The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3

Books

What follows is Part 3 of my annual look back at a year in reading. The list concludes with a list of the 10 books that I most enjoyed in 2021, in alphabetical order. I didn’t include books by Don Winslow in that list because they would have dominated. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Don Winslow. . . .

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate — Despite the lengthy title, this was a truly fascinating read. It was published in August 2013, and you can bet that not much has changed in the intervening eight years. Author Rose George was able to spend five weeks on the Maersk Kendal, one of those giant container ships you may have seen going under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. To say that this one is an eye-opener would be a real understatement.

Nothing Ventured — In the Clifton Chronicles, author Jeffrey Archer’s seven-book series following one family, one of the characters, Harry Clifton, is a writer of crime novels involving a copper named William Warwick. Now Archer has spun Warwick into a series of his own, starting with Nothing Ventured. There’s nothing deep here, just an easy read. The second and third Warwick books, Hidden in Plain Sight and Turn a Blind Eye, also helped get me through a few days in the latter part of 2021.

October 1964 — Published in 1995, this was picked by The New York Times as its sports book of the year. As much as it’s a story of the 1964 World Series, it’s a story of that MLB season with a heavy focus on the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. They would meet in that World Series, and this is more a story of how they got there than anything else. Written by the legendary David Halberstam, it is impeccably researched and loaded with anecdotes and notes on many greats and a lot of not-so-greats. I had read this 20 years ago; I think I enjoyed it even more this time around.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — First, Quentin Tarantino made the movie of the same name, then he wrote the novel. If you have seen any of his movies, well, this is just as quirky. It is, as The New York Times, put it “a pulpy page-turner.” It also features Charles Manson and his crew and a whole lot of Hollywood-based gossip.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — A few years ago, Stephen King — yes, that Stephen King — took a break from writing thrillers to bang out this really neat book. In the first bit, he tells about his early life and how he came to be a fiction writer. Then he goes on to write about writing — some dos and a lot of don’ts. And he finishes up with a detailed report on the accident — he was drilled by a guy in a blue van — that almost killed him. This was a nice, enjoyable look into the life and thought process of one of today’s most-prolific writers.

Pain Killer: A Memoir of Big League Addiction — This one, by former WHL/NHL enforcer Brantt Myhres, is hard to read, especially the first two-thirds. Myhres didn’t have much of a childhood, then went on to fight his way through the WHL and into the NHL. But a lot of it was snort coke, guzzle Jack Daniels, punch an opposing enforcer in the face, get punched in the face. Rinse. Repeat. Myhres really should be dead. Really. This book is ample proof of that. Instead, despite having only a Grade 9 education, he turned things around to the point that he ended up working for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings as player assistance director. That lasted for three seasons until he lost his job in a regime change. If only this book had fewer cocaine-and-Jack anecdotes and more on Myhres’ life after snorting and drinking, more on why none of the NHL’s other teams has hired him, more on his work with First Nations youngsters. If only . . .

Pat Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend — Despite never having met the late Pat Quinn, author Dan Robson has done a more than credible job of chronicling the life of the cigar-chomping guy who was known as The Big Irishman. Quinn never gets nearly enough credit for being ahead of the game as a coach, especially when it came to using video, basic analytics, nutrition and various training techniques. Robson also explores the downside of Quinn’s career, including the eye-opening episode where he agreed to join the Vancouver Canucks — and accepted a hundred grand — while under contract to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Second Life of Nick Mason — After five years in jail and with at least another 20 years ahead of him, Nick Mason, the creation of author Steve Hamilton, makes a deal with a devil named Darius Cole. And thus begins Mason’s second life, one that is on the outside, mostly in the streets of Chicago, but is controlled entirely by Cole. Mason is one of those good bad guys, so this is quite readable and enjoyable. . . .  Exit Strategy is the second book in what surely will become a long-running series.

