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.

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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?

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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.

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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 . . .

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while wondering why some people just don’t get it . . .

Scattershooting


Joe Vardon of The Athletic has written the best piece that I have read to date on the quandary facing professional sports in North America because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s all about the pressure to get back into action, even if there aren’t fans in the arenas or stadiums, because of the need for TV money.

Rodney Fort, a sports economist and professor at the U of Michigan, told Vardon: “If there is ever going to be a comeback, all we have to look at is how (sports) shut down. What was the plan at shutdown? The plan was no fans, play the games. And presumably they were saying that it was because the TV money was such that, even though they might lose money, having the TV money meant they lost less than if they didn’t have the TV money.”

At the same time, Richard Sheehan, a sports economist and U of Notre Dame professor, explained to Vardon how a return to play would almost certainly lead to the deaths of some support staff.

Vardon wrote: “Applying medical theories of virus containment espoused by doctors . . . and tracking the data of coronavirus patients and mortality rates in China, South Korea and Italy, Sheehan said he doesn’t see any way the NBA, NHL or MLB could play this summer.”

This piece is oh, so thought-provoking, and it’s all right here.


Feet


The Colorado Avalanche have had a second player test positive for COVID-19. The NHL now has had four players test positive — two from Colorado and two from the Ottawa Senators. . . . The Avalanche and Senators played the Sharks in San Jose on March 7 and 8. That was after officials in that area had recommended against large gatherings. . . .

The NBA’s New York Knicks announced Saturday evening that Jim Dolan, the executive chairman and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, has tested positive. He is in self-isolation with “little to no symptoms,” according to the team, and “continues to oversee business operations.” . . .


“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who on March 3 bragged he ‘shook hands with everybody’ at a hospital with COVID-19 patients, has now tested positive for it,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “On the bright side, though, he’s the slam-dunk favorite for the inaugural Rudy Gobert Touch of Stupidity Award.” . . .


Today’s Thought of the Day from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, originated with Mark Twain: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”


And here’s Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post with the question of the day . . .


Pyramid


The 2020 Manitoba 55+ Games have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Selkirk, June 16-18. . . . The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame has postponed its 2020 induction dinner. It still will be held in Brandon, but has been moved from May 9 to Sept. 19. . . .


There still is some hockey being played in this world of ours . . .


Headline at fark.com: NCAA announces severe revenue reduction after canceling March Madness. Players to make the same amount.


Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“President Trump reportedly phoned Alex Rodriguez for advice on the coronavirus. President Andrew Jackson had his infamous Kitchen Cabinet of outside-the-loop advisers. Trump might be assembling a Dugout Cabinet. Paging Yogi Berra. . . .

“What am I, chopped liver?” wonders Jose Canseco, sitting by his phone.

“A-Rod knows his stuff, I’m sure. But if I was prez, I would seek out Doc Rivers for a second opinion.” . . .


The Providence, R.I., branch of The First Baptist Church in America has a readerboard that recently read: “Had not planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.” . . .


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Blazers lay off office staff, hockey side takes pay cuts . . . Canada not sending any teams to Olympics, Paralympics . . .

Taking Note was told Sunday afternoon that the Kamloops Blazers laid off their office Kamloops1staff on Friday afternoon and that those on the hockey staff have taken pay cuts. . . . The WHL’s regular-season was suspended on March 12 and cancelled on March 18. The Blazers finished atop the B.C. Division. . . . The league continues to hope that it will be able to get in some kind of playoff season, leading into the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, May 22-31. . . . Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, is the Blazers’ majority owner. Also in the ownership group are Shane Doan, Jerome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor, all of them ex-Blazers and former NHL players. . . . I don’t know if any of the WHL’s other 21 teams have followed suit, but it’s expected that other teams will be experiencing layoffs, perhaps as soon as this week. . . .


The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled the 2020 world men’s hockey championship that was scheduled for Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, from May 8-24. . . . As well, the IIHF has postponed its annual Congress, which was to have been held during the tournament, until further notice. . . . As for the possibility of playing the championship in Switzerland next year, the IIHF statement read: “The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025. Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until congress is next in session.” . . .



