‘Just why are we doing this?’ . . . ‘If we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.’



The MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla., continues to stagger along, having lost two teams because of players testing positive, and having to postpone a Sunday morning game for the same reason.

Major League Baseball teams are trying to hold something resembling training camps between positive tests and teams having to cancel workouts for reasons that include delays in receiving results.

The NBA has its teams in bubbles in Orlando, practising and preparing to restart their season. There have been positive tests — CBS Sports has reported “dozens” of them — since late June when players returned to practice facilities.

The NHL has teams opening training camps today (Monday) and later will head for the two bubble cities — Edmonton and Toronto — in hopes of resuming their season. In its last weekly report, the NHL said 35 players have tested positive in the past month, with 23 of those coming since workouts began at team facilities on June 8.

The NHL has placed a gag order on its teams, with the league office taking over the reporting of player absences. The NHL won’t provide illness or injury specifics.

On Sunday, Arpon Basu of The Athletic reported that at least three players with the Montreal Canadiens have tested positive “in recent days.” Neither the NHL nor the Canadiens would comment.

As of Sunday evening, seven players had opted out of returning to play — D Karl Alzner, Montreal; F Sven Baertschi, Vancouver; D Mike Green, Edmonton; D Travis Hamonic, Calgary; D Steven Kampfer, Boston; D Roman Polak, Dallas; and D Zach Trotman, Pittsburgh. I believe all of them made the decision to put their health and that of their families ahead of playing in what is truly a bogus season.

(I admit to having stole ‘bogus season’ from Ann Killion, a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle.

(After C Buster Posey of the Giants opted not to play in this MLB season, Killion wrote: “Every single one of the roughly 2,500 or so individuals being asked to participate in a bogus, truncated baseball season have their own personal decisions to make.”)

The deadline for NHL players to opt out without penalty is today (Monday) at 5 p.m. ET.

The Canadiens have given F Max Domi an extra seven to 10 days to make a decision on reporting to camp. Domi has Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

Keeping the previous paragraphs in mind, I have to ask: Am I the only person wondering what is going here?

Have we as a society gotten to the point where we sit idly by, in some instances applauding and cheering, as billionaire owners march their athletes like so much chattel into what they all seem to be calling a return to play but in which there are so many unknowns?

How is it that we are in a place where a young man like Domi has to make this kind of decision?

With the U.S. government calling for a return to school next month, Canyons School District in Utah is making plans to re-open. Part of its return-to-school protocol includes this, after it touches on things like exposure letter and distance learning plan information:

“Template letter for the death of a student, teacher.”

It’s enough to make one wonder if various leagues and teams have such a thing in their return-to-play protocols.


Bee


In a brilliant piece in The New York Times, John Branch writes:

“On Wednesday, the day that the Ivy League canceled fall sports, nearly 60,000 new cases were reported in the United States, a new high.

“Some of those were college athletes. Through Wednesday, at least 426  had tested positive for the coronavirus among roughly 50 Division I programs, but the number of cases is likely much higher. About half of American universities either did not respond to requests for testing results from The New York Times, or declined to provide numbers, under the auspices of protecting the privacy of student-athletes.

“Ohio State, in suspending its off-season workout programs this week, did not reveal how many students tested positive. It only said that the shutdown impacted seven sports, including football.

“Such news accelerates as the fall sports calendar approaches. And if reasonable people at some of the world’s great universities had not seriously pondered this question before, they are now:

“Just why are we doing this?”

Branch’s piece is right here.


Look, I’m sorry, but COVID-19 is here and it isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the foreseeable future. I want to see live sporting events on my TV set with fans hooting and hollering in the background. I want to see a  return to some kind of normalcy just as badly as anyone, but I have come to realize that in the months ahead we are going to have to get used to a new normal, whatever that might be.

As Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Public Health in Seattle and King County, told a news conference on Friday:

“It’s just critical that, as a community, we understand the long-term nature of COVID-19. None of us asked for this, none of us wanted this. But it’s with us and we have to deal with it. And if we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.”


Kevan Smith, a catcher in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., spent the early part of summer working out at home in Pittsburgh.

It seems that he has found Florida to be a bit different.

“Felt like you couldn’t even walk outside without a mask on (at home),” Smith told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “I feel like here you go out with a mask, we have guys getting called names and all the above. Just a totally different feel.

“I heard a story, one of the (guys), I don’t know if I can use this word, he was in a store shopping for food and I guess it was a resident called the player a pansy for wearing his mask.

“I went out briefly to just pick up some takeout food, and I swear I got like a dozen eyeballs on me, looking at me like I’m like the weirdo walking in with a mask. Little do they know what is at stake for my life and for my livelihood. It’s just very immature and just whatever you want to call it. It’s comical. It’s going on all over the world, but we’re seeing it firsthand here.”