The Sentinel — This is the 25th book in the series that chronicles the adventures of Jack Reacher, the lone wolf who makes his way aimlessly across the highways of a nation, always seeming to find a mess to clean up. In this one, there are Russians and Nazis and a whole lot more. Yes, it’s all good fun. This is the first Reacher book not to have been written solely by James Grant under his pen name of Lee Child. He shares writing credit for this one with his younger brother Andrew Grant, who is Andrew Child in the publishing world.

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien — This book, written by journalist Philippe Cantin, was a huge success in Quebec with the French version selling more than 30,000 copies. And it’s no wonder. Serge Savard was one of the great players in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s proudest franchises. Cantin, with Savard’s co-operation, runs through his childhood and his climb up hockey’s ladder — from all-star defenceman to Montreal’s GM, a job he lost four games into the 1995-96 season when president Ronald Corey fired him. Savard lets it all hang out, too, as he pulls back the curtain to show the Canadiens, warts and all.

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink — It was May 17, 1979, and the Philadelphia Phillies were at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a game with the Cubs. The Phillies scored seven runs in their half of the first inning but, with the wind blowing out, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Author Kevin Cook takes an entertaining inning-by-inning look at what transpired on that glorious afternoon, with lots of anecdotes and sidebars on participants like Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, the troubled Donnie Moore and a whole lot more. This is a wild and crazy read.

A Time for Mercy — John Grisham has brought back lawyer Jake Brigance for a third time — after A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row — and he doesn’t disappoint. This time, Drew Gamble, 16, whose family is all but indigent, has shot and killed a policeman. Of course, the story isn’t that simple and, yes, it’s a page-turner.

The Wanted — The homes — 18 of them — belonging to some of the elites have been broken into and it turns out that the perps are three young people. The mother of one of them hires Elvis Cole to get to the bottom of this mess, and he brings sometimes-partner Joe Pike along for the ride. Cole and Pike are regulars in books by author Robert Crais.

The Winter of Frankie Machine — If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a big, big fan of author Don Winslow. And I absolutely loved this book that was published in 2006, Frank Machianno, aka Frankie Machine, is a retired hit man trying to make an honest buck. He runs a bait shack on a pier in San Diego and has a few other things on the go. He’s got an ex-wife, a daughter and a girl friend. But now someone wants him dead. Yes, it’s a familiar story, but Winslow’s writing makes it different.

Without Remorse — It had been a long, long time since I cracked open a Tom Clancy-written book, so I didn’t know what to expect from this one that was published in 1993. The paperback version is 685 pages and I really enjoyed it. This is the first book that features John Clark as the primary character and it bounces smoothly between the various storylines.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret — Nashville had the A Team. Motown had the Funk Brothers. In Los Angeles, it was the Wrecking Crew. These were the studio musicians who played on oh, so many hit songs, including for the Beach Boys. Did you know that Glen Campbell — think Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix — was a member of the Beach Boys? Did you know there were two Beach Boys bands, one for the studio and one on the road. Author Kent Hartman has all that and a whole lot more here. I guarantee that if you read this one you won’t ever look at ’60s and ’70s music the same ever again.

Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History — There may be just a bit of hyperbole in the title but the CFL’s 1991 season really was one to remember. Prior to the season, comedian John Candy, a true, blue Canadian, hockey star Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, then a tycoon and later a convict, purchased the Toronto Argonauts. Then they signed Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish star who likely would have been the NFL’s first overall draft pick had he not headed north. The Rocket got what then was football’s richest contract and, all these years later, it still makes an observer shake his head. Author Paul Woods, who has followed the Argonauts for years as a journalist, writer and fan, was there for all of it and details the entire story — the good, the bad and the ugly that followed 1991.

—-

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Billy Summers, by Stephen King

Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Crosby

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player, by Fred Sasakamoose

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride

The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World, by Norman Webster

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien, by Philippe Cantin

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, by Kevin Cook

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, by Kent Hartman

Part 3 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3

Books

Here is Part 2 of my annual three-part Bookshelf, highlighting some of the books I read in 2021. Perhaps you will find an idea or two that will help you in our Christmas shopping.