Next up on the postponement/cancellation calendar? It seems highly doubtful that the Olympic Summer Games will be held as scheduled — in Tokyo, from July 24 through Aug. 9. . . . Too many world-class athletes aren’t able to train in the proper places while surrounded by necessary support staff to allow these Games to be held. . . . However, the IOC says it is going to continue to play the waiting game, for at least the next four weeks. . . .

That story took a turn on Sunday night when the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced that they “have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.” . . . A news release continued: “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.” . . . Good on the COC and CPC for ending the uncertainty. . . . It will be interesting to see if this opens the floodgates to other countries withdrawing. . . .

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Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee continue to guarantee that the Olympics will be held on schedule, four months from now. Sorry, God, those are powerful people, you have no choice but to end the virus pronto. . . . The IOC has no Plan B. That is so optimistic and bold! And dumb as a senile gerbil.” . . .


Washing


The Ottawa Senators announced on Saturday that they now have a second player who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The Senators made a trip through California, from March 6-12. Eight people who were on that trip now have been tested, with two positive results. . . . From a news release: “The total number of people who travelled with the club is 52, including players, staff, media, guests and flight crew. Of those on the trip, 44 have shown no symptoms, eight people have been tested, and two positive results were received. We are awaiting the results from tests that took place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.” . . .


ICYMI, the Baltimore Ravens traded DE Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, marking the first trade between the AFC North teams this century. As Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times put it: “So see, folks, there is still hope for peace in the Middle East.” . . .


Here’s Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Don’t mean to be callous, but postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Games wouldn’t ruin the summer. We got along fine without the Olympics the past three summers, didn’t we?” . . .


Area51


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been spending his days revisiting works by a handful of writers, then offering a thought for the day. . . . Here’s one, from Will Rogers: “The man with the best job in the country is the Vice-President. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the President?’ ” . . . On Saturday, he offered up another gem from Will Rogers: “You know, horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” . . . On Sunday, it came from Mark Twain: “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” . . .

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Here is the curmudgeonly one again: “If there are no restarts in U.S. sports over the next month, the best I can look forward to is the beginning of the Mongolian National Premier League — that’s soccer don’t you know — in April. (Just so you know, Ulaanbaatar City is the defending champion there.)”

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The Sports Curmudgeon passes along a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: “Dentist — A person to whom you provide boat payments as a way of thanking him for sending a shooting pain through your entire central nervous system.” . . .



Cleaning


Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “What a few months it’s been for Boston, huh? (Mookie) Betts traded. NHL season postponed with the Bruins in first place. Tom Brady leaves. Jayston Tatum turns three years older than 19. Marcus Smart gets the coronavirus. Now (Chris) Sale’s elbow is busted. When are Boston sports teams ever going to catch a break?”


QB Philip Rivers has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, getting a nifty $25 million for one season. But, as Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, points out: “With nine kids, Rivers and his wife need two houses to comply with restrictions on gatherings over 10 people.”


Trump

Scattershooting on a Saturday night as WHL players head for home . . .

Scattershooting

SOME DOTS AND THOUGHTS AS WE WAIT THIS THING OUT . . .

A couple of hours after the above tweet was posted, the Kamloops Blazers announced that they “have released their players to return home immediately.”

“We will have all players return to Kamloops at an undetermined time,” the statement read.

It wasn’t long after that until the Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips said they, too, were allowing players to return to their homes.

The Cougars said they “have decided to send players home to their families until further notice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Silvertips, according to a tweet from Josh Horton of the Everett Herald, are sending players home Sunday morning. As well, there were indications on social media that the Spokane Chiefs and Winnipeg Ice are doing the same.

However, there was nothing official from the WHL as of late Saturday night.

Look, the way things are shaping up “undetermined time” and “until further notice” may well turn out to be late August, just in time for training camp prior to the 2020-21 season.

Hey, if you are being honest and assuming you have been paying attention to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and all the numbers associated with that, you might be starting to realize that this mess isn’t anywhere near close to a conclusion. . . .

