Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quick Hits

When it was first announced three weeks ago that Andre Dawson would be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he hinted that he would like to enter as a Chicago Cub. Thankfully, as it has been reported that MLB has decided to send him to Cooperstown as a member of the now defunct Montreal Expos will be honoured along with Dawson. I don’t know how Andre feels about the situation but I, for once am glad that baseball are the ones deciding what hat he wears in. Dawson will likely be the one and only player that will be going into the Hall as a Montreal Expo. The book will very soon be closed on the team and having at lest some representation before it becomes a mere footnote.

HBO unveiled a 24/7 documentary on Jimmie Johnson last night. After being snubbed by SI as Sportsman of the year it is nice that HBO has created this show. It may be interesting to see what goes into being a NASCAR driving star and hopefully brings the deserved respect to not only the sport but more importantly to Jimmie himself. It is the best of the best right now and may be in the discussion as the best of all time. Even with his short body of work his star is still bright and accomplishments can be put up versus just about anyone else who has ever been in the sport.

After dropping the first set to Nikolay Davydenko, Roger Federer steam rolled to a 4-set victory in Australia. With Rafael Nadal out the road seems to have cleared a bit for yet another Grand Slam. Anything to add to his greatness is ok by me. Hopefully he can finish out this tournament on top and start working towards padding his already impressive career stats and achievements.

A HUGE thank you to the Canadian Networks who have finally decided to do the right thing and start showing more live US College Sports, namely college basketball. Unlike the NBA you may not know the players but for the most part the games are entertaining to watch and having the option to watch a live event is never a bad thing. Short of actually giving us the option of purchasing ESPN as part of our satellite packages it is nice to see that they are all making at least an effort. (A much smaller props to Sportsnet for showing at least little bits of some AVP beach tournaments, sure it isn’t a lot but one in a while they are actually throwing a few half hours here and there. Baby steps, at least for now and that hopefully is the start of more events more frequently)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aborigines Offended By Ice Dance

An Aboriginal-themed routine by two Russian ice dancers has stirred up a pre-Olympic controversy, with some indigenous Australians blasting the "rip off" of their culture and Canadian native leaders worrying about the insensitivity of the skaters.

Maybe it is because that is not my culture that i don't see this as a big deal. I don't see this duo mocking a culture, if anything it is showing appreciation for it. With that said I also don't know how accurate, or in-accurate it is or what amount of research went into the planning and choreography of the routine. Sure it is always a gutsy move for Russians to us this as an adaptation to work from but sometimes there are groups that are over sensitive about this type of cultural crossover.

This was my thought when Vancouver decided to go so heavy with their aboriginal tie in with this Olympics in Vancouver. Embrace Canada as a whole is fine by me, to segregate it is just asking for trouble. Just like the addition of aboriginal artwork to the Canadian Maple Leaf on the Hockey Teams Jerseys.

"The ripping off of our art and songs is not (respectful), and nor is this depiction of my culture," Manton wrote. "Our dance, our ceremony and ... our designs and images have evolved over 60,000 years. We're understandably fond of them, and we don't like seeing them ripped off and painted onto someones body for a sporting contest." a chairperson of the Aboriginal Land Council in New South Wales stated

Was this Dance relay that bad? You be the judge

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kings Of The Castle

Los Angeles Kings have been accused of selling hope, and nothing else which may have made my decision to adopt them as one of my own a difficult one but so far this season they have proven that they were a worthy choice. Clearly the Blues have stumbled out of the gates and are having a tough time finding the back of the net. Injuries are a factor but can not be used as an excuse, just an explanation. Given time the youth will pick things up and get back to the place they were at the end of last season where they just started to click and just kept winning.

As for the Kings, the moves made in the off season so far have looked pretty good. I will admit that I was sceptical about the acquisition of Ryan Smyth but much to my pleasure he came in healthy and ready to contribute. He has slipped right into the top line and found some great chemistry with his line mates: Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar (let the record reflect that it is not An-zee.... It’s Ahn-jay). It doesn’t hurt that Kopitar is leafing the league in scoring and is probably the most underrated star in the league. The ability to be able to score so far this season I making all the difference. Sure they could use another shooter but as it stands now they are doing OK with what they have.