The Cellist — Author Daniel Silva is back with his latest work of fiction involving Gabriel Allon, who splits his time between restoring works of art and being a secret agent man with Israeli intelligence. Silva wrote this one during the pandemic and while U.S. politics were redefining bizarre. In fact, he rewrote the last bit just to accommodate the goofiness that was going on in the U.S. It’s interesting how Silva refers to No. 45 without ever mentioning his name.

Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco — Kaleb Dahlgren is one of the survivors of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that claimed 16 lives. As the title indicates, this is Dahlgren’s story from childhood when he was diagnosed with diabetes through the bus tragedy and onto his attempt to return to hockey with U Sports’ York Lions. It really is incredible to read in Dahlgren’s words what he went through as he fought back from a serious brain injury after the accident. The book was written with help from veteran author Dan Robson.

The Dawn Patrol — Boone Daniels is a surfer — OK, a surf bum — and, on those occasions when he actually works, a private investigator. Don Winslow is an author who has a terrific way with words. (He also wrote Broken, which is included in Part 1.) Put them together and you get a thoroughly entertaining book. The characters are interesting, Winslow’s takes on the southern California lifestyle are piercing, and the dialogue is a treat. (See also The Gentlemen’s Hour later on in this list.)

Deacon King Kong — It’s New York City — actually, it’s a housing project in Brooklyn — in late 1969 and there is a shooting as the book’s central character, Sportcoat, takes an ear off a drug dealer. Author James McBride goes on to detail with tremendously entertaining dialogue and all kinds of social messaging the loves and lives of everyone who is impacted. Deacon King Kong? Sportcoat is a church deacon and a drinker who loves the neighbourhood’s home-brew (aka King Kong). This was one of The New York Times’ top 10 books for 2020, and with good reason.

The Defence — You would expect a lot of twists, turns and excitement from a story involving a recovering alcoholic who is a conman/scam artist-turned-lawyer and is defending the Russian Mafia’s top guy on a murder rap. Author Steve Cavanagh doesn’t disappoint in the book that introduced Eddie Flynn to readers.

Dragonfire — Suspend your belief for a few hours and dig into this chapter in the life of Alex Hawke, a likeable character created by author Ted Bell. This book involves a lot, including some of Hawke’s grandfather’s Second World War assignments, the potential assassination of FDR and the disappearance of Hawke’s grandson, Prince Henry.

The Dying Hour — This is the first in a trilogy of thrillers involving Jason Wade. He’s an intern in the newsroom at the Seattle Mirror, one newspaper in a three-paper town — hey, things used to be like that — and he’s eager because he wants a full-time gig. Author Rick Mofina knows his way around thrillers, and if you don’t mind a bit of blood, well, this one’s for you.

The Dynasty — Love them or hate them, you have to respect Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their terrific run. A dynasty? Without a doubt. With this book, author Jeff Benedict really does take you inside that dynasty — from the days leading up to Kraft’s purchase of the NFL franchise and how it almost ended up in Connecticut through Brady’s last season with the Patriots. Belichick’s single-mindedness will amaze you, as will the fact that, by the end, he and Brady hardly were communicating. Yes, this is quite a book!

Finding Murph: How Joe Murphy Went From Winning a Championship to Living Homeless in the Bush — Author Rick Westhead, a senior correspondent with TSN, has written a searing indictment of the NHL for its treatment, or lack of same, of ex-players who may have concussion-related ailments in their lives after hockey. He wraps all of that around the story of Joe Murphy, a former No. 1 draft pick and a Stanley Cup winner who was sleeping on the streets of Kenora, Ont., and in the bush around the community when Westhead and former NHL goaltender Trevor Kidd found him. This is a tough but necessary read if you have anything at all to do with hockey.

The Gentlemen’s Hour — This is the second book in which author Don Winslow features Boone Daniels, a surfer and private investigator who knows his way around the beaches and highways of the San Diego area. This entertaining read features murder, broken friendships, a fishy couple and a whole lot more. And, yes, because it’s Winslow doing the writing, there’s a Mexican cartel involved here, too.

