Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how long we can keep treading water . . .

Scattershooting2

If you’re a regular in these parts, you will have noticed that I took a couple of days away from here earlier this week. It wasn’t anything serious, but I had to recharge my batteries so that I could continue treading water.

After all, isn’t that what we’re doing as we pretend to be battling the virus that seems to be everywhere. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we don’t seem to be winning this war. At least not at this point, not with the virus now sending its variant friends into battle.

Here in B.C., our premier, John Horgan, suggested that we all “dig down a little deeper,” never mind that some of us have been digging for more than 10 months now.

On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, urged us to “do more.” Sorry, Dr. Henry, but some of us don’t know what more we can do. Haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 11. Ordering groceries online. Haven’t travelled from Kamloops since Sept. 20. I could go on and on but you get the point.

Once upon a time, I spent 17 years at the Regina Leader-Post. In the first few years (aka before Conrad Black bought the joint and started milking it dry), employees were able to take part in various seminars. One of them dealt with the medium of mixed messages.

And we certainly are seeing a whole lot of those these days.

Remember when 300 positives tests in a day was cause for near panic? Now we’re seeing 400 or 500 a day and nothing changes. Ten or 12 people die every day and nothing changes. Did deeper, we’re told. Do more.

Last week, from Tuesday through Friday, the four western provinces reported 4,812 new cases and 140 deaths. (B.C. was 1,952 and 35; Alberta, 1,829 and 47; Saskatchewan, 953 and 38; and Manitoba, 478 and 20.)

Guess which province lifted some restrictions about 10 days ago and then watched as shoppers flocked to big box outlets as though it was Boxing Day? Hey, Manitoba, I’m looking at you.

And guess which province announced Friday that it will be easing up on restrictions early in February? Hey, Alberta, you realize that Friday (543 and 14) wasn’t a good day. Right?

No matter. The numbers come out — more than 20,000 Canadians now have died of this scourge. Ontario lost 1,658 citizens in January, which was the province’s deadliest month of the pandemic. So far.

The politicians offer condolences to the families of the dead. Others shrug. And life goes on.

A friend who works in our local hospital — which has experienced 79 positives among staff and patients over the past few days — posted this on social media on Friday night: “As I’ve said before, burnt out is what we felt MONTHS ago. We’re well beyond that now, I don’t even know what it’s called now.”

And no matter how you look at it . . . the end isn’t in sight.

So by all means . . . let’s ease up on restrictions and let’s not worry about these troublesome variants until some point down the road. Let’s not concern ourselves with showing the healthcare workers — the doctors, nurses, aides, cleaning crews et al — the respect they are due; after all, they’ve only been working in this mess for going on a year now. The teachers? What about them? Retail workers? Restaurant workers? Who?

Let’s just keep on keeping on, doing the same dance we’ve been doing for most of a year. But, that being the case, let’s stop thinking there will be a different outcome. After almost a year, you would think our dancing feet would be sore enough that we would want to try something else. But . . . no.

BTW, did you know that Perth and southwest Australia are into a full five-day lockdown after discovering the area’s first case in almost 10 months? Contact tracing has started and they’re ramping up their testing. When the music stops, they change the dance.

Doesn’t seem to be any mixed messages Down Under.

——

There . . . I feel better.


F Brandon Sutter enjoyed the first three-goal game of his NHL career on Monday night as the host Vancouver Canucks dismantled the Ottawa Senators, 7-1. . . . Some notes from Jesse Campigotto of CBC Sports’ The Buzzer:

“Brandon Sutter can look forward to the next family get-together now. It took him close to 800 regular-season and playoff games, but the Vancouver forward became the sixth member of his clan to score an NHL hat trick. Brandon joined his dad, Brent, who had six hat tricks, and uncles Brian (7), Darryl (3), Rich (1) and Duane (1). Brandon also could be moving up the family goals rankings soon. With 147 career regular-season goals, he’s just two behind Rich for fifth place. Brent leads with 363, followed by Brian (303), Ron (205, but no hat tricks) and Darryl (161).”



Looking for a good read to kill a few hours in these pandemic times? You can’t go wrong with Broken, from Don Winslow, who also brought us The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border, among other books. While those three novels were epic tales centred on the Mexican drug trade, Broken is six short stories that are oh, so much fun. Give it a try and thank me later.


No doubt you are aware that those who vote on entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame came up with a zero this time around, meaning the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens won’t be walking into the hallowed hall.

Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports:

“The HOF can bury its head in the sand and try to pretend the steroid era didn’t exist, but Bonds is in the record books as baseball’s home run leader and he’s indisputably one of the best to ever play the game. He was well on his way to a Cooperstown-worthy career before the steroids — I mean, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded in 1998 (a year before it’s believed he started juicing) and that should be an automatic induction.

“Instead of completely shunning these obviously legendary talents that were tied to a league-wide steroid problem, why not just start a steroid wing of the HOF and let them have a semi-tainted induction that matches their semi-tainted careers?”



A year ago, Robert Saleh was on the coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers, who would lose, 31-20, to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Here’s what he told Pro Football Talk Live about trying to shut down QB Patrick Mahomes: “You’ve got to be relentless. He has ridiculous arm talent. But any time you’re a pass rusher, just understand that he might do his little old man jog in between plays where it looks like his feet hurt. Don’t kid yourself.” . . . Saleh is the New York Jets’ new head coach.


Paperless


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, with a message for the NFL:

“Just letting you know, we are on to your little trick of using replay challenges to ram extra commercials down our baby-bird-like throats.

“One recent game, there was a challenge of a catch at the sideline. The first replay shown on TV provided crystal clear proof that it was a legal catch. Case closed in five seconds, right?

“Wrong. As with every challenge, TV cut away to a commercial. And then another. And another. SIX commercials later, we were allowed back to the football game, although by then I had forgotten who was playing.