The balance on the lines is a benefit to have as they can roll their lines a little more and have confidence in spreading things out a little. Would I prefer to not see Raitis Ivanans in the lineup, sure but in the long run it is probably best to allow some of the younger players mature in the AHL and season a bit. Knowing that there are some good young talent in Manchester is a nice little bonus. With a little more experience to players like Oscar Moller, Andrei Loktionov, Justin Azevedo and still in Brandon with the Wheat Kings young Braden Schenn should help out offensively over time and on the back end having a Thomas Hickey almost making the team out of camp and Vyacheslav Voinov there as well and Colton Tuebert still in junior gives some nice options going forward. Jonathan Bernier (who was in nets for the AHL All Star Game last night) and Jeff Zatkoff as the goalies in the system it gives some good slid depth and the ability to use them as possible trade bait should the need arise in the future. How good Jonathan Quick continues to play in the future will likely dictate what the team chooses to do in the near future with these two. One can’t discount what depth and even a little bit of cap room can do. Flexibility going forward could become a big deal as this team grows together.

With all that is going on in Atlanta with the lack of attendance and the fact that there are ownership issues there and how long the team will be viable in that market may force the team to part with their superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Should his services become available and they are allowed to negotiate a contract with him to ensure that he stays, a trade to the Kings could be a very interesting option. Depending on the cost and the players that would need to be involved, finally getting an established player that can elevate an already decent team and give them a legitimate scoring threat could do great things out on the coast. I am not saying that a deal would do what a Gretzky did when he came but marketing would have a field day, ticket sales would probably get a boost and best of all the product on the ice would likely improve. An addition like that could be just what the team needs. They do have some cap space to work with and depending on what would need to be involved in any possible deal may just be a viable option.

I will sit back and watch and see how this all plays down with one half of my new adopted teams. Or if Kovalchuk were to end up in the Blues (unlikely as it may be) then that may work out as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sens Army...Wounded

Mike Brodeur stepped into the Senators lineup and low and behold - pitched a shut out. The Sens took down the Rangers in a battle of struggling offensive teams. Lets not read too much into that. The Rangers have been shut out twice in the last 2 games both by goalies named Brodeur, although one may be a little more seasoned then the other. The next game he started again and he stoned the Habs in Montreal. Boarderline impressive. It was good to see the quick healing Captian Daniel Alfredsson back in the lineup.

The shutout win broke a 5 game losing streak by Ottawa that has seen them fall from a decent 6th place position to 8th and on the brink of falling out of a playoff position...if the season were to end today.... (I hate when people say that).

At this point I am resigned to the fact that the Sens are not the greatest team that they have ever fielded and that they really are not that good. Players at both the pro and minor league level are not top end and that is something that fans here in Ottawa are not used to. The rash of injuries that has hit the team has not done anything to help the situation. When you are not a great team and then you take out some $20 million from your a top scoring line in its entirety and you goal tending, struggling as it may be are out it is tough.

When you have a tough time scoring 2 or more goals a game and your goal tending is considered doing a better job when they allow 4 goals in a game it is no wonder why your team is in a big slide.

The fact that this team continues to lose man games due to injury makes it very hard for line to gel, players to click and in turn play a cohesive game. When, at one point or another you are missing a Spezza, Alfredsson, Michalek and throw in Brian Elliot, Pascal LeClair, Chris Neil and Nick Foligno for a spell it is of little wonder about the woes in Sens Army. It is getting to the point where maybe it is just worth playing out the string of games and become a seller not a buyer and maybe try and position yourself better for the draft and free up some money going into free agency. Clearly there needs to be a restocking of talent in the minors so when we need help some is available and they need some sort of a consistent scoring threat. Maybe that is too much for Bryan Muray to do but if that is not possible he may be closer to the hot seat then ever before.

I don’t want to see the team just give up and mail it in. Hard work and good games are a must but if they have a chance to better themselves for a quick turn around next season then maybe they need to look at that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Mac Himself, Who’d Of Thunk It?

Yesterday was the day that we all figured would come at some point, we just didn’t know when. Former Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire finally admitted in a phone call with the Associated Press and followed by an interview with Bob Costas that he had in fact done steroids as well as HGH on and off over the course of his career. SHOCKER. This was not news to anyone. He was always suspected to have been involved in performance enhancing drugs but never admitted it nor did he ever test positive for anything. It is like a girlfriend accusing you of cheating ‘I know you did it, just admit it, I know you did it, just admit it, It’l be ok if you just admit it ’. Then you admit it and they flip out and start yelling at you saying ‘I didn’t believe it until I heard it come from you!

