Scattershooting late on a Monday night with the shopping all done for another year . . .

Scattershooting


It’s a little-heard Christmas song these days, but there was a time when Honky the Christmas Goose was on the charts. It featured then-Toronto Maple Leafs G Johnny Bower, his son, and a few youngsters. . . . Dave Stubbs of nhl.com has a look back right here. . . . And if you haven’t read Dan Robson’s book on Bower — Bower: A Legendary Life — give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.



“Bed Bath & Beyond announced the departure of six members of its executive team,” notes Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “Is it safe to assume the company will at least give each of the six a 20 per cent store discount for life?”

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Here’s Hough, again: “So as President Trump has authorized $2 billion for ‘Space Force’, did he consider asking Michael Jordan to head it?”



After a hectic past two weeks, the plan was to spend Sunday at home in the recliner watching some football. But when the time came TSN had the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos on four channels. . . . We went out for coffee.


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Eat your heart out, Wonderboy. The bat Babe Ruth used to club his 500th career home run fetched $1 million on the auction block. Ruth — in his 21 MLB seasons combined — got paid $856,850.”

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Perry, again: “The Houston Rockets’ James Harden joined an exclusive NBA club by totalling 100 points in back-to-back games. Leaving him just one game shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain, who once scored 100 in one consecutive game.”



The U of Florida has named its basketball floor in honour of former men’s coach Billy Donovan. That got Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel looking for other state coaches who might be similarly saluted. He tweeted:“Best so far: (1) Jimbo Fisher Christmas Tree Recycling Center. (2) Urban Meyer Detention Center.”


The QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques appear to be something of a mess. Alain Sear, a co-owner and the general manager, left the team the other day. The next day, Martin Lacasse stepped down as the chairman of the team’s board of directors. . . . On the ice, the Olympiques are 7-23-3 and only one point out of the 18-team league’s basement. . . . According to Alexandre Pratt of the newspaper La Presse, the Olympiques had fewer than 500 fans at a recent home game at the Robert-Guertin Centre. . . . The good news is that the Olympiques will be moving into a new $80-million, 4,000-seat facility in time for the 2021-22 season.



Former WHLer Carter Rigby has taken over as head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He played one season (2010-11) with the Coyotes. In the WHL, he skated with the Prince George Cougars, Kelowna Rockets and Swift Current Broncos. . . . Rigby, 25, takes over from Grant Williams, who had been the interim head coach since Dean Maynard and the team parted company last month. Maynard had taken over as interim coach in January, and was named GM and head coach in April.


The Jacksonville Jaguars, with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, beat the Raiders, 20-16, in what likely was Oakland’s final home game before it relocates to Las Vegas. “An awesome experience,” Minshew said of the Dec. 15 game. “I saw more middle fingers today than I have my whole life.”



You’re right . . . the NFL’s Detroit Lions haven’t been good in recent years. As Justin Rogers of the Detroit News pointed out on Twitter: “Two presidents have been impeached since the Lions last won the division.”


Once upon a time, Sara Rogers’ great-grandmother, eight years of age at the time, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun. “Please tell me the truth,” she wrote, “is there a Santa Claus?” . . . The response, when it came, was one for the ages and it lives on today. . . . That story is right here. . . . Enjoy, have a Merry Christmas and please stay safe out there.

The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3

Bookshelf

For the past number of years, I have posted thumbnails of some of the books I have read over the previous 12 months. So here were are again. Perhaps this will help with yourChristmas shopping or your Christmas list. . . .

What books are on my Christmas list?. . . The Grim Reaper, by Stu Grimson . . . Rob Vanstone’s 100 Things Roughriders Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. (No, I’m not a Roughriders’ fan, but I spent 17 years at the Regina Leader-Post, so I have some interest there.) . . . The Irishman, by Charles Brandt. It first was published as I Heard You Paint Houses. (Watching The Irishman on Netflix is on this week’s list of things to do.) . . . Blowout, by Rachel Maddow . . . Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens . . .

Anyway . . . here’s the first of three parts of this year’s Bookshelf . . .