“Don’t insult what’s left of our intelligence after the hammering of our skulls by the events of the past year.”

——

“San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced on his 72nd birthday that he’d gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, telling AP: ‘Sciencewise, it’s a no-brainer,’ ” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “In other words, good shot selection.” . . .

——

Hockey Winnipeg announced Saturday that it has cancelled the remainder of its 2020-21 season. From its website: “Effective Jan. 30, 2021, the board of directors and executive members of Hockey Winnipeg have made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 regular hockey season and playoffs. . . . This decision is not closing the door on hockey this year, just Hockey Winnipeg regular-season and playoff games. This will allow for area associations within Hockey Winnipeg to provide local programming for the balance of the season as public health restrictions may allow.” . . . Hockey Winnipeg said that it “and our area associations will be working to provide fair refunds to our members over the next few months.” . . .  

The Chicago Blackhawks cancelled a Saturday practice “out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19.” . . . The Blackhawks, who dropped a 2-1 decision to visiting Columbus on Friday night, are scheduled to play the Blue Jackets again tonight. . . . Chicago has three players on the COVID-19 protocol list — D Adam Boqvist, F Alex DeBrincat and F Lucas Wallmark. . . .

A Saturday night AHL exhibition game between the Henderson Silver Knights and visiting San Jose Barracuda was halted after the second period due to COVID-19 protocol. . . . The Silver Knights later announced the suspension of play wasn’t due to a positive test from their players or staff. . . . On Sunday, the Barracuda revealed that one of its players had tested positive with the result having arrived during the game. . . . The Silver Knights were leading 1-0 on a goal by former Kamloops Blazers F Jermaine Loewen. . . .

F Marco Rossi, 19, captained the Austrian team at the 2021 World Junior Championship after having tested positive for COVID-19 in November. After the tournament, he joined the Minnesota Wild, which had selected him ninth overall in the 2020 NHL draft. He had yet to play for the Wild, thanks to what was speculated to be an upper-body injury. On Saturday, the Wild announced that Rossi has gone home to Austria to recover from complications due to COVID-19. There isn’t a timetable for his return. . . .

The Montreal Canadiens pulled F Josh Anderson from Saturday’s game with the Calgary Flames with what head coach Claude Julien said was flu-like symptoms. Anderson tested negative for COVID-19, but will be tested again on Sunday. . . .

F Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils didn’t play in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the host Buffalo Sabres. The Devils said it was a “COVID-related absence.” . . .

D Andrej Sekera of the Dallas Stars didn’t play in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the host Carolina Hurricanes. Sekera had played in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes. The team said Sunday’s absence was “in accordance with the league’s COVID protocols.”


Mustard


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Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Late

The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3

Bookshelf

There are at least three people who stop off here on a regular basis and have asked in the past few days about the annual book list. Well, it’s here. . . . I have done this for a while now, writing thumbnails on books I have read over the previous 12 months. Perhaps this will help with your Christmas shopping or your own Christmas list. . . . And whatever you do, don’t forget to treat yourself!

As for the books on my Christmas list, you can start with Barack Obama’s A Promised Land; Finding Murph, by Rick Westhead; Broken, a collection of short stories by Don Winslow; and James McBride’s best-selling and award-winning Deacon King Kong. . . . Yes, you also can include The Sentinel, the latest in Jack Reacher’s adventures; Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence; and A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham. . . . I also had Al Strachan’s Hockey Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders on the list, but I cheated and purchased it earlier this week. . . . And I eagerly await Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player. The story of Fred Sasakamoose, who died last week, it is to be published on April 6. . . . But enough of that . . . here’s the first of three parts of this year’s Bookshelf . . .

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Agent in Place — This is another Gray Man novel by Mark Greaney. I will tell you that the first chapter grabs you and before you know you’re 30 chapters in, and I will leave it at that. . . . Agent in Place is No. 7 in Greaney’s ultra-successful series.

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The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport — Rafi Kohan, a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City, has given us a really intriguing look at the arena/stadium/sports facility game. He visited numerous facilities and saw the nooks and crannies, and he wrote about all of it. From the huge food service crew for a New York Mets game at Citi Field, to the end of the days for the Pontiac Silverdome, the Olympic facilities in Utah and a whole lot more . . . it’s all here in an engrossing and ultra-informative read.

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The Black Russian — Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in 1872 in Mississippi. He would go on to become an entertainment mogul in Moscow and later in Constantinople. Author Vladimir Alexandrov tells Thomas’s story between the covers of this book, and it’s an amazing tale. In places like Moscow and Constantinople, Thomas, a Black American, rarely had to deal with a colour line, but it was a different story when it came to politics and upheavals.

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Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth — This book, written by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, opens with the opening of a gas station in Manhattan and before you know it you’re drawn into what is a stunningly good read. It’s about the oil and gas industry and I guarantee that you will never fill up your car again without thinking about what you read here. You also will have your socks blown off by the amount of money that is in play; you may have heard or seen figures before, but not like what you will read about here. However, if there is a thread here, it is Vladimir Putin and his rise to power. Scary and amazing, all at the same time.

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Blue Moon — Jack Reacher finds himself between Albanian and Ukrainian gangs in Lee Child’s latest book — it’s No. 24 — on the vagabond former military cop who roams the United States righting wrongs as he travels. If you are a Reacher fan, or even if you aren’t familiar with him, you’ll enjoy this one as he eliminates two camps.

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The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood — It was one of the milestone films in big screen history, and author Sam Wasson’s book is just as good. Wasson shapes the book around screenwriter Robert Towne, director Roman Polanski, and actors Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson as he writes about the before, during and aftermath of Chinatown. Good stuff!

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Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey — Hockey lifer Brian Burke tells his story, with the help of Stephen Brunt, a former newspaper columnist who, like Burke, now is at Rogers Sportsnet. This book is about what you might expect from Burke — loud, obscene and opinionated. It is interesting how he claims on more than one occasion that “white noise” from the media never bothered him, but he then spends a lot time ripping into those same media types. I would have liked a bit more inside dope on the NHL-NHLPA battles, but it wasn’t to be.