Klondikers: Dawson City’s Stanley Cup Challenge and How a Nation Fell in Love with Hockey — There was a time when the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy, meaning anyone could issue a challenge to whichever team held the trophy. This, then, is the story of how a team from Dawson City, Yukon, challenged the Ottawa Hockey Club. But it’s more than that because it also tells the story of the Klondike gold rush and, at the same time, the birth and growth of hockey in Canada. Author Tim Falconer has written a wonderful book that should be in every sports fan’s library. Well done!

The Law of Innocence — This is the sixth of author Michael Connelly’s books to feature Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer. Yes, Harry Bosch, the star of so many other Connelly books, makes a cameo appearance. In this one, Haller is working as his own lawyer as he fights to beat a murder rap after the body of a former client is found in the trunk of one of his three Lincolns. Yes, we know how it will end, but it’s fun getting there.

Long Range — This is the 20th book in author C.J. Box’s series that follows Joe Pickett, a game warden based in Wyoming, and all that he has to deal with, including, in this instance, a new sheriff who is more than a little out of his element. The story is wrapped around a long-range shooting that may have been intended to kill a judge, but didn’t. The series may be 20 books old but it hasn’t lost a thing.

Murder By Milkshake — He worked at Vancouver radio station CKNW and was having an affair with the radio station’s receptionist . . . so he murdered his wife by milkshake. Seriously. Author Eve Lazarus’s chronicling of this story has to be read to be believed.

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World — The older I get the more interested I seem to get in history. Norman Webster, who died on Nov. 19, was a giant among Canadian journalists; he was an international correspondent and a national columnist and later editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette. He was there for a lot of history and writes about it with clarity, humour and passion in this collection of his work. Oh, and he also fired Conrad Black.

Part 2 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3

Books

This week I will post the annual three-part Bookshelf, in case you are looking for some help as you do your Christmas shopping — for yourself, a family member or a friend. . . . As I journey through retirement, I have found myself mixing in a few books from days gone by and also note that I have been reading more and more books that don’t have much, if anything, to do with sports. In 2021, perhaps because of the lack of normalcy, there also has been more reading of ‘lite’ fiction. . . . Anyway, here they are — most of the books that I read in 2021. . . .

An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir — Robert Lipsyte was there from Muhammad Ali’s career through baseball’s steroid era and a whole lot more. For a lot of that time, he was The New York Times’ lead sports columnist. He revisits all of that here, and also writes about his own hits and misses as a writer in a real gem of a book.

A Man Called Intrepid — Intrepid was the code name for William Stephenson — later Sir William Stephenson — and this is the story of his involvement in the Second World War. It’s a fascinating story about spies and counter spies and codes and code breakers and deception and a whole lot more. The detail provided by author William Stevenson is out of this world. (NOTE: William Stevenson, the author, wasn’t related to William Stephenson.)

A Promised Land — I finished this 700-pager early in February and knew then that I wouldn’t read a better book in 2021. Written by Barack Obama, the two-term U.S. president, it isn’t at all ponderous or heavy slogging. He is a terrific writer with the knack for explaining complicated goings-on in easy-to-understand terms, whether it’s a financial crisis, his country’s relationship with Russia, events leading up to the Arab Spring, or the killing of Osama bin Laden. This is Volume 1 of a two-book set. I eagerly await the next part. Spoiler alert: Mitch McConnell is exactly what you think he is.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — Elizabeth Holmes had a dream. But is that what it was, or was it really happening? John Carreyrou, a writer with the Wall Street Journal, got a tip about Theranos, a startup that was going to revolutionize the field of blood-testing. His writings for the paper led to this book, one that is an unbelievable read, and one that proves the adage about a fool and his money, or, in this case, fools and their money. (Note: Holmes, who is on trial in San Jose, Calif., has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy.)

The Bastard — Written by John Jakes and published in 1974, this is Book 1 in The Kent Family Chronicles, historical fiction that charts the growth of the U.S. Book 1 follows Philippe Charbonneau, whose mother never married his father, the 6th Duke of Kent, from France to England and then to Boston. By now, he has changed his name to Philip Kent and finds himself wrapped up in the beginnings of the American Revolution. . . . All told, The Kent Family Chronicles features eight historical novels.

Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend — If you want to read a hockey book that is loaded with anecdotes, this one is for you. Murray, whose little-used first name is Jim, does the talking and George Johnson, a terrific writer who somehow got squeezed out in one of those Postmedia massacres, does the writing. Hey, the ol’ Bearcat had a fan club with chapters in Boston and Montreal. Who knew?

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel — In alternating chapters, author Diane Chamberlain tells the story of two artists who lived 78 years apart and how they became intertwined in so many ways. Their stories take place in Edenton, N.C., so the book is full of southern politics and prejudice. This is a well-written book by an oft-published author that just drags the reader into the story as it progresses.

Billy Summers — Brilliant. This one, from author Stephen King, is absolutely brilliant. Billy Summers is a hitman who has decided that he will do one more job and then hang up his rifle. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but King does a masterful job of weaving together all the threads. A wonderful read.

Blacktop Wasteland — The main character in this brilliant work of fiction is Beauregard Montage, known as Bug to friends and acquaintances. He’s married with two young sons, and there also is a daughter from another relationship. His is a day-to-day existence, which leads to him living two lives. In one, he’s the proprietor of a small two-bay garage that is fighting to stay open. In the other, he’s a driver — yes, a getaway driver — and he’s really, really good at it. He’s also in a perpetual state of conflict because of all this. Author S.A. Cosby has put this all together into a terrific story that won an L.A. Times book prize for mystery/thriller of the year.

The Breaker — This is the sixth book in author Nick Petrie’s series involving Peter Ash, an ex-Marine who just can’t stay away from bad situations. They find him — indeed, they seem to hunt him out — and then he takes it from there. If you like Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne and Harry Bosch and their ilk, you’ll enjoy Peter Ash and his world.

Broken — Don Winslow has done it again, only this time he hits a home run with six short stories, all of them centred in the world that he seems to know so well — bad guys, bad cops, drugs, thugs and all the rest. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read his trilogy — The Power of the Dog, the Cartel and The Force. It’s all great stuff, and Broken fits right in there.

The Broken Shore — Having stumbled on Jack Irish, an Australian TV series, I discovered that it was based on novels written by Peter Temple. The Broken Shore isn’t a Jack Irish book, but it is quite good. Temple has a quick wit and a way with words. Keep in mind that it all is Australia-based, but if you stick with it you won’t be disappointed. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s gritty, bloody and obscene. Oh, and it’s good. Really, really good. . . . The sequel, Truth, is awfully good too.

The Bushman’s Lair: On the Trail of the Fugitive of the Shuswap — More than 20 years have passed since John Bjornstrom, aka the Bushman of the Shuswap, was hiding out in the wilds surrounding Shuswap Lake in the Interior of B.C. With this book, author Paul McKendrick details Bjornstrom’s story and everything is included, from his involvement with Bre-X to his escape from a prison facility near Kamloops to his capture and a run for mayor in Williams Lake, B.C. And when you turn the final page, you are left to wonder whether Bjornstrom was an eccentric running from society or if he really did have a plan.

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player — This isn’t a work of fiction. It’s Fred Sasakamoose’s story, one that goes from a residential school in Saskatchewan to four years with the Moose Jaw Canucks to the NHL and back to the area around Sandy Lake, Sask. Sasakamoose doesn’t pull any punches about his time in the residential school or anything else, including his battles with alcohol and his regrets about not being a better father. In short, this is a book that you should read, but know that you won’t soon forget it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 took him from us on Nov. 20, 2020, before his book was published.

Camino Winds — This is a followup to Camino Island, the book that introduced us to Bruce Cable, who owns Bay Books. The prolific John Grisham has another winner here, too, as he writes about a hurricane, a dead writer and a whole lot more. So much of what Grisham writes is relevant to the times and this one isn’t any different. Pay attention to the many chunks of dialogue, some small and some no so small, that are commentary on today’s U.S. political situation as much as anything else.

Part 1 of 3

Scattershooting on a Tuesday night while pondering the CFL without Knuckles . . .