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The WHL’s board of governors apparently is scheduled to chat on Tuesday. If that’s the case, it is time for them to cancel their season and do all they can to get players back to their families. Hey, billet families are wonderful, they really are, but this league is full of teenagers, some of them as young as 16, who should be with their real families until all of this blows over. . . . So scrub the season and start hoping that things will be better in time to open training camps in August. . . . On second thought, do it today. . . .


On Saturday, the ECHL announced that it has ended its season. “This decision allows our players the opportunity to return to their homes and removes the uncertainty that currently exists,” the ECHL said in a statement. . . . The ECHL is the first North American professional league to cancel its season. . . .


The world mixed and world senior curling championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Kelowna, April 18-25. . . . The Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. . . .

ICYMI, the world men’s curling championship also has been cancelled. It was to have been held in Glasgow, from March 28 through April 5. . . .



Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Now March Madness is cancelled. No, let me rephrase that: The NCAA basketball tournaments are cancelled. We’re LIVING in March Madness.” . . .


Tom Brady, at the age of 42, isn’t yet ready to stop playing football. Of course, as comedian Argus Hamilton pointed out via Twitter: “He’s 35 years too young to run for president.” . . .


One supposes that you have to be ready just in case they come for the toilet paper . . .


All those people standing in line to buy toilet paper . . . are those the same people who complain about being third in line at a cash register during normal times? . . .


Are you tired of doing jigsaw puzzles yet? Is there anything worse than putting out 1,000 pieces before getting started on putting it together? . . .


Headline at TheOnion.com: Orioles suggest that MLB maybe consider cancelling entire season just to be safe. . . .



Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The saddest part about MLB prematurely shutting down spring training? Our gritty young Mariners, at 6-12, were still mathematically alive to win the Cactus League championship.” . . .

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One more from Perry: “One of the best ways to avoid catching the coronavirus, health officials say, is to avoid touching your own face. Lots of luck trying to break a third-base coach of that nasty habit.” . . .


Wash your hands and stay safe out there.

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering what might happen next . . .

Scattershooting

The WHL appears to have bought itself some time this weekend.

It was able to get through the weekend, which included three games in the Seattle area, whlwithout any apparent coronavirus-related difficulties.

On Sunday afternoon, Washington state officials confirmed 136 novel coronavirus cases, while the Seattle Times later reported there have been 19 virus-related deaths. All told, 16 of the deaths have ties to one nursing home, the Life Care Center of Kirkland.

The Everett Silvertips drew 13,161 fans to a pair of weekend games — a 6-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars and a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

Everett has one home game remaining on its schedule — against the Victoria Royals on March 20.

On Sunday, the announced attendance was 5,255 in Kent, Wash., as the host Thunderbirds dropped a 3-2 decision to the Silvertips.

Seattle has three home games left to play — against the Vancouver Giants on Saturday, the Spokane Chiefs on March 17 and the Portland Winterhawks on March 21.

While the Spokane Chiefs have three home games scheduled this week, on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and the Tri-City Americans, who play out of Kennewick, Wash., are at home Friday and Sunday, those areas have avoided positive tests to this point. At the same time, as of Sunday evening, there had been two positive tests in Eastern Washington counties.

Meanwhile, there have been 27 confirmed cases on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, where the Giants play out of the Langley Events Centre. They are at home to Seattle on Friday, and also are to play at home on Sunday (Prince George Cougars), March 18 (Kamloops Blazers) and March 20 (Kelowna Rockets).

As well, health officials in Alberta announced on Sunday that an Edmonton-area man is that province’s first presumptive positive test after travelling with a companion from B.C., who had been on the Grand Princess cruise ship.

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In California, the Riverside Country Health Department declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after one local confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus. Tennis officials then indefinitely postponed the 2020 BNP Paribas Open, a WTA and ATP event. It was to have opened today (Monday) and run through March 22 at Indian Wells. . . . The tournament brings in more than 400,000 fans annually — it is the best-attended non-major on the tennis schedule — and always gets a lot of TV coverage. . . .

The host Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers and Harvard Crimson are scheduled to play a best-of-three ECAC hockey quarterfinal series this weekend in Troy, N.Y. RPI announced Sunday that it has “enacted social distancing protocols,” meaning that the games will be played without spectators. . . .