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California Fire and Life — If you haven’t yet discovered author Don Winslow through his drug wars trilogy — The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border — get thee to a book store. After that, go back and start reading Winslow’s earlier stuff. California Fire and Life is an insurance company; Jack Wade is an insurance claims investigator. There is a fire and, of course, not all is as it seems. There are good guys and bad guys, and Winslow’s writing.

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Circe — Oh my, what an interesting book! It’s a novel based on Greek mythology. Admittedly, the only time I have an interest in that subject is in the odd crossword puzzle. But author Madeline Miller can write — oh, can she! — and she really brings the subject to life. Circe, a daughter of Helios, the Titan sun god, and Perse, a sea nymph, is banished to an island where she learns all about witchcraft. Give this one a look; you won’t be disappointed.

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The Colorado Kid — Written and marketed in the style of pulp fiction that once was hugely popular — hello there, Mickey Spillane — it is easy to tell that author Stephen King, he of horror fame, had fun with this one. It’s a quick read and it’s different, as you will discover if you give it a try. The story involves two veteran small-town newspapermen relating a local murder mystery to an intern, with some terrific dialogue. King also had fun burying some pearls of wisdom along the way.

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Fair Warning — Chances are that If you are a reader of any kind you have a favourite writer or two or even six. That being the case, you trust your favourites to deliver for you. That’s exactly what Michael Connelly does time after time. In Fair Warning, he brings back journalist Jack McEvoy for a third time, and this time he’s tracking a serial killer.

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Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles — I always was of the belief that Walter O’Malley picked up his Brooklyn Dodgers and moved them to Los Angeles in 1957 because he was a greedy old you know what. It turns out I was wrong. As author Michael D’Antonio details in Forever Blue, O’Malley badly wanted to stay in Brooklyn, but with the dawning of the automobile era he needed a ball park with parking. O’Malley was prepared to build the facility with his own money, but he needed land. In Brooklyn, he was up against Robert Moses, who was unelected but immensely powerful. Ultimately, O’Malley came to realize he wasn’t going to get the help he needed. Through it all, city officials from Los Angeles were courting him, all of which finally paid off. . . . I’m a sucker for baseball books from this era, and this one didn’t disappoint.

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The Girl in Saskatoon: A Meditation on Friendship, Memory and Murder — Alexandra Wiwcharuk was 23 years of age in May of 1962 when she was murdered alongside the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. The murder hasn’t been solved. Author Sharon Butala, who attended school with Wiwcharuk but was hardly what one would call a close friend, decided to write a book about it and, she hoped, come up with some answers. When she was done she had a book that was more about growing up in Saskatoon, at the time a little city that also was growing up, and all that came with it. Butala can write, and this is good, really good. . . . BTW, The Girl in Saskatoon is a seldom-heard Johnny Cash tune. You’ll have to read the book to find out the back story.

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The Girl Who Lived Twice — This is another in the series of books about the adventures of Lisbeth Salander. Author David Lagercrantz had done an admirable job of picking up where the late Stieg Larsson left off. This one is a bit — OK, quite a bit — different than the earlier ones, in that it involves a Sherpa and an Everest expedition as key plot elements. I would have liked to have had more Salander, but, then, that’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?

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NEXT: Part 2 of 3.

Best junior player I’ve seen would have turned 61 on Sunday . . . Hockey world mourns death of Bowkus

He was the best junior hockey player I ever had the privilege of watching.

Brad McCrimmon, at the age of 19, was a smooth-passing, minute-eating defenceman with the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings, who lost a grand total of five regular-season games. He had the knack of conserving energy while on the ice, so he could play and play and play.

And, although he didn’t carry the title or have his own office, he also was the Wheat Kings’ lone assistant coach.

Dunc McCallum, the head coach, knew what he had in McCrimmon and the former NHLer let the future pro shoulder a huge load. From Plenty, Sask., McCrimmon had grown up on a farm so the work load didn’t scare him; in fact, he scared it.

McCrimmon, as TSN’s Craig Button noted in the above tweet, would have turned 61 on Sunday.

You will recall, however, that McCrimmon died on Sept. 7, 2011. He was the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslav of the KHL when its plane crashed shortly after takeoff. McCrimmon, then 52, had signed with the team in May.

This was his first pro head-coaching gig. You can bet that had he lived he would be an NHL head coach today, perhaps with the Vegas Golden Knights.

In a later tweet, Button pointed out what I think says more than anything about Brad McCrimmon, hockey player:

“He played with Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Gary Suter, Niklas Lidstrom and a young Chris Pronger. All the while helping and complementing others, he was a force in his own right.”

Take a few minutes and check out the seasons those players had while partnered with McCrimmon. Officially, he may not be a Hockey Hall of Famer, but he was a Hall of Famer, if you know what I mean . . . on and off the ice.



Jack Bowkus, a former WHLer who went on to coach for 20 years in southern California, died on Saturday after a battle with cancer. . . . Bowkus, 55, was a native of Lansing, Mich. . . . He played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . While coaching in California, he guided California Wave and Los Angeles Jr. Kings teams to numerous championships. . . . There is more on Bowkus right here.

——

Ray Macias, a former Kamloops Blazers defenceman from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings program, offered this tribute to Jack Bowkus on Facebook:

“We lost a complete legend last night from the game of hockey and all of Southern California hockey. I had the privilege to coach side by side with him this past season and the lessons learned were second to none. A true leader and a true mentor to many kids and for me as I just start my coaching career. The experience gained will never be forgotten and will be carried on through many generations. Thank you Jack for being such a great role model for so many kids in So Cal. May you rest in peace Jack.”

Ray’s mother, Helen Alex, is a long-time member of the Jr. Kings’ operation. . . .