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Basketball: A Love Story — This book is the offspring of a 20-hour,10-part TV series produced by ESPN. There were many hours of interviews that didn’t make the cut, so it remained for authors Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew and Dan Klores to put together a wonderful oral history of basketball. It is amazing to hear so many stories told by the women and men to whom the game has meant so much. I really, really enjoyed this book.

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Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink — What, if anything, is wrong with the state of hockey in Canada? If there is a problem, is it due to falling registration numbers that can be blamed on the high cost of getting children involved in the game? Why aren’t more new Canadians becoming involved at a young age? Why was there such a backlash when Hockey Canada decreed that young players were going to have to play cross-ice? Author Sean Fitz-Gerald tries to get to the root of the situation in this book. Unfortunately, this is more like two books in one. He spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Peterborough Petes, and the time he spent with the OHL club as it struggled through an abysmal season takes up a lot of the book. That doesn’t leave nearly enough space for everything else, a lot of which is focussed in the Peterborough area. Still, this is an interesting read in that it does examine some issues facing Hockey Canada.

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Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times — If you enjoy it when someone pokes the bear, you will absolutely love this book. Author Mark Leibovich is a huge fan of the New England Patriots, but that doesn’t stop him from having fun at the expense of the NFL, its commissioner, the owners and THE SHIELD. This is good stuff! . . . If you don’t believe me, The New York Times called it “a gossipy, insightful and wickedly entertaining journey through the N.F.L. sausage factory.” It is all that, and more.

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The Blue — Who knew that a book about porcelain could be so engrossing. Author Nancy Bilyeau impeccably researched novel involving spying, murder, kidnapping and, yes, love in the 18th century is gripping. England and France are at war and porcelain is a commodity that is much in demand. Genevieve Planché is the main character — she was born in England but is of Huguenot descent — and she often finds herself torn as the story twists and winds its way from England to France. I quite enjoyed this work of historical fiction.

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The Border — This is the best fiction book I read in 2019; in fact, this is the best read I have had in a long, long time. It is the final book in author Don Winslow’s trilogy about the American government and its war on drugs. The trilogy began with The Power of the Dog. Then came The Cartel. . . . Both books were excellent. The Border, though, is better than that. There are times when you wonder if what you are reading really is fiction, because a lot of it certainly seems factual. Winslow spent more than 20 years researching and writing; he knows his subject and it shows.

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Bower: A Legendary Life — I read this one early in 2019 — yes, it was a Christmas gift — and I guaranteed at the time that it would be on my top 10 list for the year. It didn’t turn me into a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it introduced me to Johnny Bower, one of the NHL’s greatest goaltenders who, more importantly, was a kind and gentle person, a true family man and a lover of life. Author Dan Robson does a wonderful job of telling Bower’s story. You can only shake your head in disbelief at the conditions and wages that were part of the lives of Bower and so many other players who were involved in the NHL pre-1967, or, worse, were stuck in the minor leagues. . . . One note about Bower: The Toronto-area community in which he and his wife Nancy ended up living in named a park after him. Bower would visit it daily . . . and pick up any litter that was left laying around.

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The Browns Blues: Two Decades of Utter Frustration: Why Everything Kept Going Wrong for the Cleveland Browns — How bad have the Cleveland Browns been? So bad that author Terry Pluto’s book needed two subtitles. Pluto, a long-time columnist with the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has a number of books to his credit, explains why fans of the NFL team have suffered such pain and anguish since 1999. Why 1999? Because that’s when the NFL returned to Cleveland after the original Browns had departed for Baltimore following the 1995 season. Get into Pluto’s book and you’ll find yourself doing a lot of head-shaking because he doesn’t hold back when it comes to pointing fingers.

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Cemetery Road — Greg Iles has done it again. The author of the southern U.S.-based Natchez Burning trilogy is back in Mississippi and, again, he has produced a gem. Since leaving his hometown of Bienville, Miss., Marshall McEwan has become an all-powerful journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner based in Washington, D.C. Now, with his father dying, he’s back in Bienville to run the family newspaper. It doesn’t take long before he’s embroiled in, well, just about everything you could imagine — from love to hate, from politics to murder — and is faced with making one decision after another.