Early last week, 2B Scott Kingery of the Philadelphia Phillies, who is back on the field after being out with COVID-19, told Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia: The virus “can creep up on you and get you pretty bad like it did with me.

Kingery now is symptom-free, but he continues to deal with shortness of breath, a month after being diagnosed. . . .

On Saturday, the New York Yankees revealed that Aroldis Chapman, one of MLB’s best relievers, had tested positive. He has some symptoms and is out indefinitely. . . .

Kenley Jansen, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer, was late reporting to their camp because he had tested positive. He said he is “doing great and better now.” He told reporters that he had family members who also tested positive, but they have recovered. . . .

C Cam Gallagher of the Kansas City Royals played in an intrasquad game on Friday and tested positive on Saturday. The Royals now have had at least four players test positive. . . .

P Luis Perdomo and SS Luis Urias of the Milwaukee Brewers have tested positive, but are asymptomatic. The Brewers also are without P Eric Lauer, who didn’t get to camp until Friday. He hasn’t tested positive, but was in contact with someone who did.


TV


Jockey Flavien Prat tested positive after riding in Kentucky on Saturday. He was tested in La Jolla, Calif., on Sunday. He had eight rides at Del Mar on Sunday, but had to give them up. . . . Victor Espinoza, a jockey who is in horse racing’s hall of fame, tested positive in La Jolla on Friday. . . . Two other prominent jockeys — Martin Garcia and Luis Saez — also have tested positive.



From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times . . .

What a difference four months makes:

March 9: Jazz center Rudy Gobert mockingly touches every microphone at a news conference, contracts COVID-19 and shuts down the NBA season.

July 9: 76ers center Joel Embiid, headed to the Disney World bubble for the season restart, shows up in a hazmat suit.


In my world, Tony Kubek is perhaps the most under-rated analyst in MLB broadcast history. How I used to look forward to Saturday afternoons with Kubek and Curt Gowdy . . .


Headline at fark.com: MLB releases 60-day COVID-19 spreading schedule.


Hartley Miller attacks Redundant Rhetoric in his latest Hartley’s Hart Attack blog entry that is right here. Oh my, there are a lot of pet peeves in here, starting with this point about game times: “How about this traditional one-liner — And tonight’s game will start at 7 ‘PM.’ Thanks for the notice; I would have waited until seven the next morning to watch ‘tonight’s’ game.”


An NFL prediction from Tim Hunter of KRKO Radio: “Patrick Mahomes has signed a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs that will definitely last longer than the team’s name.”

On that subject, the Washington NFL team reportedly will announce today that it is changing its nickname. But it won’t yet announce that nickname as it proceeds through the legalities of a change.



Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald: “Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana lacerated a thumb while washing dishes. Jose, you make big-league money. Look into this really neat invention. It’s called a dishwasher!”


Chimes

Hey, travellers, enough with the lack of respect . . .

Let me tell you why I am feeling frustrated, dejected, ashamed, embarrassed, pissed off and a whole lot more.

I had been sailing, sailing, sailing through this COVID-19 mess — at least, I thought I was doing pretty well. Until now. Good Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Dorothy and I went for a walk in mid-afternoon. We live in Campbell Creek, just east of Kamloops, and walk along a road on the south side of the South Thompson River.

I always walk further than she does, and halfway through I will take a break, sit for a few minutes on a retaining wall and watch the traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway. Hey, every boy loves to watch the big rigs. Right?

On this day, considering all of the politicians and health officials who had been pleading with people to stay home, recommending that they not travel, asking them to avoid family gatherings, I was rather surprised to see how much small vehicle traffic there was going in both directions.

I mean, smaller communities throughout the province were begging non-residents to stay away, petrified that someone from outside would bring the virus into areas that don’t have the medical necessities with which to deal with it.

So, sheesh, I wondered, where is everyone going?

When we returned home, social media, as it had been on Thursday evening, was full of stories of people travelling throughout B.C.

Then, after dinner, I came across a tweet, featuring a few seconds of video, from Tina Lovgreen of CBC Vancouver.

The gent being interviewed — yeah, the one with the smug look on his face — was headed somewhere in the Gulf Islands. Apparently, he also is tone deaf; why else would he agree to be interviewed on camera on this subject?

Anyway . . . asked what might happen if he got ill while there, he looked at the young girl beside him, presumably his daughter, and said: “Not too worried. We’ll bring in a helicopter to bring us out. Right?”

Well, sir, you got to me. Oh, did you ever!

I’m sorry, but I am sick and tired of people like you and the lack of respect that you and others like you are showing to people like my wife.

Dorothy-040719
Dorothy Drinnan: Hugger extraordinaire!

Dorothy is one of thousands of people who live in B.C., and have compromised immune systems. As I have written before, if you passed her on a sidewalk or in a small cafe, you would never know that she is in that situation.