Scattershooting2

Blackie Sherrod would have turned 102 years of age on Tuesday. Born on Nov, 9, 1919, he left us on April 28, 2016. He won’t be forgotten.


Bob Irving has been the radio voice of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers on 680 CJOB since 1974.

But the time has come . . .

Irving, 71, revealed on Tuesday that he is retiring and that his final game will be the Blue Bombers’ last home game of this season — the West Division final on Dec. 5.

Irving, a native of Regina, has been inducted into the Blue Bombers Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Order of Manitoba. No doubt more honours will follow his retirement.

He joined CJOB in 1973 after a stint at Brandon radio station CKX. His time there included a run as the all-night DJ — remember when real, live people played the tunes all night? — and I would join him on occasion after the Brandon Sun’s sports pages had been put to bed.

Later, I would leave Brandon for the Winnipeg Tribune, and the Irvings and Drinnans were known to drop a bob or two on the nags at Assiniboia Downs.

I would spend some of my time at The Trib covering the Blue Bombers, which meant the odd road trip with the likes of Irving, “Cactus” Jack Wells and Kenny Ploen.

Irving is known far and wide by his nickname — “Knuckles” — which reflects an awful fear of flying that I believe he has overcome.

Anyway, once upon a time, we were on a jet plane for Winnipeg after another of those Labour Day Classics in Regina. And, wouldn’t you know it, we encountered some turbulence.

Well, “Cactus” Jack never travelled without his medication. He brought out the leather case — it was round, with a zippered top on it — and extracted the bottle. I can’t remember if it was Canadian Club or Johnny Walker.

“Knuckles,” he said, as the plane rocked and rolled, “we better have a drink just in case it’s our last one.”

I seem to recall the knuckles turning even whiter.

Ahh, those were the days.

Irving was blessed with great pipes and a knack for calling football games. If you have never listened to him, you should treat yourself and tune in to one of the Blue Bombers’ final games of this season. There are two left — Saturday at Montreal and Nov. 20 at Calgary — before the West final.


IF . . . IF . . . IF: If you have been watching the Vancouver Canucks in the early going of this NHL season you have to think that G Thatcher Demko is in the hunt for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. . . . Demko didn’t play Tuesday night as the Canucks dropped a 3-2 OT decision to the visiting Anaheim Ducks. . . . If you watch sports on TV you have to have noticed the gambling-related commercials and conversations that seem to be part of every live telecast. What this means is that video review isn’t going anywhere. In fact, I would suggest that video reviews will become more and more prevalent because of the importance — it really is all about the Benjamins — of getting things correct.


Apples


It would seem the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets will be Kamloopswaiting for a while longer before being allowed to play to crowds of 100 per cent capacity in their home arenas.

COVID-19 protocols implemented by health officials mean that both teams have been limited to 50 per cent capacity so far this season.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, said that COVID-19 is causing problems at hospitals in the two cities.

Kelowna General Hospital has had to close operating rooms.

“Last week, Kelowna General Hospital had reduced two operating rooms to Rocketscompensate for staff who did not meet vaccination requirements,” Dix said. “This week, only one operating room had to be reduced for this reason. To support critical care, though, Kelowna General Hospital has reduced an additional two operating rooms.”

Meanwhile, in Kamloops, Royal Inland Hospital is battling two COVID-19 outbreaks, one involving four patients testing positive on 7N, which deals with cardiac and renal patients. An outbreak on 5S that started last week has had 27 positives — 21 patients and six members. There also has been one death.

Dr. Carol Fenton, Interior Health’s medical health officer, told CFJC-TV that officials had hoped Kamloops’ high vaccination rates would have prevented such outbreaks.

“But,” she said, “our surrounding areas continue to have the lowest vaccination rates in the Interior and that’s definitely affecting us and we are seeing that.”

Castanet Kamloops reported Tuesday that “some areas within the Interior Health region have some of the lowest vaccination rates within the province, including Enderby, Kettle Valley, Cariboo/Chilcotin, Creston and Kootenay Lake health areas (that) are all below 70 per cent.”