——


Joe Diffie is dead. John Prine is in critical condition. And the clown show is bragging about TV ratings. . . . Will this nightmare ever end?

——

Oh, and have you heard about the King who rented an entire German hotel so that he could go into self-isolation? Did I mention that he brought along his harem of 20 and, yes, some servants? . . . It’s all right here. . . . But I do wonder how the King and his court didn’t end up at Mar-a-Lago.

——

Stephen King and Don Winslow couldn’t have combined to write anything close to what we’re witnessing these days. . . .


Pat Leonard, writing in the New York Daily News:

“For the NFL to play even one game, it needs to be able to safely welcome around 61,500-80,000 fans into a stadium. It must be able to guarantee all staff and players can travel, collaborate, and come into close contact without contracting and spreading this deadly virus.

“How could the NFL possibly guarantee that type of safety by Labor Day?”

Leonard’s look at the situation in which the NFL finds itself is right here. . . .


Twitter headline from The Onion: Trump Orders Manufacturers to Drastically Ramp Up Production of Hospital Gift Shop Supplies. . . .


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The 49ers dodged a big bullet when they passed on Tom Brady.

“Brady is a Bay Area guy and it would have been a heartwarming story, the old warhorse coming back home. But many hearts would not have been warmed.

“While I try to steer clear of politics, my national-affairs advisers tell me that the Bay Area leans politically left, and it would be tough for many 49ers’ fans to embrace Brady because of his BFF status with the president.

“ ‘I spoke to (Brady) the other day, he’s a great guy,’ the president said last week.

“In normal times, that wouldn’t matter. Normal Times just boarded a Princess Cruise to Tahiti.” . . .


If you haven’t heard, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks are going to present a concert — Garth & Trisha: Live! — on Wednesday evening  on CBS-TV. If you’re interested, check your local listings. . . . They and CBS also are donating $1 million to charities “combating the COVID-19 virus.” . . .


From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Sidelined sportscaster Joe Buck will do a play-by-play narration of your quarantined existence in exchange for a charity donation, tweeting, ‘Send me videos of what you’re doing at home and I’ll work on my play-by-play. Seriously!’ . . . Predictably, Cowboys fans are already complaining that Buck is biased toward Green Bay’s shut-ins.” . . .

——

Perry, again: “NASCAR is imposing staff salary cuts of 20-25% until there’s a return to racing. Or as the folks in accounting prefer to call it, restrictor-plate paying.” . . .


The Toronto Blue Jays opened their regular season by getting swept by the visiting Boston Red Sox. . . . Boston won, 6-3, on Sunday, as 3B Rafael Devers hit his fourth HR in three games, a two-run shot that tied the game in the eighth inning, and JD Martinez won it with a three-run dinger in the 12th. . . . After the opening weekend, the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s join Boston at 4-0, with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 3-0. . . . This all is part of a simulated season being played out by the folks at Strat-O-Matic, and you are able to check it all out right here.


Think about these numbers for a few minutes . . .

The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3

Bookshelf

What follows is the third and final part of my annual Bookshelf piece, a thumbnail look at some of the books I have read in the past year. Hopefully, you will find something you want to read or to purchase as a gift. . . .

As for the 10 best books that I read this year, here they are, in alphabetical order (the last three are in the compilation that follows) . . .

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich

The Border, by Don Winslow

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

November Road, by Lou Berney

The Other Woman, by Daniel Silva

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter

——

Past Tense — This is No. 23 in author Lee Child’s books that follow the adventures of Jack Reacher. It is a bit different in that for the first while it details two stories that run parallel to each other like side-by-side railroad tracks. As a reader you know that they are going to merge, you just don’t know when. Reacher, for his part, gets caught up in a tangled web when he visits Ryantown, Maine, in search of some family history.

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The Power of the Dog — This is the first of three amazing books that author Don Winslow has written about the U.S. government’s war on drugs. The Cartel and The Border, the latter having been released in February, are the others. Winslow obviously knows his subject inside and out, as he tells the story from the perspective of politicians and law enforcement people from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, and from those inside the cartels and on the streets. It’s all amazing and gory, and, in Winslow’s hands, it all makes for a tantalizing read.

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The Quiet Game — Author Greg Iles knows his way around the southern U.S., especially Natchez, Miss. This was the first book to feature Penn Cage, a former district attorney in Houston turned best-selling author. In The Quiet Game, Cage is recently widowed and has a daughter, four-year-old Annie. He returns to his hometown of Natchez in an attempt to find some peace and quiet. Of course, he becomes embroiled in a situation that involves his father, who is a popular doctor, especially with the poor folks, an old love, her father and a whole lot more. I must admit that I quite enjoy the Iles-written books that I have read to date.

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The Reckoning — A war hero who is a gentleman cotton farmer in post-Second World War Mississippi kills the local Methodist preacher and doesn’t offer a defence. From there, author John Grisham takes the reader on quite a journey that includes the breaking apart of a family, a wife and mother in a mental institution, war, the Bataan Death March, lawyers, judges, life in small-town Mississippi and a whole lot more. In short, this isn’t your typical Grisham legal thriller; it’s more about historical fiction wrapped around everything else.

——

Road to Gold: The Untold Story of Canada at the World Juniors — The biggest complaint about author Mark Spector’s look at Canada and the IIHF’s U-20 World Hockey Championship is that, at 220 pages, it isn’t anywhere near long enough. There are a number of entertaining anecdotes between the covers, and the opening chapter is especially interesting. It details the work done by Murray Costello, then the president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, to get the three major junior leagues to buy into the program that would produce such golden results at this tournament. Spector also explains how the tournament came to be such a major part of TSN’s programming when it started out as the property of CBC.