You would never know that she had a kidney transplant more than six years ago, and that she takes anti-rejection drugs twice a day. You would never know that she spent almost four years doing peritoneal dialysis, hooking up to a machine called a cycler every night — EVERY SINGLE DAMN NIGHT — just to stay alive.

And there are all kinds of people with various health problems in the same predicament. In the case of transplant patients, they take drugs in order to keep their bodies from rejecting their new organs, which really are foreign to their systems. In the process of doing that, these drugs suppress the immune systems. These people will take these drugs for the rest of their lives.

That is why the virus that has us in this predicament is so dangerous to them. There isn’t a vaccine for it; there isn’t even a treatment. You can’t imagine anything worse if you don’t have much of an immune system.

While you thumb your nose at all these people with your weekend jaunt, let me tell you a bit about Dorothy.

She is everything I’m not.

OK. Let me tell you a bit about me first. I’m cynical, skeptical, pessimistic, grouchy, miserable and all of that, which is what comes with having worked in the newspaper business for more than 40 years.

Dorothy is a positive person. She loves nothing more than to hug people, something she hasn’t been able to do for a few weeks now, and you have no idea how hard that is on her.

We have been in self-isolation for four weeks now. She hasn’t been in a grocery store in all that time. We order online; if we need something between orders, I go in the store. We have ordered takeout food a couple of times; I’ve gone into the restaurant to get the food.

It was her birthday on Thursday. We went to a favourite restaurant to get some takeout — ate it in their parking lot. She couldn’t even go in to say hi to some of her favourite people.

Shortly after Dorothy found out that she had kidney disease — she was found to have only one kidney and it already had started the downhill slide — she volunteered in the dialysis ward of a Regina hospital. She wanted to help others, while getting a look at what she might be faced with somewhere down the road.

After her transplant, she co-founded the Kamloops Kidney Support Group, and she is one of the organizers of Kidney Walk Kamloops. In each of the six years she has taken part, she has been the Walk’s leading individual fund-raiser. She helps put together an annual Christmas dinner for the kidney community.

She also volunteers at Overlander Residential Care, an assisted living facility in Kamloops. Whenever she gets a text or a phone call asking her if she could come by and play the piano — she plays by ear — her face lights up like a full moon. She often joins in taking residents shopping or to medical appointments. It has pained her not to be able to go there for the past few weeks.

Sir, while you and others of your ilk are ignoring all the pleas and the recommendations, Dorothy has been stuck here with me. No, she can’t travel to Burnaby to see our son, his pregnant wife and Kara, our only grandchild.

Oh, we could arrange to meet somewhere in a parking lot in Abbotsford or Chilliwack and try to keep our distance for an hour or two. But how do you keep a granddaughter, who is soon to turn four, from running to her grandmother for a hug?

Of course, you can’t. So because of a weakened immune system, we will continue to stay home, not travel, and try to do our best to help, you know, flatten the curve while we await the arrival of a miracle or a vaccine, whichever comes first.

In the meantime, don’t concern yourself with any of the people in the medical community who are fighting this from the front lines, or the good folks who continue to keep the shelves stocked in the grocery stores.

Don’t bother yourself with any of this talk about a curve or dead people or intensive care or hospitalizations. Hey, you know that it’ll never happen to you and yours, so you just go right ahead and enjoy your weekend.

I just hope the helicopter isn’t busy if you need it.

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if we need more bananas . . .

Scattershooting

Let me tell you a little about where we’re at in our household right now, and I have a feeling there are others in the same boat.

If you’re not aware, Dorothy and I are both considered at risk these days; she has a compromised immune system from a kidney transplant; I have heart disease.

So we are trying hard to limit exposure to other people, which is why we ordered groceries online for the first time a few days ago. She had the list; I was at the keyboard. Bananas were on her list.

I found them on the store menu. Hmm, how many did we want? The first option was 1. Well, I thought, when you’re in the store you see some singles, some pairs, three together, even four in a bunch. Yeah, four bananas will do for a while, I thought. So I clicked on 4.

When we got home after picking up the groceries a few days later, we discovered that 4 meant 4 bunches with about 10 bananas in each bunch.

So . . . Dorothy quickly drove over to a friend’s home and left half of the bananas outside her door. (Yes, she phoned first.)

I got up the next morning and looked out a window that overlooks our driveway. Hmm, I didn’t park our Tucson that way. I had backed in; now it was parked looking at me. What happened? I had a brief thought that someone had stolen it and brought it back. Hey, c’mon, these are bizarre times.

Finally, it struck me that Dorothy had driven it after I did. And heaven forbid that she would park the same way that I did. Right?

A couple of days later I was lolling in my recliner late in the afternoon when Dorothy asked: “Are you going to shower today after you didn’t yesterday?”

Upon further reflection, I couldn’t remember whether I had showered the previous day. Eventually, I gave up trying to remember. But I can say that I absolutely cannot remember the last time I went one day without showering.

And then when I awoke Saturday morning, I thought it was Friday. But not knowing what day it is . . . well, that is happening with more and more regularity.