According to B.C. health officials, about 90 per cent of those eligible have had one dose of vaccine, with more than 85 per cent having had two.


MORE COVID NOTES: Public Health Sudbury and Districts issued a new set of restrictions on Monday, so the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves are back to having their arena capacity set at 50 per cent. . . . The NHL’s Ottawa Senators were without Covidfive players when they dropped a 3-2 decision to the host Boston Bruins on Tuesday. D Victor Mete was added to Ottawa’s COVID-19 list earlier in the day, joining F Connor Brown, F Dylan Gambrell, F Austin Watson and D Nick Holden. Assistant coach Jack Capuano also is on the list. . . . The 2021 U.S. college football season has its first pandemic-related postponement. A game between the USC Trojans and host California Golden Bears that was to have been played on Saturday in Berkeley has been moved to Dec. 4. It’s all because of COVID-19 issues with the Golden Bears. . . . The NFL’s Cleveland Browns have had four positive tests this week — RB Nick Chubb, RB Demetric Felton, RB John Kelly and WR Lawrence Cager, who was on the practice squad. It all left the Browns with one active RB — D’Ernest Johnson — as they prepare to face the host New England Patriots on Sunday. . . . Looks like there is an Australian Open story developing. From 7NEWS Melbourne: “Australian Open organizers are pushing for capacity crowds at January’s grand slam. But a standoff with unvaccinated tennis stars is looming as the Premier doubles down on his threat to lock them out.”


Journey


After Aaron Rodgers doubled down on Tuesday, columnist Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted: “Steph Curry tried to get more information on COVID so he conferred with Dr. Fauci. The GB QB tried to get more information so he conferred with Joe Rogan and ‘about a dozen friends of mine.’ ”

—— 

On Monday, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, weighed in on the Aaron Rodgers clown show . . .

“In the case of Aaron Rodgers, I am afraid that his ‘star player status’ could get in the way of him suffering some consequences of his behavior.  And by ‘his behavior’ I do not mean his decision not to take the vaccine — that is HIS business and HIS decision. What I mean by ‘his behavior’ is his mendacity and his deceit.  Here is my position on the matter and I suspect that it will not resonate well with many NFL fans:

  1. Tom Brady was suspended for four games a few years ago. The nominal behavior that got him suspended was deflating footballs; that charge was not well-supported by evidence and science said there were environmental factors that could have caused whatever measurements were made to have been what they were. Brady was also non-cooperative with the investigation and supposedly was not candid with the folks doing the investigating.
  2. Aaron Rodgers’ behavior is potentially far more consequential than was Tom Brady’s. Rodgers has been lying about this status and availing himself of the relaxed restrictions enjoyed by vaccinated players for at least two months — and probably four months.
  3. I think Aaron Rodgers deserves a longer suspension than Tom Brady got. For me, it is a minimum of six games.

——

I hope my friend, the curmudgeonly one, wasn’t holding his breath waiting for the NFL to drop the hammer on Rodgers.

——

THAT’LL TEACH HIM: The NFL has fined the Packers $300,000 for violating COVID protocols. Aaron Rodgers and WR Allen Lazard were fined $14,650 for violating those same protocols. Reports indicate that the NFL’s investigation is over. . . . The Packers also apparently were told that future violations could result in more discipline, like the loss of draft picks. . . . Rob Demovsky of ESPN reported: “The violations included the unvaccinated Rodgers not wearing a mask during his news conferences and because the team did not report that Rodgers and Lazard attended a Halloween party, even though it was away from the team facility. By attending, Rodgers and Lazard violated the protocol that prevents unvaccinated players from gathering in groups of more than three, which was the reason for their fine. The amount of the players’ fines were part of the jointly agreed upon fine schedule between the league and the players union.” . . . All is well because the shield has been protected. Again.

——

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) did the math. Based on Aaron Rodgers’ salary of $22.4 million, the fine of $14,650 is “the equivalent of fining the average American $33.80.”