Ed Willes, in the Vancouver Province:

“It’s a helpless feeling, sitting, waiting for the next bombshell to drop but it seems inevitable.

“You wish this was as simple as letting the virus run its course but it’s impossible to know where this will end. That’s not being alarmist. That’s being realistic. So you sit and hope. And you ask yourself, will anything ever be the same again?”


Daylight


Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle was at the Golden State Warriors game on Saturday night:

“Maybe Warriors fans are smart. In a recent national survey, 38% of beer-drinking Americans said they would not drink Corona beer. However, a vendor selling various brands of canned beer on the concourse level Saturday told me Corona sales have not cooled at his cart.

“ ‘I’m selling more Corona!’ said Devaughn McDonald.

“Go figure. Maybe people believe it’s medicine.”

——

More from Ostler:

“The Warriors’ management is doing its best, aggressively scrubbing down Chase Center before and after games. In the media dining room, every table had its own big pump bottle of Purell. I absentmindedly squirted some on my hot dog, but what the heck, you can’t be too safe.”

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ICYMI, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers said on the weekend that he isn’t interested in playing in empty arenas, should it come to that with the NBA. “We play games without the fans?” he said. “Nah. It’s impossible. I ain’t playin’ . . . That what I play for. I play for my teammates. I play for the fans . . . So if I show to an arena (and) ain’t no fans be there, I ain’t playin’.”

To which Ostler wrote: “The league might have something to say about that. Like, if you ain’t playin’, we ain’t payin.”


patient


Here’s a thought from Patti Dawn Swansson, the River City Renegade: “People poke fun at the Canadian Football League for rewarding failure by giving a single point on a missed field goal. Well, excuse me, but the NHL does that very thing almost nightly with its ridiculous loser point.” . . . As does the WHL and so many other hockey leagues . . .

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Swansson, once more: “Watched Sports Central on Sportsnet on Friday morning and I didn’t hear one word about the Brier. Nada. They managed to squeeze in highlights of Joey Chestnut pigging out on Big Macs, but the Canadian men’s curling championship wasn’t worthy of their attention. Canada’s #1 Sports Network my ass.”

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If you haven’t yet seen it, Swansson’s latest contribution to the Internet library is all right here. Pour yourself a cuppa coffee and enjoy.


Visitors


“A quick shoutout to Jerry Jones,” writes Kevin Sherrington in the Dallas Morning News, “who not only ranks as the top dog among local pro sports owners, he’s cracked the top five Dallas-Fort Worth billionaires. According to something called the Hurun Global Rich List, Jerry comes in fourth overall at $7.2 billion, four spots in front of Mark Cuban at $4.8 billion and a dozen yachts and an Airstream or two ahead of the $3.4 billion of the Rangers’ Ray Davis. Throw in Tom Gaglardi’s family, which owns Canada, and it seems safe to say no local owner is going broke anytime soon.”

Gaglardi, of course, owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and is the majority owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “A recent conversation between Pats QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick ‘didn’t go well, according to one report. Apparently Tom grew tired of Belichick continually reminding him to speak into the potted plant.”


If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she takes part in Kidney Walk Kamloops on Sept. 20, you are able to do so right here.

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while realizing Dave Ayres is getting more than 15 minutes . . .

Scattershooting

The sporting world was still abuzz on Sunday, the day after the night when goaltender Dave Ayres, 42, came on in relief in his NHL debut and helped the Carolina Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the host Toronto Maple Leafs.

What I find most interesting in Ayres’ post-game world is that so many writers have made a bigger deal about his being a Zamboni driver than the fact that he underwent a kidney transplant.

Time after time, you will read something like this: “Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver . . .” And, later, you’ll see this: “Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant . . .”

This is why the renal community continues to work hard on educating people on things like this — yes, Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, but he still has kidney disease. There isn’t a cure for kidney disease. Once you’ve got it, there’s no divorce. Dialysis is a treatment. A transplant is a treatment.

Ayres, whose transplanted kidney came from his mother, will be on anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, I look forward to someone doing a story on how Ayres dealt with kidney disease, dialysis and the early days after his transplant.