Hey, welcome to our new normal and I don’t mean Normal, Ill.


Clown


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled for 2021 but will still be known as the 2020 Games, organizers say. ‘We couldn’t agree more,’ said 12 of the Big Ten’s 14 athletic directors.”

——

Perry, again: “Triple-double … Double-double … Solo-double? Former standout soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo announced she is pregnant with twins.”


ICYMI, Agent Orange met with sports leaders on Saturday and told them that he would like to see games being played in August and September. (Agent Orange? Saw that in a column by Ed Willes of Postmedia on Saturday.)

The conference call included folks from the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, LPGA, PGA, IndyCar, Breeders’ Cup and yes, WWE and UFC. For whatever reason, there was no one included from, among others, the NCAA, NASCAR or the WHL.

It wasn’t long after word got out about the orange one wanting games in August and September that Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”

And that should take care of that.

Thank you, Governor.

——

There has been talk about the NBA perhaps taking teams into Las Vegas and playing some kind of neutral-site games.

Yeah, I’m sure NBA players are going to want to leave their families to go into self-isolation in Las Vegas and be tested and tested and tested just to play a few games. What if one of them tested positive? What then? And how on earth would the NBA be able to keep players in self-isolation without even one of them going rogue?

So let’s scratch that idea.

——

BTW, the logistics of pulling off even one NFL game under the circumstances in which we now live — and in which we still could be living in August and September — are mind-boggling.

It’s a big enough production under normal circumstances. Now throw in all that goes into testing more than 50,000 people, in one way or another, and it becomes all but impossible.

And what of the support staff? To give you some idea of how many people work a pro game, there are more than 1,300 workers at a New York Mets’ home game just to deal with food service.

And it only would take one person in the facility to test positive and, well, it would be: HERE WE GO AGAIN!

So let’s scratch that idea, too.


Crayons


No one knows when this is going to end, or what it’s going to look like at the other end.

But I would be curious to know how many schedules the WHL is going to prepare.

Under normal circumstances, the WHL’s 2020-21 regular season, with each team scheduled to play 68 games, would begin on or around Sept. 25. But if teams aren’t able to open training camps in late August, a bit more than four months away, and they start pushing things back, does the WHL also prepare a schedule that would open in late October and would have teams playing, say, 54 or 56 games? And on and on it would go . . . Keep in mind that the WHL has teams in two states and four provinces, each of which operates independently in these bizarre times.



Headline at TheOnion.com: Kawhi Leonard misses second consecutive family game night, citing load management.


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “MLB has canceled its scheduled games in Mexico City, Puerto Rico and London, but hopes remain for the Aug. 13 game between the Yankees and White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa, where ‘Field of Dreams’ was filmed. The site adjoins a cornfield and has long been a tourist attraction; an 8,000-seat stadium was built for this and future MLB visits.”



The 12-team Western Canada Baseball League announced Sunday that it has “established a timeline that will guide our decisions this spring.” . . . For starters, the league will decide by May 2 if it will be able to get in a complete 2020 season. . . . “There are also provisions for shortened seasons that would start either on or about Father’s Day or on or about Canada Day,” a news release stated. “Similar dates exist for three or four weeks prior for these shortened seasons for logistics to be put in place.” . . . The league also announced that “governors have agreed that if by early June 2020 health and travel restrictions are still such that the league cannon confirm a start date that the season would be cancelled.” . . . The WCBL has teams in Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Melville, Moose Jaw, Okotoks, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton. . . .

——

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the PGA Championship will be held at that city’s Harding Park course from Aug. 6-9. It had been scheduled to run from May 14-17 at Harding Park. . . . Of course, keep in mind that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate seeing pro football in his state in August or September. . . .

Former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey died late Saturday in a New Orleans care home. His daughter, Ashley, said he had tested positive for the coronavirus a week previous. . . . He was 73. Dempsey was born without toes on his kicking foot and held the NFL record for longest field goal (63 yards) for 43 years. . . . He had been in assisted living for a number of years as he dealt with dementia. . . .

Aleksandar Prijovic, a Serbian soccer player, was given three months of home detention for violating a curfew that is in place because of COVID-19. He an 19 others were arrested in a hotel lobby bar in Belgrade on Friday. . . . Meanwhile, Kyle Walker, a defender with Manchester City, is in trouble after breaking lockdown conditions in England. He has apologized after holding a party involving two sex workers at this home.


Dinosaur


Here’s the Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, via Will Rogers: “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out?”


A few thoughts from Patti Dawn Swansson: “Most of us follow our personal doctors’ advice. I mean, if told to take two aspirin and call ol’ sawbones in the morning, I take two aspirin and make that call. Yet when the finest medical minds in our country advise us what to do (stay the frig home) during the COVID-19 crisis, they are ignored by many among the rabble. I find that to be a most curious bit of business. Even more curious: Why would it take a celebrity athlete, singer or movie star doing a PSA to convince some that the safest place to be right now is behind our own closed doors? Seriously, you’ll listen to, say, Connor McDavid instead of Dr. Theresa Tam? The mind boggles.”