ANOTHER SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Big Bird, almost everyone’s friend from Sesame Street, encourages youngsters to get vaccinated and ends up involved in a social media tiff with a U.S. senator.


Relationship


GET OFF MY LAWN: I was in a grocery store — one of the big chains — for the first time in about 20 months on Tuesday. One thing I didn’t miss? People blocking aisles while chatting on their phones.


JUST NOTES: Some of the organizers will be in Whistler, B.C., on Nov. 17 to reveal details of a WHA 50th anniversary reunion that is to be held there in November 2022. . . . If you haven’t read the statement issued Tuesday by Carey Price involving his decision to enter a residential treatment facility “for substance use” please find it and give it a look. It’ll make you a bigger fan than you already are. . . . Headline at The Beaverton: Saskatchewan demands to be recognized as a nation whose main export is ICU patients. . . . The Saskatoon Blades staged quite a comeback in scoring a 4-3 OT victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Tuesday night. Now, with Canada’s Olympic curling trials taking over their home arena through Nov. 28, the Blades will head out on the road for a nine-pack. Their next home game is scheduled for Dec. 10. Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, was at last night’s game and his report is right here.


Lottery


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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.


Pickup

Lauren Herschel was Calgary’s first anonymous kidney donor . . . Here’s her story . . . Would you give kidney to husband’s ex-wife? Debby did just that

Ten years have gone by since Lauren Herschel became Calgary’s first anonymous living kidney donor. Being a living donor, she told Jill Croteau of Global News, has “exponentially changed my life in ways I didn’t think. I am far more confident. It’s deepened my empathy and made me a person to try things out of my comfort zone.” . . . Looking back at it, Herschel added: “It’s easier than you think. I was back to work in just under two weeks. It was such a small amount of time to do something that will give someone else years and years of a higher quality of life. It’s an easy trade-off.” . . . Her decision to donate a kidney also resulted in changes to the transplant system there. Amazing! . . . Her story, and it’s terrific, is right here. . . . If you are on Twitter, find the thread that she wrote and give it a read. It’s terrific, too.


Dorothy, my wife of almost 49 years, appeared on Radio NL, a Kamloops station, one day last week to talk about all things kidney-related. She had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013, so is able to share some of her experiences. Mostly, she wants to get across to potential live donors that there is a way to become a living kidney donor without being a perfect blood match for a specific recipient. . . . If you would care to listen that interview, conducted by longtime Kamloops media maven Larry Read, is right here.


Here’s a story for you. . . . Mylaen and Jim Merthe of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., divorced about 20 years ago. On Nov. 22, Jim got married for a second time, to Debby Neal-Strickland. . . . On Nov. 24, Debby was admitted to hospital where she donated a kidney to her new husband’s ex-wife. . . . Yes, Debby, 56, gave up a kidney to Mylaen, who is 59 and had long battled kidney disease. . . . What this all meant is that Mylaen was able to hold her second grandson when he was born in March. . . . Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press has the complete story right here.




A tweet from a member of the Regina Police Service Traffic Safety Unit . . .


Sharon Kidwell of Prince George can’t believe the freedoms she has in her life now that she has recovered from a kidney transplant. . . . “I still can’t believe I can do things spontaneously,” she told Christine Dalgleish of the Prince George Citizen. “Before this, my whole life was planned around dialysis — every day was planned. I would suddenly have to leave people’s house at a certain time because I had eight to nine hours of dialysis to do in the evenings. So I had to be hooked up early enough so I could get up early enough to do what I needed to do. Now I can actually start a movie at 9 at night.” . . . After more than three years on dialysis, Kidwell had a transplant in November. . . . Her story is right here.


A whole lot of thank yous to RE/MAX of Western Canada, the WHL and its teams for the three years in which they participated in the Suits Up Campaign. . . . Know that you really have made a difference. . . .


Here’s a transplant story that will brighten your day . . .


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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.


Do good, feel good! Register to be an organ donor and get that warm fuzzy feeling. 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives. Taketwominutes.ca #TakeTwoMinutes 

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


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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 . . .

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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!

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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?

——

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.” . . .

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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