I am not an apologist for what he did, but what he did was perhaps not ‘legal’ but it wasn’t banned either, it was more of a moral issue then anything else. Should that exclude him from the Hall of Fame? Some say yes, some say no. I think he should be in. If there is no policy to break how can you punish him for breaking a policy...he was never suspended either. The only thing that isn’t going to help his case is the fact that he didn’t acknowledge that his use didn’t make him better. His natural talent may have been great but there was still room for enhancement and he got that from the steroids and HGH. The only thing he did was play by the ‘rules’ that were there or not there at the time. I hate to think that the idea of "if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying" or "it is only cheating if you get caught" is true but it is hard to dispute that fact.

It is easy to sit back and judge the decision that he made, but it wasn’t just him that made that decision. If you take a serious look at it, a professional athlete will do what they need to do to become better. There were no steroids in the 1950’s, because they were not available. You can bet that if they were and it would have made a difference players then would have been all over it. Stimulants are a great example of that. Cold medication, caffeine and other like products were rampant in baseball dugouts throughout the years. Those were also performance enhancing, just not as ‘immoral’ as ‘roids and HGH, but at that point you are just splitting hairs. We now are beginning to see that this was and epidemic throughout the sport for a long time and if baseball wanted to do something about it they would have and could have done so. Truth is, steroids were good for baseball and good for the sport. After the strike in 1994 baseball’s image was in the dumps and any growth that may have come to get the game back into the good graces with fans came in the form of the Sosa/McGwire home run race of 1998. That chase of Roger Maris’ 61 home runs brought people back to the sport. From there baseball has continued to grow and has reached record attendance over the years.

It is clear that money greatly influenced the position that baseball has taken in regards to performance enhancing drugs. Even as a casual fan you can see that something wasn’t right with these players and that they were getting help from an outside source. It helped them and it helped sell the game so to turn a blind eye clearly was an easy thing to do. If you are concerned about the records that the hitters put up, just think about doing that versus pitchers that were doing the same thing. The only real issue is how fair it was for the ‘clean’ player to compete with those that were juicing. My question to that is if so many were on the juice, why would you play clean. If there was no rule to break how could you be breaking a rule? It truly was an internal code of conduct that governed the players that played clean...not baseball.

McGwire's admittance had to be done. He is looking to become the hitting coach for the Cardinals and for that to happen he had to say something before spring training to defuse the situation. Now that he has at least come out and admitted that he used, perhaps we can move on from him and any speculation. It seems like every player that has come out and admitted or have been outed for PEDs has been, not necessarily forgiven but the anger towards them has been greatly reduced. Only the ones that have continued to say nothing or deny are the one that people are still bitter at (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds). Others such as Andy Pettitte, A-Rod...even Manny who was suspended for 50 games only last season seems to be much more accepted.

It is also interesting to mention that this is really just a baseball, track and cycling issue. This happens just as often in football but it gets nearly no play in the media. A headline that states a player in the NFL has been banned 4 games for a substance violation. They do their time and then are back and not another mention is made about it. A double standard for sure but it is what it is. You want to see bigger, stronger, faster in football and the majority of fans would be more upset if players weren’t doing everything at their disposal to become even better. Maybe it is because baseball is seen as more a game of numbers and is held in a higher regard, who knows.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

IIHF World Junior Tournament - The Tradition Continues

First lets just throw some names out and lay all the cards on the table: John Tavares, Matt Duschane, Evander Kane, Cody Hodgeson, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Myers Those are the names of some of the players that were elegable for Canada to come back and play for Canada this year...Zach Begosian was basicly the only USA player available to return. Put those guys on the team and it is probably another gold rush for Canada. I am not say’n i’m just say’n. Moving on.

Another World Junior Hockey tournament has come and gone. Much to chagrin of the proud Canadian hockey fans. Granted a loss in overtime to one of our newest building rivals, the USA, is a tough pill to swallow it can only fuel the fire for next years tournament in Buffalo.

Year in and year out this tournament continues to grow... at least in Canada. Maybe not as much to the average fan anywhere else but to Canadians it is must see TV and or event to take in live should the opportunity present itself. The gold medal game was an epic one with an audience to match. Tuesday night’s thrilling IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game made television history for TSN. Some 5.3 million viewers tuned in to see some or all of the game. That is the highest rated event TSN has ever had. Some 1 in 3 Canadians watch some or all. It bettered this years Grey Cup and beat any other World Juniors telecast. I am not sure if that takes into account the live web streaming or not and probably doesn’t reflect the radio broadcast. I would like to know those totals as well. Either way it was huge and well represented.

For those 2 weeks or so between boxing day and the first week of the new year it is the showcase for not only the sport of hockey but a showcase for some of the great young players that people can look forward to seeing in the NHL soon. That is what is fun and educational about it. Now when your team drafts a player there is a good chance that you will know who it is. Not unlike the NCAAs March Madness tournament, people don’t pay much attention to the regular season of either college basketball or CHL hockey but when the respective tournaments are on the spotlight is there to shine on potential breakthrough players and that is fun to see.