——

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other — Oh, how I looked forward to reading author Ken Dryden’s latest work! Yes, it met all expectations. In fact, it exceeded them. This isn’t a book strictly about Scott Bowman, though. Rather, Dryden, who played goal for the Bowman-coached Montreal Canadiens at one point in his career, had Bowman pick his top eight teams in NHL history in chronological order. Dryden then alternates chapters as he tells Bowman’s story and then writes about one of those top eight teams. Great stuff and a whole lot of memories here.

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — Phil Knight, the author of this book and the creator of Nike, was heavily in debt in his younger days, as the first part of this book details. By the end of the book, he is worth US$10 billion. This is the story of all that went on in between, and it’s a pretty good read — just don’t expect to read anything about the sins of Tiger Woods. Particularly interesting are the stories emanating from negotiations with Japanese and later Chinese businessmen. A highlight may be the evening in which Knight and his wife, Penny, were leaving a movie in Palm Springs, Calif., and encountered Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in the theatre lobby. I’ll let you try and figure out how much money was standing there and chatting.

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Slow Curve on the Coquihalla — This is subtitled A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery, Book 1. Hunter Rayne is a former RCMP officer who retired following the suicide of a friend and now is a long-haul truck driver. When a fellow driver dies in an accident on the Coquihalla Highway, Rayne decides to look into it and, yes, it turns out to be murder. Living in Kamloops, which is at one end of the Coquihalla — the other end is near Hope — I found it most interesting to read a novel in which I was familiar with many of the landmarks that were mentioned. Yes, I will search out Book 2, written by R.E. Donald.

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Sold on a Monday — Author Kristina McMorris has written an engrossing novel based on a newspaper photo from 1931 in which two youngsters pose under a sign indicating that they are for sale. Ellis Reed, a newspaper writer with a camera, is looking for his big break. He takes one photo, then comes back for another. One thing leads to another and Reed ends up on a soul-searching journey. This is a fine period piece.

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Us Against You — This is the sequel to Beartown, Swedish author Fredrik Backman’s stunning novel about hockey and life in a small town. The sequel doesn’t disappoint and, yes, it is about hockey as life and one as a metaphor for the other. Pick up either of these books and you will find yourselves lingering as you read, enjoying them like a DQ Blizzard on a hot August day. Oh my, but Backman can write!

——

We Were the Lucky Ones — Georgia Hunter spins an amazing story with her first novel, which really is a work of historical fiction. Thanks to a high school English project, Hunter, then 15, interviewed her grandmother about the family’s history. As Hunter learned, that history was quite something, and she was able to turn it into this book a few years later. As the Second World War began, the Kurc family was living in Radom, Poland. They were Polish Jews, so you can imagine what was in their immediate future, and it wasn’t pretty. In the end, though, as Hunter discovered, they really were fortunate. Trust me on this one . . . a huge recommendation.

—30—

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 . . .

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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 Sunday night while wondering if Monday will be a good day to rake . . .

Scattershooting

I haven’t watched Coach’s Corner in a long time. I stopped when the show became more of a noisy rant-and-rave affair than one that provided some insight into the NHL or even hockey in general.

But it is hard to ignore what happened on Saturday night, what with social media losing its mind over it for a lot of Sunday.

The surprising thing to me — although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised considering the times in which we live — is the number of people who maintain there was nothing wrong with what went on with Don Cherry and his acquiescent sidekick, Ron MacLean.

After all, MacLean has apologized, writing in a tweet that what Cherry said was “hurtful and prejudiced . . .”

Also, the brass at Rogers Sportsnet has apologized, using “discriminatory,” “offensive” and “divisive” to describe the commentary.

As well, Hockey Canada condemned what was said: “The hockey community does not stand for the comments made (Saturday) night. Hockey is Canada’s game because it brings our country together, be it around the television or in local arenas. Belonging and inclusivity are an integral part of our game.”

And the NHL also issued a statement of condemnation: “Hockey is at its best when it brings people together. The comments made (Saturday) night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”

Let’s agree, then, that what was said was all of those things.

Let’s also agree that this is a case of someone staying — or being allowed to stay — too long at the dance.

If you want more on Cherry, check out this column right here from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star.

Or try this one right here by Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette.


Whether it’s the economy, the influence of TV and/or Netflix and the PVR, or whatever, there are a lot of sports teams out there that aren’t attracting as many fans as they once did and nowhere near as many as they would like to have in their home buildings.

One thing that often is cited as a reason for staying home is the prices at the concession stands. That being the case, perhaps it’s time more teams and facility operators took a look at happenings in Atlanta.

Prior to the 2017 NFL season, the concession prices at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS), the home of the Atlanta Falcons, were slashed by 50 per cent. The result was a 16 per cent increase in average spending per fan over the 2016 season.

On top of that, according to a news release, the concessions also received “an NFL voice of the fan rating of No. 1 across all food and beverage categories.”

In 2018, the fans “spent on average the same amount as they did in 2017 and fans again rated the Falcons No. 1 in all food and beverage categories for the second consecutive year . . .”

In March, prior to the start of Major League Soccer’s 2019 season for Atlanta United, MBS cut the prices of five “top items” by 50 cents each:

Hot Dog: $1.50 (was $2)

Pretzel Bites: $4.50 (was $5)

ATL Bud Burger: $7.50 (was $8)

Ice Cream Waffle Cone: $4.50 (was $5)

Chips and Salsa: $2.50 (was $3)

Falconsmenu
A menu from one of the concessions at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post has more on the Atlanta situation right here.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen if just one NHL team, or even one WHL team, cut ticket prices in conjunction with a trimming of concession prices?


The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a casino, “is suing San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, claiming he failed to pay back $500,000 in gambling markers from April,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Possible penalties range from a huge fine and restitution to two minutes for charging.”



Bob Calvert never played for the Moose Jaw Warriors, but there was a time when he was on the WHL team’s board of directors. His son, Jeff, was a goaltender of note with the Warriors (1989-91) and Tacoma Rockets (1991-94). On Friday night, Jeff’s son, Atley, made his WHL debut against the visiting Winnipeg Ice. . . . In other words, Friday was a big night for the Calvert family.