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The Cold Dish — I have watched numerous episodes of Longmire, the TV series based on books written by Craig Johnson. This is the first of the Longmire books and it ended up being one of the series’ episodes. I quite enjoy the TV series, but I have to tell you that I liked this book a lot more, if only because Deputy Sheriff Victoria (Vic) Moretti is a whole lot saltier and sassier on the written page than on a TV screen.

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A Dedicated Man — Author Peter Robinson has written more than two dozen crime novels featuring Inspector Alan Banks, who left the police force in London for a quieter life in the Yorkshire Dales in the north of England. The first of these books — Gallows View — was published in 1987, and the latest — Many Rivers to Cross — in 2019. . . . A Dedicated Man came out in 1988 and is the second book in the series. . . . Somehow these books had escaped me until earlier this year. I quite enjoyed my initiation and certainly will be back for more.

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Tomorrow: Part 2 of 3.

Scattershooting on a Monday as we await the arrival of spring. . . . It is coming, isn’t it?

Scattershooting


“It’s doubtful Marie Antoinette, beheaded former queen of France, ever played hockey,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “If she had, history would note her as out indefinitely with an upper body injury.”


McMars


Hey, Sportsnet, if you’re going to make a to-do about a pregame fight you should know that it happened in the ECHL, as opposed to the East Coast Hockey League. If you’re wanting to be a nation’s hockey network, you should be aware of that. Once again . . . that pregame scrap took place in the ECHL. OK?



So . . . my wife, Dorothy, was in Brandon last week. While they were paying 97.9 for a litre of gasoline, the price in Kamloops was 1.27.9. Does anyone have a clear and reasonable and sensible explanation for that? And you can’t use the word ‘gouging’ in your explanation.


A couple of Robservations from Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post: 1. Why are hockey referees so oblivious to obvious cross-checks? On Friday, for example, Logan Nijhoff of the Regina Pats was cross-checked into the Brandt Centre boards by Dakota Krebs of the Calgary Hitmen. No call. The Hitmen proceeded to score a goal when they should have been killing a penalty. The laissez-faire officiating was also on display when Nijhoff gave Kaden Elder an extra shot after finishing a check. No call (repeat). Why employ two referees if they are going to ignore penalties? . . . 2. There isn’t any justification for fighting in hockey — not when player safety is supposedly an area of emphasis.


Santa


Here’s columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on the Dodgers’ attempts to sign Bryce Harper: “They flew to his Las Vegas home this week in what appeared to be a successful attempt to convince him of their charms. It seemed like Harper was all but begging to come to Los Angeles. Yet the Dodgers let him go to the one place he clearly didn’t want to go. . . . When it comes to bringing a star to Hollywood, the Dodgers are more about raising prices than raising hopes.”


Headline at SportsPickle.com: Report: Man agrees to live in Philadelphia for $330 million.



Headline at SportsPickle.com: Somehow this Bryce Harper deal will end with the Mets paying him $1 million every month through the year 2095.


Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, notes: “With Bryce Harper’s $300-million, 13-year contract,  there are kids not even born in Philly who will be booing him someday.”

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Hough, again: “Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at the Oscars had more chemistry than we’ve seen live since Trump and Putin in Helsinki.”



“By now,” writes Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, “I’m sure you have seen photos of the exploded sneaker that led to Zion Williamson’s ‘Grade 1 knee sprain’. Photos of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ didn’t get wider distribution than the exploded shoe has gotten.”


If you’re looking for a good read, get a copy of Bower: A Legendary Life. Written by Dan Robson, it chronicles the life and times of Johnny Bower, and what an amazing story it was. It helps, too, that Bower was a perfect gentleman. It should be mandatory reading, too, for every player who is making his living playing hockey today.


OnHold


Wondering what’s in the future for outfielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels? Here’s Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s nice to envision Mike Trout wearing a Giants uniform when he becomes a free agent two years from now, but that’s a pipe dream. Trout is an East Coast guy (New Jersey). His buddies are tired of staying up past midnight to watch a dreadful Angels game on television. Only the Dodgers could keep him in California.”


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times flagged this one . . . Rich de Give, via Twitter, on former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort’s sentencing memo taking up 800 pages: “Wait until you get to the end, when you find out not only did he remove a mattress tag, he used the descriptions and accounts of a game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.”