calvin Borel, a former Derby winner, was given the task to ride Mine That Bird. This story even has a Canadian connection to it as the won four of five starts at Woodbine in Toronto and was Canada's 2-year-old champion. I am not sure but I believe that this hose was sold for a mere $9,500. If this is accurate it is a steal of monumental proportions because the value will skyrocket after this major upset victory.

Oh yeah and the chance of some people winning some money was there.... a $2 bet would have pulled in $101.20

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Entry Drafts Can Be A Crapshoot

I am a fan for the most part of Rookie or Entry drafts in most sports. The NHL is fun because there are players that we know from either the round the clock hockey coverage in Canada or because we have seen them play at the World Junior Championships. The NBA was more fun in the 90’s and early 2000’s when you actually knew the first 10-15 picks because of March Madness and all the hype around the Lottery. The NFL is the machine in every way from the games to the way it is cover to the fans. It is the total package. Their draft is no different. It was held last weekend and came out ahead of both the NHL Playoffs and the NBA playoffs...It was easily the most anticipated “sporting event” of the weekend. It was shortened up this year...thankfully but still had major coverage and a huge viewership.

This is not the case when it comes to the CFL. The players are not recognisable, the coverage isn’t very compelling and the level of players that are going to potentially make any of the teams aren’t overly impressive. You aren’t going to get too many standouts from the Ottawa Gee Gees or St Mary’s Huskies and if you do, nobody has ever heard of them. Only in a league like the CFL will you find that they have, in the past, drafted not just 1 but 2 deceased players. This occurred in the mid 90’s. If teams don’t even know about the players why should we take notice.

For those who don’t know here is a News release from the New York Post Back in 1996

Canadian Team Drafts Dead Man
AP: Published: Friday, March 15, 1996
For the second time in a year, a Canadian Football League team has drafted a dead player.The Montreal Alouettes selected defensive end James Eggink of Northern Illinois in the fifth round of the league's Canadian college draft today, only to learn a few hours later that Eggink died of cancer last December.Last April, the Ottawa Rough Riders sought defensive end Derrell Robertson, who had died on Dec. 5, 1994.With all that beings said congratulations to The Hamilton Tiger-Cats who selected offensive lineman Simeon Rottier with the first overall pick of the CFL Canadian College Draft today. Rottier was a standout at The University of Alberta.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Where Amazing Has Already Happened

If you haven’t been watching the Boston Celtics vs Chicago Bulls opening round playoff series you could be missing one of the greatest series of all time. Sports should never be compared to war because it is a game and should be seen as such, so lets just call this a great battle.
Going in, the Celtics were the favorites, even without playing with the injured Kevin Garnett. Sure the Bulls looks like a decent team, but maybe still a little young and green. The coaching edge would have to go to Doc Rivers over the less experienced Vinnie Del Negro, but that is why the games are played.

This series has had a bit of everything and has been a surprise with just the level of play and how closely matched the two teams are. If you exclude game 3 which the point differential was 21 the other 5 games have come down to 12 points total and of those games 4 have gone to overtime. Ray Allen must have found a time machine because he is playing like he was 7 years younger. Earlier in the series he went shot for shot with fellow UCONN alum Ben Gordon like they were trying to one up each other. Then last night in an epic game that went to triple overtime he ended with 51 points.

In this series that is still 1 game away from being completed they have played 7 overtime periods. At this point would it surprise anyone if they went to OT to decide it all? If that were to happen it would be hard to dispute this as at the very least in the top 3 all time series. Ok sure in the long run it will mean virtually nothing because it is a first round series and not a final or conference final and also the fact that whoever wins will loose to the Cavaliers whether they were tired or fresh. We are all presuming that it will be the Cavaliers versus the Lakers in the finals and all this is just filler for the Kobe v Lebron show that is sure to happen in June.

If the first 6 games are any indication game 7 should be wild. If you see it you may want to stop and take notice of it Saturday at 8pm.