ANOTHER PET PEEVE: The Regina Pats were to have played the visiting Swift Current Broncos at the Brandt Centre on Friday night. However, a problem with the ice resulted in . . . Well, the Pats and Broncos, along with a few others, including some purporting to be members of the media, announced that the game had been cancelled. Actually, it had been postponed and will be rescheduled. . . . Please, people, there is a difference between cancelled and postponed.



Kevin Shaw is an avid follower of the Regina Pats, who has taken to tweeting stories from the team’s past. This included the story in the below tweet that involves the long-gone Spokane Flyers losing 9-4 to the host Pats on Nov. 8, 1981. One night earlier, the Flyers had been beaten 11-3 by the visiting Victoria Cougars. . . . Yes, Spokane played one night at home and 24 hours later in Regina. Oh, and the Flyers bus driver took a wrong turn somewhere that extended the trek to Regina by a couple of hours. . . . BTW, one night before losing to Victoria, the Flyers were to have played in Kamloops. However, that game wasn’t played because, as Dave Senick of the Regina Leader-Post wrote: “Their bus was about to be repossessed and there was no money for gasoline or meals. And, the team’s payroll has not been met for two weeks.” . . . Ahh, those were the days.




JUST NOTES: Watching the Vancouver Canucks and host Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. The visitors lose D Chris Tanev and D Tyler Myers on back-to-back shifts in the second period. What happened? Both players limped off after blocking shots (luckily for the Canucks, both soon were back in action). I have never understood the emphasis on blocking shots that goaltenders are equipped, trained and paid to stop. . . . The Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL’s West Division final. Yeah, I’ll take that for a Sunday afternoon’s entertainment. But will it be cold and snowy? . . . Did the Edmonton Eskimos save head coach Jason Maas’s job with their victory over the Alouettes in Montreal on Sunday. . . . The NFL and video review aren’t a match made in heaven. . . . As a sporting spectacle is there anything better than a big-time NCAA football matchup like Saturday’s game featuring LSU and Alabama?

Comings, goings and happenings . . . and now back to baseball and The Border

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, well, I’ve been right here. I am taking some time away from writing, just taking a break. . . . I also have cracked open The Border, the third book in author Don Winslow’s terrific trilogy about, yes, the U.S.-Mexico border and a whole lot more. So I have been spending some time with Art Keller (hey, Google is your friend). . . . If you haven’t read the trilogy, start with The Dogs of War, then move on to The Cartel. After that you’ll be ready for The Border. . . . A warning though — this stuff is gritty. . . .

Some stuff has happened over the last few days, so what follows is a summary. No, I’m not back on a daily basis. Not yet. . . . You see, I’m only halfway through The Border. . . .


MacBeth

F Radim Valchar (Portland, Lethbridge, 2007-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Csíkszereda Miercurea Ciuc (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, he put up 42 goals and 43 assists in 61 games. He was tied for the league lead in goals and was second in points. . . .

D Brenden Kichton (Spokane, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga), he had eight goals and 15 assists in 46 games. . . .

F Lukáš Králík (Victoria, 2011-12) has signed a one-year contract with Nový Jičín (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). Last season, in 28 games with Draci Šumperk (Czech Republic, 2. Liga), he had seven goals and four assists. . . .

D Matt Pufahl (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Everett, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Glasgow Clan (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had one assist in six games. He also had one goal and one assist in 26 games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . . The Glasgow press release states that Pufahl will enrol in the MBA program at Glasgow Caledonian University while playing for the Clan. . . .

F Wacey Rabbit (Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brașov (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL), he had 29 goals and 31 assists in 70 games. He led the team in goals and points, and was tied for the lead in assists. . . .

F Michael Burns (Edmonton, Vancouver, 2007-12) has signed a try-out contract with the Hannover Indians (Germany, Oberliga Nord). He didn’t play last season. In summer 2018, with the Sydney Bears (Australia, AIHL), he had five goals and five assists in nine games. He holds dual German-Canadian citizenship. . . .

F Kevin King (Kootenay, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with Cortina (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, in 45 games with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite), he had five goals and 13 assists. . . .

F Austin Carroll (Victoria, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had 15 goals and 20 assists in 45 games. On loan to the Manitoba Moose (AHL), he had one goal in seven games. . . .

F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) has signed a one-year contract with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 42 games; he was an alternate captain. . . . He was traded to Vityaz Podolsk (Russia, KHL) on Dec. 26, and had five goals and four assists in 19 games. . . .

F Jim O’Brien (Seattle, 2007-09) has signed a one-year contract with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Belleville Senators (AHL), he had one goal and two assists in 11 games. . . .

F R.J. Reed (Vancouver, Prince Albert, 2010-11) has signed a one-year contract with Diez-Limburg (Germany, Regionalliga West). Last season, with the Nijmegen Devils (Netherlands, BeNeLiga), he had 33 goals and 17 assists in 19 games. He led the team in goals and was second in points. He was third in the league in goals. . . .

D Brendan Mikkelson (Portland, Vancouver, 2003-07) has signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 47 games with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL), he had six goals and eight assists in 47 games.


ThisThat

The Kamloops Blazers have signed Shaun Clouston as their head coach, replacing Serge Lajoie who was one-and-done. Clouston arrives in Kamloops after spending 16 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was dismissed as general manager and head coach on Kamloops1May 30 so that the Tigers could bring back Willie Desjardins to fill both roles. . . . The Blazers also named co-owner Darryl Sydor an associate coach. He was named an assistant coach on Feb. 12. . . .

A tip of the Taking Note fedora to Clouston for not ducking questions about what happened in Medicine Hat. The Tigers announced his departure in a three-paragraph news release in which the team said they and Clouston “have parted ways.” . . . Clouston told reporters in Kamloops on Wednesday that he was in shock — he likened it to a “punch in the stomach” — when the Tigers dumped him. . . .