Ayres flew into New York City on Sunday evening. On Monday, the Hurricanes have Ayres lined up for media hits with the likes of NBC’s Today Show, Golic & Wingo on ESPN Radio/ESPN 2, Fox & Friends, CBS Sports Radio, Dan Patrick Show, Dan Le Batard Show and CNN World Sport.

Later Monday, Ayres will head for Raleigh, N.C., where the Hurricanes are to meet the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Besides being saluted by the team and its fans, Ayres will serve as the pre-game Siren Sounder.

On top of that, Mary-Ann Baldwin, the mayor of Raleigh, as proclaimed Tuesday as David Ayres Day.

Immediately after the game, the Hurricanes announced that t-shirts with their logo on the front and Ayres’ name and number (90) on the back were for sale — at US$28 a pop. At one point on Sunday, sales went over 4,000. A portion of the proceeds are to go to a kidney foundation of his choosing.

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Once a year, I join a few friends for an evening of sports trivia. As luck would have it, our 2020 gathering took place on Friday night.

One of the questions asked was this: “Who is the oldest rookie in NHL regular-season history?” . . . The answer was D Connie (Mad Dog) Madigan, who played his first NHL game with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6, 1973. He was 38 years and four months old when he played in a 3-3 tie with the Montreal Canadiens.

While that was the correct answer on Friday, it wouldn’t have been just 24 hours later. The answer now is G Dave Ayres, who made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the age of 42 years 194 days. Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.

BTW, the record-holder before Madigan came along was F Bob Barlow, who made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars at the age of 34 on Oct. 12, 1969.

——

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If you are at all into hockey history, you will want to read this piece right here from puckstruck.com. It chronicles the NHL career of Morrie Roberts, who like Dave Ayres also served as an EBUG. However, that was in 1928.


Road


A couple of questions from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “With the spectre of opposing pitchers plunking Houston Astros hitters at a record rate over the team’s sign-stealing scandal, just have to ask: Will Houston’s promotional giveaways include Astros Replica Jersey Night, sponsored by Target? By season’s end, will Houston — not Boston — be laying claim to the title of ‘Bean Town’?”


Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “It is interesting that the same people who thought drug cheating in baseball was just the cost of doing business now seem to think that sign-stealing cheating is the crime of the century. At least we might have a possible new baseball novel come out of this whole mess: ‘Bang the Can Slowly’.”


Turkey


Greg Robinson, an offensive lineman who played last season with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was arrested earlier in the week near the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, he had 157 pounds of week in his vehicle. As Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports noted: “(Police) also found 23 mason jars, a can sealing machine, an electronic scale and over $3,000 in cash. It would seem that either there was some entrepreneurship going on or Robinson was on his way to the greatest party ever.” . . . WR Quan Bray, last of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, was with Robinson at the time. Whoops! . . . As the afore-mentioned Perry put it about Bray: “So much for trying to shake his reputation as just a possession receiver.”


There had been reports that the QMJHL’s board of governors would vote during a Thursday meeting on whether to ban fighting. Stephane Leroux of RDS reported Thursday afternoon that the vote wouldn’t take place.

Michael Roy of Radio-Canada reported that “there was no vote, but a lot of discussion.” Roy also tweeted that “the file will be on the menu . . . at a meeting in August.”

A story carrying a Canadian Press byline included this quote from Gilles Courteau, the QMJHL’s commissioner: “My main goal is to implement new rules to improve player safety. That’s the focal point of this discussion. Whether it’s fighting, blind-side hits, head shots, we’re carefully looking at all of that.”

It also included this from Sherbrooke Phoenix general manager Ronald Thibault: “It may sound strange, but what we’re trying to do is keep our players safe. There are divergent opinions on how to protect players. That’s it.”

Of course, if they really were that concerned about player safety, you would ban fighting. So would the other two major junior leagues— the WHL and the OHL.

The complete CP story is right here.

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On the topic of fighting in major junior hockey, here is part of a blog entry by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:

“Junior hockey does not believe the debate is at all nuanced when it comes to paying its players a living wage. All three major junior leagues are very clear on that one. But when it comes to their ‘student athletes’ giving and receiving bareknuckle punches to the head it suddenly becomes a vexing dilemma for them?