For more, click right here.


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. . . .

——

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.” . . .

——

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.

WHL’s governors next scheduled to discuss things on Tuesday . . . CJHL’s 10 leagues end seasons . . . Four more IIHF cancellations . . . and on it goes!

chart


The WHL’s board of governors is scheduled to talk on Tuesday, presumably to discuss 2020MCwhere things are with the suspension of play that was put in place on Thursday in reaction to the COVID-19 virus and also to take a look ahead. . . . “The plan is to pause, not cancel, not do anything other than that and see if the wave slows down a little bit for everybody,” Bruce Hamilton, the chairman of the board of governors and owner of the Kelowna Rockets, told David Trifunov of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “If we end up with a number of players with it, then it’s a bigger concern. We’ve got a couple of weeks to play with here, because we’ve got two weeks left in our season, really, and then we can make plans from there.” . . . At the same time, preparations are continuing for the Memorial Cup, which is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. Hamilton told the Vancouver Province on Thursday that organizers are checking to see if Prospera Place, the home of the Rockets, might be available in June should the schedule need to be adjusted.


The Canadian Junior Hockey League, the umbrella organization under which 10 junior A leagues operate, made it official on Friday, cancelling the 2019-20 season. “All hockey-related activities, including respective league playoffs, the CJHL’s four regional championship events (Fred Page Cup, Dudley-Hewitt Cup, ANAVET Cup, Doyle Cup) and the Centennial Cup national junior A championship won’t be held. . . . The national final was to have been held in Portage la Prairie, Man.


Scott Wheeler of The Athletic put together a comprehensive look at various junior hockey leagues, what went into the decision to suspend operations, the impact all of his might have, and some ideas on what the future might hold. USHL president Tom Garrity, OJHL commissioner Marty Savoie and CJHL president Brett Ladds all were co-operative and open in their answers. . . . When it came to major junior hockey, though, Wheeler got this: “The statement the league issued this afternoon is our only position and comment at this time.” . . . That story, which is quite insightful, is right here.


John Forslund, the TV play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, is self-quarantined in his home. Why? Because he ended up staying in the same Detroit hotel room as Rudy Robert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus. . . . The Hurricanes moved into the Detroit Westin Book Cadillac on Sunday, one day after the Jazz left. . . . Luke Decock of the Raleigh News & Observer reported that Forslund has moved into the basement of his home and his wife Natalie “is leaving his meals at the basement door.” . . . “It’s different. It’s a long time,” Forslund told Decock. “Today it doesn’t seem like much. As the days march on here, you’re just hoping nothing happens. That’s different. Every time I sneeze or I cough, you wonder, ‘Where’s this going?’ ”


The International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled four more men’s championships on IIHFFriday — the Division II, Group A event that was to have been held in Zagreg, Croatia; the Division II, Group B event in Reykjavik, Iceland; the Division III, Group A tournament in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg; and the Division III, Group B event in Cape Town, South Afrida. . . . The first three were to have run from April 19-25, with the one in Cape Town going from April 20-23. . . .

Still on the calendar: Division 1, Group B, Katowice, Poland, April 27 through May 3; Division 1, Group A, Ljubljana, Slovenia, April 27 through May 3; and the big one, the World championship, in Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, May 8-24. . . . The IIHF Council is to hold a conference call on Tuesday during which the status of these tournaments will be the main topic of conversation.


The 15-team Finish Ice Hockey League, perhaps better known as the SM-liiga), cancelled the remainder of its season on Friday and announced that it won’t name a champion. It is Finland’s top pro league. . . . The final round of the regular season was to have started today (Saturday) without fans in the arenas. . . . How quickly things change. The regular season was proceeding nicely on Tuesday, with fans in the arenas. On Thursday night, games were played without fans. On Friday, it all came to and end.


What is some of the impact of shutting down March Madness? Here’s a few notes from Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports:

Nevada sportsbooks took $498.7 million in wagers on college basketball and the NBA combined in March 2019 and won $36.5 million. An estimated 70 percent of that handle ($349 million ) was wagered on last year’s NCAA Tournament. . . .

For perspective, Nevada sportsbooks took a combined $154.7 million on last month’s Super Bowl — one of the biggest gambling events of the year — and won $18.8 million. . . .

Sportsbooks will have to refund any futures bets made since the conclusion of last year’s championship game when 2020 futures were posted. . . .

85 percent of the NCAA’s annual operating budget comes via revenue from the NCAA Tournament.

——

“The good news for you and me, though,” Blackburn points out, “is that we’ll probably have a few extra bucks in our pockets this March without the opportunity to lose bets or brackets. That just means more toilet paper we can afford to stock up on, I guess.”