The Blazers didn’t announce any terms of their contract with Clouston, but you have to think it is at least four years in length. After all, they originally offered Kyle Gustafson a four-year deal, only to have him choose to remain with the Portland Winterhawks as associate coach and assistant GM. The offer to Gustafson was made before Clouston’s time ran out in The Hat. . . .

What makes things interesting in Kamloops is Sydor’s presence as associate coach. He also is one of the team’s five co-owners and hasn’t hidden his desire to be a WHL head coach. Sydor has never been a head coach, but has ample experience as an NHL assistant coach, having worked with the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. . . .

With the Blazers having hired Clouston, it leaves the Brandon Wheat Kings, Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs as the only WHL teams still searching for head coaches. . . . The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers have a announced the hiring of Jim Playfair as an associate coach under head coach Dave Tippett. There continues to be speculation that Mark Lamb, presently the Cougars’ general manager, could be joining the Oilers as an assistant coach. He has a long history with Tippett.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


A couple of notes from Postmedia’s Jim Matheson:

“Connor McDavid’s junior coach Kris Knoblauch lost out for the Columbus farm team head job in Cleveland to Mike Eaves. . . . Hearing Los Angeles head coach Todd McLellan would have hired his other Oilers assistant Manny Viveiros, but there’s only room for two assistants for budgetary reasons. Viveiros is very much in running for an assistant’s job in Ottawa, though. No surprise Trent Yawney, who’ll look after L.A.’s defence, is joining McLellan again.”



I watched most of the Minnesota Twins’ 17-inning victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. One night later, Dick Bremer, the TV play-by-play voice of the Twins, passed along some interesting numbers. In a nine-inning game, he said, MLB teams will go through between six and 18 dozen baseballs. On Tuesday, in a game that included 487 pitches, they used up 27 dozen baseballs. . . . That’s a lot of souvenirs!


Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Swift Current Broncos for the past nine seasons, will be the new play-by-play voice of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, according to Mike Davies of the Peterborough Examiner. . . . According to Davies, Mullin will replace Rob Snoek of Extra 90.5FM. Snoek told Davies that he won’t be back and that “it wasn’t my decision.” . . . Davies’ story is right here.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have acquired F D-Jay Jerome, 20, from the Victoria Royals Lethbridgefor a pair of unspecified conditional bantam draft picks, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. Jerome is from Lethbridge. . . . Other 20-year-olds on Lethbridge’s roster include D Koletrane Wilson, D Ty Prefontaine, F Scott Mahovlich and F Zach Cox. F Jake Leschyshyn, F Jordy Bellerive and F Nick Henry also are 1999-born players, but are likely to begin their pro careers in the fall. . . .

The Royals also lost D Jake Kustra, 20, on waivers to the Swift Current Broncos. Kustra played under Broncos head coach Dean Brockman when both were with the Saskatoon VictoriaRoyalsBlades. . . . With Kustra, the Broncos have three 20-year-olds on their roster, the others being F Ian Briscoe and F Ethan O’Rourke. . . .

Having trade away Jerome and placed Kustra on waivers, Victoria has six 20s on its roster — D Will Warm, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings on June 13, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, who is from Victoria, D Jameson Murray, D Scott Walford and G Shane Farkas, an offseason acquisition from the Portland Winterhawks. . . .

Meanwhile, the Broncos have signed F Mat Ward to a WHL contract. From Kamloops, he was the 14th overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have waived F Zach Russell, 20. He got into 36 games with them last season. Earlier, the Oil Kings had dealt D Will Warm, 20, to the Victoria Royals. . . . The Oil Kings are left with four 20s on their roster — F Riley Sawchuk, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans on May 16, G Dylan Myskiw, D Conner McDonald and D Parker Gavlas. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky also is 20, but is likely to begin his pro career in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization.


Bart


An interesting note from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot: “Bob Molinaro in the Hampton-Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Forbes has put out another list of the highest-paid athletes. It’s the usual dull cluster of dollar signs and numbers, but with one amusing twist. Strictly by salary, Tom Brady ranks fifth on the list — among Boston athletes alone. The top paid Beantown jock is Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, followed by teammates Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Red Sox left-hander David Price slips into fourth place. Not taken into account is the cash value of six Super Bowl rings.”


The Kamloops Blazers are down to three 20-year-olds with F Travis Walton having cleared WHL waivers and signed with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. . . . Walton had nine goals and nine assists in 48 regular-season games over three seasons with the Blazers. . . . The 20s remaining on the Blazers’ roster are F Zane Franklin, F Kobe Mohr and D Jackson Caller. . . .

Meanwhile, the Blazers announced Thursday that they have signed Colin (Toledo) Robinson, their trainer, to a contract extension. The length of the extension wasn’t revealed. . . . Robinson has been with the Blazers since then GM/head coach Dean Clark signed him in 2005. Robinson is prepping for his 25th WHL season, having also worked for the Swift Current Broncos and Vancouver Giants.


The Prince Albert Raiders named Curt Brownlee as their director of player personnel. He has been with the Raiders since 2011 when he signed on as a scout. He takes over from the late Ron Gunville, who died in December.


There is zero chance of the Tampa Bay Rays splitting their American League seasons between the Florida city and Montreal. None. Zilch. Nada. . . . This is simply a cheap way for the Rays to try and pressure their way to a new ballpark in Tampa.


If you’re wondering about the costs of operating a junior A hockey team, consider this from Michael Reeve of radio station Q101.1 from the AGM of the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials:

“Beth Nadeau, the team’s treasurer, provided an update on last (season’s) financials. While the team’s expenses came in at approximately the same amount as last (season), this (season’s) revenue was down close to $23,000. All of that resulted in the team losing $95,644.68 last (season), up from a loss of $75,329.99 the season before.”