The level of play is what you want to see in every hockey game, high skill, high speed and a passion for the game that only youthful exuberance can bring. The genuine love of the game, the thirst to be the best while continuing to get better and playing for the pride of a nation is a refreshing change from the professional sports that we are accustomed to watching. It almost makes it tolerable to earn a silver when you lose in a good hard fought game to a team that was surprisingly humble in victory and what seemed to be genuinely humble in victory (perhaps what you may not expect from a USA Team). Credit to the USA and their hockey program. They beat good teams and showed that speed and skill are hard to contain.

Canada entered the tournament winning 5 straight gold medals. It is not like they were handed any of them they have all been earned. The streak could and maybe even should have been stopped in any of the last 3 tournament but some kind of unbelievable event or puck luck fell in Canada’s favour and they had, until this year managed to claw their way to victory. Matt Halischuk’s OT goal saved Canada once and the new version of "Captain Clutch" Jordan Eberle went above and beyond the last 2 years with unbelievably timely goals and solid all around play to keep the team alive and take a country from devastation to jubilation in a heartbeat.

Eberle may well be a great prospect for the Edmonton Oilers and could go on to become a good NHL player and have a long and successful career in hockey but even if he were to walk away and peak as a teenager he has cemented himself as one of the greatest international performers in Canadian hockey history. Sure that would be tough but he is now in Canadian Hockey History highlight reel forever.

It will be interesting next year with the tournament being held in Buffalo. Canada had a good run with most of the tournament being played in Canada with a Pro-Canada crowd. Now the defending gold medalists USA will be defending on their home soil with hopefully a very focused and bitter team from Canada looking to avenge this years loss. Being in Buffalo will allow a lot of Canadians to take the tour over the boarder to help even out crowd support.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New 'Shooting' Guard - Gilbert Arenas 00 Agent

The Washington Bullets, errrr, Wizards are the biggest fans of the morning 'Shoot around' of all teams in the NBA. Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton of the Washington Wizards have been implicated in a clubhouse dispute over a gambling debt where the two apparently pulled guns on each other. There was an investigation before this incident that Arenas was housing firearms in his locker at the Verizon Center. If any investigation finds that these allegations are true there is a good chance that they will face a stiff penalty from the league, likely a suspension of at least a few dozen games. The NBA under commissioner David Stern has worked overtime to clean up its image which is that it is more of a thug league and that there are severe character issues among a large number of its members.

Players may contest that they are targets more now then ever and they need these weapons for personal safety. Granted, with there position in society that they are held in a different regard but one must also take into account that if you are putting yourself in a bad position things can go the wrong way in a hurry. You would think the safest place should be the locker room, will all the building security and that security around the locker room that that would be the last place you would need to store your guns.

What makes this story just a little bit more funny is the team that they play for. It has been a while now but this was a team that had the name of the Washington Bullets but the owner thought that it sent a bad message to the league and its fans. Washington, DC has been known to be a violent city and this was a way of trying to distance themselves from rising gun violence. In one "foul" swoop all the good will of becoming the Wizards has just turned them back into the Bullets. Maybe it was throwback night and they got caught up in the festivities.

Arenas has tried to defuse the situation with humour implying it was all in jest and he was just a practical joker and nothing more then a joke went down. The NBA and other officials don’t seem to be buying into that explanation even if it was in jest it is a serious issue and at the very least relay bad PR for a league that is trying to project a positive image for itself.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Week 17 NFL Picks

After 2 Weeks of + .500 picks I regressed back to the red when I went 7-9. I blame the way the NFL is set up and teams throw in the towel early to "rest players". Just like this week, only a few teams have anything to play for so picking winners vs the spread becomes even more difficult. Tough to make a choice when you don't know if a starter is going to play more then 1 series of not. So more so then any normal week I a just tossing out a guess and hoping that I am right. Lets see how that goes.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Years!

A Happy New Years to all those who faithfully come back to my little blog day in and day out. I appreciate that you take a few seconds of your time to read my little musings and updates from personal sports stories to events in the news to breaking sports stories and the ones that are the most fun, the funny ( or attempted to be funny) postings on silly sports related topics.

I hope that everyone will continue to make A Bit Of Everything Sports part of their daily routine and I hope that I can at least keep up the same level of quality and hopefully raise the bar even higher in 2010.

All the best to you and yours in the New Year!