The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials have signed Derek Sweet-Coulter, their general manager and head coach, through the 2020-21 season. Sweet-Coulter took over from Barry Wolff after the team opened this season by going 2-9.

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.

——

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.

——

——

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.

——

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 Wednesday night while wondering if the QMJHL will ban fighting . . .

Scattershooting

If you are a baseball fan, you need to be aware of the website Alberta Dugout Stories. You are able to find it at albertadugoutstories.com. As a sampler, check out the story at this link right here, where Ian Wilson writes about a wily right-hander named Leroy (Satchel) Paige and others who toured the Prairies at one time or another. . . . This is really, really good stuff.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been giving up some of his time to watch XFL games. A couple of pertinent observations: “I do not like the fact that the XFL has doubled the number of sideline reporters doing the games; sideline reporters are as useful as a trombone player in a duck blind. . . . A big plus for XFL 2.0 is the absence of any cheerleaders.  They add about as much to a telecast as do the sideline reporters.”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon also had this observation, one that applies to hockey as well: “There is a broadcasting difference between dead air’ (very bad) and ‘announcers’ silence to let the scene speak for itself’ (usually very good). The announcers on XFL games need to shut up every once in a very long while.”


Chips


G Liam McGarva, 20, who won a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League title with the Revelstoke Grizzlies last season, has been suspended until March 11 by the SJHL. McGarva, who turned 20 on Feb. 17, now is with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves. He was suspended after using his water bottle to squirt a referee, then, as he was being escorted off the ice after being ejected, shoving a linesman with his blocker. . . . Brady Lang of Saskatoon radio station CKOM has all the bases covered right here.


It used to be that Bruce Hamilton, the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, didn’t fire head coaches. And when one did leave, he always seemed to KelownaRocketshave an assistant coach poised to take over. . . . That changed when Dan Lambert left for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Hamilton went outside his organization to hire Brad Ralph, who was gone after a 48-20-4 regular season and a trip to the Western Conference final. . . . Jason Smith, another outsider, was hired on July 6, 2016; his run ended on Oct. 22, 2018, with Hamilton saying that “we need to go in a different direction.” The Rockets were 4-10-0 at the time of the firing; Smith left with a 92-54-12 record in two-plus regular seasons. . . . At that time, Hamilton bypassed assistant coach Kris Mallette, this time hiring another outsider, former NHL defenceman Adam Foote. . . .

On Wednesday, Hamilton, whose team is to play host to the Memorial Cup in May, pulled 2020MCthe plug on Foote, and this time he put Mallette in charge, albeit on an interim basis. Foote leaves with a 48-49-12 record, including 24-26-4 this season. . . .

“The team has struggled since the Christmas break,” Hamilton said in a news release. “With 14 games remaining in the regular season, I felt a change was necessary at this time.” . . . He later told Regan Bartel, the team’s radio voice: “Part of success is being able to handle adversity and this group hasn’t handled adversity real well. That’s from playing scared to win, or scared not to lose probably is the better line. That’s what’s set in here a little bit. Hopefully, a new voice will change that.” . . . Except that Mallette isn’t a new voice; he is in his sixth season on the Rockets’ staff. . . .

The Rockets hold down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Finish in the first wild-card spot and it likely will mean a first-round date with the Kamloops Blazers, who lead the B.C. Division. The second wild-card spot is likely going to get you the Portland Winterhawks in the opening round. . . .

Oh, and did I mention that F Nolan Foote, Adam’s son and the Rockets’ captain, is spending some time with the New Jersey Devils, who want their medical staff to check him over. The Devils acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Due to injury, Nolan has played in only four games since Nov. 30. He played a bit in a 6-5 OT loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Monday — the Rockets blew a 5-1 lead — but wasn’t able to finish. The Lightning had selected him in the first round, 27th overall, of the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . .

The 2020 Memorial Cup opens in Kelowna in 93 days.


Prisons


Still with fired coaches, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers have dumped head coach John Beilein after just 54 games; they were 14-40. He joined the Cavs prior to this season, after spending 12 seasons with the U of Michigan Wolverines. . . . Don’t cry for him, though — he had four years and more than US$16 million left on his contract when he left town.



It is pretty much agreed that CF Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is the best player in MLB. On Monday, he spoke to reporters about the cheating scandal that is eating up the Houston Astros: “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.” . . . The Angels play seven of their first 10 regular-season games against the Astros, opening with four in Houston, March 26-29. . . .

BTW, word out of Vegas is that the over-under on the number of Houston hitters who will be hit by pitches this season is 83.5. . . . During the 2019 season, only 41 Astros hitters were plunked; the MLB average was 66.


——

There are reports that QMJHL governors, who are meeting today (Thursday) may vote to ban fighting. I have no idea what steps the governors might take, but it’s about time. . . . It’s also more than past time for the WHL to follow suit. In this day and age, there simply is something wrong about charging admission for an event in which teenagers are allowed to punch each other in the face with bare knuckles and little in the way of consequences.