Meanwhile, the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders held their AGM on Wednesday night and reported a deficit of $6,402.95. The Stampeders had a long playoff run or it would have been a lot worse. . . . For more, check out Benny Walchuk’s blog right here.


Tweetoftheday

The Bookshelf . . . Part 2 of 3

Bookshelf

For the past few years, I have compiled lists of books that I have read over the previous 12 months, and posted them here. With any luck, you may find an idea or two to help you get through your Christmas shopping.

Part 1 appeared here yesterday and may be found by scrolling down a wee bit.

And here is Part 2 of 3 of the books that I have read so far in 2018.

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Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL — If you aren’t old enough to remember the USFL, it was a spring league that actually made the NFL nervous. Until, that is, a guy named Donald Trump took over the New Jersey Generals and, like a pied piper, led the league over a cliff and into obscurity. This is a great read, full of all kinds of anecdotes and head-shaking moments. When you’re done with it, you are left to wonder what might have happened had the USFL been able to avoid Trump and had it stayed a spring league. Author Jeff Pearlman obviously had fun writing this one and it shows.

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The Force — In the world of gritty novels about those who live on both sides of the law, and even on the edge, there was Mickey Spillane. Then came Joseph Wambaugh. Now it’s Don Winslow. Winslow’s latest work, The Force, tells the story of Denny Malone of the NYPD and his partners as they transform into exactly what it is they are trying to get off their streets. Warning: There are times during The Force when you may feel as though you need a shower.

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The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye — This is the fifth book in the series that features the unique Lisbeth Salander and Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist. The series began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that was written by the late Stieg Larsson. He wrote two more — The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next. With Larsson’s death, David Lagercrantz produced The Girl in the Spider’s Web. The latest book in the series opens with Salander in prison and goes from there, as she exposes corruption the system and Blomkvist gets another scoop for his magazine.

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Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America — All signs pointed to Mike Coolbaugh having what it takes to play Major League Baseball. But he never was able to get into the right place at the right time. When he turned to coaching in the minor leagues, he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and died after being struck on the head by a foul ball. In this book, S.L. Price, a terrific writer with Sports Illustrated, weaves a story that ties so many things together, especially how fate brought Tino Sanchez, who hit the fatal foul ball, and Coolbaugh together that night in North Little Rock, Ark. This book is hard to read at times, but it also is hard to put down.

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Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Faceoff over the NHL — David Shoalts, who covers the sports media for The Globe in Mail, has written a book that explains all of the intricacies involved with Rogers landing the contract as the NHL’s national broadcaster in Canada. He also explains how CBC-TV stayed involved and, in fact, ended up giving — GIVING! — Sportsnet space in its office building and on its airwaves. Shoalts also covers the crowning of George Stroumboulopoulos as Hockey Night in Canada’s host, and his departure to make room for the return of Ron MacLean, who just may be the most powerful hockey TV personality in Canada. One other thing — if you are one of those hockey fans who wonders why the national sports networks force feed you so much Toronto Maple Leafs stuff, well, Shoalts explains that, too.

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A Legacy of Spies — Author John le Carré has spun another gem that includes old favourite George Smiley and a cast of characters from the British Secret Service, all of whom know their way around the Cold War. The focus of this book is Peter Guillam, who had worked closely with Smiley but now is retired . . . until a letter arrives.

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Lightning Men — Author Thomas Mullen follows the early careers of Lucius Boggs, Denny Rakestraw and other black officers as they begin to integrate the Atlanta police force in the 1950s. Lightning Men is the sequel to Darktown and they really do tell the stories of what was a completely different era. Or was it?

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A Matter of Confidence: The Inside Story of the Political Battle for BC — This is the book that is likely to make aspiring journalists want to be involved in covering the political arena, at least in British Columbia. Authors Rob Shaw and Richard Zussman both have been involved in doing just that, and here they chronicle all that happened prior to, during and after the province’s 2017 election. You may remember that the Liberals won that election — both in the number of seats and the popular vote — but their minority government lost a non-confidence vote to the Green and NDP parties. This is a must-read for political junkies and, for that matter, anyone who votes.

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The Midnight Line — This is another (No. 22) in the long line of books by Lee Child that detail the wanderings of Jack Reacher. This one is Reacher — and Child — at his best. It all starts with a West Point Military Academy ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin, and it’s a great, albeit dusty, ride from there. (Please, though, let’s not have any more Reacher movies starring Tom Cruise.) . . . If you’re a real Reacher fan, you also will want to get your hands on No Middle Name, a collection of Reacher-related short stories from Lee Child.

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Only Time Will Tell — This is the first book in The Clifton Chronicles, author Jeffrey Archer’s seven-book series that follows the lives and loves of Harry Clifton, along with family and friends. I am a sucker for books of this nature — see Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and its sequels — and really enjoyed Only Time Will Tell. Yes, I will be reading the remaining six books in Archer’s Clifton Chronicles. (I have since read the second book in the series, The Sins of the Fathers; the third, Best Kept Secret; and the fourth, Be Careful What You Wish For. This is good escapism, and isn’t that what fiction is supposed to be?)

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Original Highways: Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada — The South Thompson River flows quietly past our home. I will never look at it the same way, nor will I take it for granted, after reading this tremendous book by Roy MacGregor, one of the great Canadian writers of this generation, who also has a lifelong love affair with the canoe. The South Thompson isn’t one that gets profiled in this book, but the Fraser is there, along with a number of other great Canadian waterways. It is stunning to read about the amount of abuse that has been foisted upon these rivers and their tributaries. But, at the same time, it is uplifting to learn there are a whole lot of people out there who care and who are working so hard to help these rivers regain their health. If you are one who cares about water and has an interest in history — and even if you don’t — this is a wonderful read. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that our schools couldn’t go wrong by making it part of their curriculum. (There are lots of rivers out there; here’s hoping there is a sequel, or even two, in MacGregor’s future.)

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TOMORROW: Part 3 of 3.