“Like any other league, the QMJHL could have easily increased the penalties for fighting. Actually, it’s a lot easier for one of Canada’s three junior leagues to do it because none of them has to deal with a players’ association or go through the approval of a rules committee. The omnipotent rule they hold over these young men is astounding, so perhaps it’s time they used it for something good.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.


Marriage


Have I mentioned how much I love The Sports Curmudgeon, aka Jack Finarelli? After the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers moved on from head coach John Beilein just 54 games into his stay, the curmudgeonly one pointed out that the Cavs have a 130-318 record (.290) in recent times without LeBron James. TSC then came up with three possible explanations as to why things are so rotten in Cleveland, which, you may recall, also is home to the NFL’s Browns: “Something in the Cleveland water supply causes coaches to fail . . . An ancient civilization hexed the land there for eternity. . . . Ownership for the two franchises is well short of competency.” . . . As he put it: “You make the call . . .”


The Oakland A’s won’t have any of their games available on a Bay Area radio station this season, as they become the first team in Major League Baseball to make such a move. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, team president Dave Kaval has said, among other things, “we’re excited” and “we’re trying to be innovative” and “we’re . . . trying to attract younger fans” and “I think this is the direction of the future.” . . . If you live in the San Francisco/Oakland area, games will be available via streaming and they will be on some radio stations outside the area. . . . “It’s a big win,” Kaval said. . . . “No,” wrote Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins. “Try two other words: colossal failure.”



JUST NOTES: Is there a better anthem singer anywhere in the sporting world than Lauren Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers? All she does is sing, without any of the extras. . . . Chris Speier, a flash from the past for followers of the Montreal Expos, is on manager Dusty Baker’s staff with the Houston Astros. Speier has signed on as a “quality control coach.” With the mess surrounding the Astros, Speier is likely to have lots on his plate. . . . The Toronto Blue Jays opened their spring training schedule with games on Saturday, against the New York Yankees, and Sunday (Minnesota Twins). Both games were on Sportsnet, which picked up the feeds from the Yankees and Twins rather than have their own crew in place. Interesting?

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how much Habs’ coach will pay . . .

Scattershooting


After blowing a 3-0 lead and dropping a 4-3 OT decision to the visiting Dallas Stars on Saturday night, Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien had a good rant. . . . Here’s part of it: “(The officials) looked frustrated tonight — the referee. He should have been because to me it was embarrassing. I can’t say anything else. We take responsibility for some of our stuff and when we’re not good I’m going to stand up here and say we aren’t good enough tonight. Well, tonight we had to beat two teams and it was tough.” . . . If you watched this game, you know that Julien had a point — the officiating wasn’t very good. . . . But what I want to know is this: Are the ghosts that used to live in the Montreal Forum not hanging out in the Bell Centre?

Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers was hit with a US$35,000 fine by the NBA after saying out loud that his team had been the victim of “home cooking” in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. . . . This being the NHL, I’ve gotta think Julien will get touched for 10 grand, in Canadian funds of course.


It’s too bad that there isn’t one WHL team with an in-house organist; in fact, an NHL scout has told me that he doesn’t think there is a team in the 60-team CHL with an organist. . . . Mal Isaac, a sports writer with the Regina Leader-Post back in the day, wrote this in the Feb. 12, 1972, edition: “The stadium is no longer a dull place to watch a hockey game, organist Alan Vanstone has taken care of that. His work on the keyboard has done wonders to liven up the crowd.” . . . The stadium was Exhibition Stadium, then the home of the Regina Pats. Vanstone was the father of Rob Vanstone, today The L-P’s sports columnist. . . . If a team can’t afford an organist and keyboard, how about a trumpeter? . . . The goal is to bring some spontaneity into your building and this is a great way to do it.


Joggers


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Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “All it would have taken was for one Astro — Jose Altuve? Alex Bregman? — to stand up in the clubhouse and say, ‘Guys, we don’t need this. We’re good enough to win without banging on trash cans.