Big day drawing closer for Gillis, Teigan. . . . Transplant, donation records in Ontario

If you wonder what it’s like for someone who is staring at a kidney transplant and watching as the date for surgery quickly approaches, well, Stephen Gillis is providing a look into what he is going through.

Gillis, who coaches a minor hockey team in Vancouver, is scheduled for a transplant on Tuesday at Vancouver General Hospital, with a friend, Michael Teigan, as the donor. You may be aware that Gillis’s hockey team put together a video a while back as part of the search for a donor.

With Transplant Day drawing ever closer, Gillis’s Facebook posts provide some insight into his thoughts and feelings . . .

“With one week till our kidney transplant, my donor Michael’s awesome girlfriend and my dear friend, Denise, held a ‘Kidney Relocation Party’ with some of Michael’s dearest friends.

“Van Minor Atom A1 parents and players, who have gone above and beyond supporting us, gave Michael some amazing gifts including a t-shirt and card made by our awesome manager, Tara Rodas, and personal cards from each player and a lovely donation to Michael’s recovery time.

“Friends were tasked to bring kidney-related items to the party, which included cooking lamb kidney (which is the only kidney I hope to reject), an original 19-page Kidney screenplay, poems, and an unbelievable kidney donation-themed rendition of ‘The Downeaster Alexa’ by Billy Joel. A special night with special people.

“Thank you to all who have supported our journey together and know that you too can be a hero by registering to be an organ donor to save a life one day. It takes 30 seconds, www.register.transplant.bc.ca.

——

Later came another post . . .

“(Wednesday) was a special day for Michael & I as we march toward Transplant Tuesday.

We had a lovely interview with the great Robin Gill (that will run on) Global National news on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m., and then will also run on Global BC’s morning show with our friends @paulyhays & @soniasunger. Thanks to Global News for their continued support of our story and raising awareness for organ donation and the Kidney Foundation of BC & Yukon.

“We also, surprisingly, ran into our transplant surgeon Dr. Dave, who is an absolute beauty. ‘We are going to make sure you are both okay and by 4 p.m. Tuesday it will all be over.’

“I am starting to feel calm for the first time in years. Literally, service dogs run up to me lately as they can tell my energy. The only time the worry leaves me is when I am at the rink with the kids, until Dr. Dave gave me our pre-game talk. I think I am finally ready to let go and have this miracle happen.

“Check out our interview Sunday evening on @globaltv and please consider becoming an organ donor and have the conversation with your family. Know you don’t have to be a living donor, just think: Do you really need to take anything with you when you go on the next part of your journey on the other side?

——

Gillis and Teigan also were to be busy on Saturday night.

As Gillis, who spent Friday night at WWE Smackdown in Vancouver, posted:

“Michael and I will be on stage for a very special Kidney/Organ Donation-themed Vancouver Theatre Sports show at 9:30 p.m. at the Improv Centre.

“Please consider coming out and laughing with us and possibly donating to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch.”

——

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



The Trillium Gift of Life Network reports that the province of Ontario set a record for organ donations and transplants in 2019. . . . All told, organs from 684 deceased and living donors resulted in 1,386 transplants. . . . One of the reasons for the increases is that donors who in times past wouldn’t have been eligible because of one medical condition or another now are able to donate because of medical advancements. From a news release: “Transplants of healthy and suitable organs from donors with hepatitis C, for example, can now safely occur, expanding the pool of potential donors and decreasing wait times for recipients on the list.” . . . Jessica Patton of Global News has more right here.


Scattershooting on a Thursday night while watching Ovie shoot for 700 . . .

Scattershooting

A lot of what follows was to have been up here earlier in the week, but I got caught up in the Trevor Weisgerber story that you may have read here. If you haven’t seen it, just scroll down a bit and ready about the hockey coach who is fresh off a kidney transplant . . . Apologies, then, if some of what follows is a touch dated . . .


Followers of the WHL should be looking to the Pacific Northwest and thanking the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds for having breathed some life into the 2019-20 season.

Considering that their home arenas are located a few slapshots apart — of course, with SeattleSeattle-area traffic that can turn into a long drive in terms of time — we should expect this to be a healthy rivalry.

Now, however, I think it’s fair to say that this is the WHL’s top rivalry.

On Saturday night, the Silvertips hung a 5-2 beating on the host Thunderbirds, who actually play in Kent, Wash.

There was some nastiness, of course, a lot of it stemming from a second-period incident in which Everett F Justyn Gurney delivered an unpenalized shoulder to the head of Seattle D Cade McNelly. Less than 24 hours later, the WHL suspended Gurney for two games.

It was after the game when things really heated up.