“Another way that message could have been stated: ‘Fellas, have you ever seen Shoeless Joe Jackson’s induction plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame?’ ”

——

One more from Ostler: “Some songs we’re going to hear over ballpark PA systems when the Astros are in town: ‘Knock Three Times,’ ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’ ‘Woman, Woman (Have You Got Cheating On Your Mind?),’ ‘We Got The Beat,’ ‘Knock-Knock-Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ ”


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, after the Astros held a news conference in an ill-fated attempt to put the cheating scandal behind them: “Let me say that Thursday’s questioning by the media was uninspired. Perry Mason’s place as an icon of incisive interrogation is in no danger this morning. . . . Let me say that the answers provided by the Astros’ owner were as unresponsive as Jimmy Hoffa would be should someone find him this afternoon.”


“Pitchers and catchers have reported and spring training games start next week,” noted Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “When is spy camp?”


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle, referencing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and former pitcher Mike Krukow: “If Manfred takes the proper steps, and teams know it’s time to limit sign-stealing to acceptable means, ‘You’ll see a lot less cheating,’ Krukow said. ‘And if the hitters don’t know what’s coming, you’ll see a lot less offense. That’s going to be a big thing this season.’ ”


Murrow


“Bob Knight, the winningest basketball coach in Indiana history, returned to Assembly Hall for a Hoosiers game for the first time since the school fired him 20 years ago,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Apparently it took that long to make sure all the chairs were bolted down.”

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Another report from Perry: “This just in: Astros hitters seek permission to wear catcher’s gear during their at-bats this season.”



The Boston Celtics are going to retire Kevin Garnett’s number (5) at some point next season. Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “KG will be the 24th player to have his number retired by the Celtics (though none of those other jabronis have starred in a movie as good as ‘Uncut Gems’) and soon enough all Celtics players will have to wear triple-digit uniform numbers.”



Former WHL D Chris Joseph will be inducted into the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 27. . . . Joseph, 50, was born in Burnaby, moved with his family to Golden, B.C., for three years as a youngster, then returned to Burnaby where he played at the Burnaby Winter Club. He went on to play with the junior B Burnaby Blazers and in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds (1985-87). . . . He also played for the Canadian junior team at the 1987 World Junior Championship, the one whose medal chances ended with a brawl against the Soviet Union at Piestany. In 1988, the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers lent him to the Canadian team and he helped the club win WJC gold in Moscow. . . . Pittsburgh selected him fifth overall in the NHL’s 1987 draft and he went on to play with the Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers. He retired after playing four seasons in Europe. . . . Joseph and his family live in St. Albert, Alta., where he operates a hockey academy and is a firefighter. He and his wife, Andrea, lost their son Jaxon in the crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on April 6, 2018. Chris now speaks frequently about the need for mandatory seat belts on buses and better training for big rig drivers. “The Humboldt Broncos affected the nation so much we do feel we have to speak out for those that haven’t got the attention and make the roads safer for everyone,” Chris told Grant Granger, the Hall of Fame’s chairman.“We feel a little bit of responsibility to use that for the greater good.” . . . The reception is at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7. Tickets are $85 each, at tickets09@shaw.ca, or 604-436-6372. It all will happen at the Firefighters’ Banquet Hall, 6515 Bonsor Ave., in the Metrotown area of Burnaby.


Whale


JUST NOTES: Hey, NHL, it’s Friday night and the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge is on seven of the eight Sportsnet channels here. There isn’t one NHL game available. I think Sportsnet is your Canadian broadcast partner. No? . . . The eighth Sportsnet channel? It’s showing WWE Friday Night Smackdown, followed by WWE Main Event. . . . Hey, NHL, TSN and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts say “Thank you.” . . .

Isn’t it about time that someone inside Houston’s organization told the Astros to shut up? BTW, they open the regular season on March 26 against the visiting Los Angeles Angels. I’ve got the over-under on Houston batters to be plunked at 5.5. . . . You have to know that at least some part of MLB doesn’t mind this cheating mess because the TV ratings for Houston’s games are going to be up, up, up. Everyone is going to watch the train wreck. . . . And we await MLB’s ruling on whatever it is that the Boston Red Sox were doing.