Dennis Williams, the Silvertips’ head coach, told Josh Horton of the Everett Herald: “I Everettdon’t know what (Seattle’s) mindset is. Do they not want to play hockey? The game of hockey is skilled. It’s making plays, it’s going up the ice. From the midway to the second on, we knew we had them beat.”

Williams also told Horton that he lifted No. 1 G Dustin Wolf in the third period because “I just don’t trust them.”

On Sunday afternoon, Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge responded, telling Andy Eide of ESPN radio in Seattle: “Their comments post-game got me riled up. We always are portrayed as the big bad Thunderbirds. We do play hard and I’m not apologizing for that nor will I ever. But I think them yelling down at us from their high horse has to stop.”

La Forge, who obviously had done some research, also told Eide: “I think the numbers speak for themselves. They’ve been suspended 52 games in the last three seasons, we’ve been suspended 40. Twenty-six of their (game) suspensions have been against us and only eight of our game suspensions have been against them. That tells me that we’re playing hard, I’m not going to deny that. But, we’re trying to play within the rules as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, Thom Beuning, the veteran play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, was tweeting:

The Silvertips and Thunderbirds are scheduled to face each other three more times this season, starting tonight (Friday) in Everett. Happy Valentine’s Day!

And the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks are sitting back, enjoying every second of this, and saying: “Have at ’er boys!”

(Eide’s complete story, with lots of great quotes from La Forge, who used to work for the Silvertips, is right here.)


A couple of days later, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, did his best to stimulate the rivalry not only between his team and the Kelowna Rockets, but also Kamloops1between the cities. . . . Gaglardi didn’t just throw some fuel on the fire; he opened the gas bowser and left it running. . . . When Gaglardi chatted with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, the Blazers (32-16-4), who had lost five in a row (0-4-1), were leading the B.C. Division, with the Rockets (23-25-3) 19 points back in fourth spot. . . . In the fall of 2018, you may recall, the WHL’s board of governors heard bids from Kamloops, Kelowna and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, each of whom wanted to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . In the end, the governors chose the Rockets whose big boss, Bruce Hamilton, is the chairman of that board of governors. . . . “I think you know how I feel,” Gaglardi told Hastings. “Yeah, it was our turn. It should have been ours. It was the wrong thing. The league did the wrong thing. . . . Yeah, I’m sour, for sure. I’m disappointed.” . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . . The Hurricanes (33-12-7), meanwhile, are second in the Central Division, six points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (35-8-9).


Annoying


There is ample speculation that quarterback Tom Brady won’t be returning to the New England Patriots. However, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t see him landing with the Buccaneers. Bianchi explained: “Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”


The San Francisco Giants have a manager (Gabe Kapler) and 13 coaches, none of whom chews tobacco. As Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The new day in baseball has been coming for a long time now, and with the Giants, it’s here. In the old days, not that long ago, everybody chewed and dipped, and drank. Including the batboy.” . . . If you aren’t aware, using smokeless tobacco is against MLB’s rules, but it’s against the law like speeding and not using turn signals are against the law. . . . “The Giants, though, might have the first tabacky-free MLB coaching staff in history. That’s a guess,” Ostler adds.


A recent gem from the readerboard at the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: “Did anyone catch the football game at the J-Lo and Shakira concert?”



Here’s Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times after an incident during a college basketball game: “Houston guard DeJon Jarreau bit Cincinnati’s Keith Williams on the calf during a loose-ball scrum, so he was ejected from the game. Or more precisely, extracted.”

——

One more from Perry: “Who says there’s too much time between the NFL’s conference-championship games and the Super Bowl? Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters managed to get married — and separated — in that two-week span this year.”


A tip of the fedora to the Spokane Chiefs for honouring the Spokane Jets, who won the 1970 Allan Cup, a trophy that once was among the most famous in all of hockey. . . . Dan Thompson wrote a terrific story about the Jets and some of the men who returned to Spokane for Sunday’s game, and it’s all right here, from the pages of the Spokesman-Review.


Baseball


After a Saturday hockey game in which the Calgary Flames physically abused F Elias Pettersson of the host Vancouver Canucks, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out that the NHL has allowed its best players to be subjected to this kind of treatment for years and years. Hey, remember when Bobby Hull complained of it? . . . Campbell has more right here. . . . Could it be that the NHL is starting to realize that cross-checking is a problem? Maybe if the NHL does something about that, the WHL will, too.


Former Swift Current Broncos F Sheldon Kennedy has been named to the Order of Hockey In Canada, as well he should have been. He, along with Ken Dryden and Dr. Charles Tator, will be saluted at the Hockey Canada Foundation annual affair in Niagara Falls in June. . . . The WHL posted a story on its website announcing the honour and pointing out that Kennedy roller-bladed “across Canada to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault victims. Kennedy devoted his post-hockey career to child-abuse prevention and education.” . . . Unfortunately, the WHL didn’t bother to explain why Kennedy headed down this career path after bringing an end to his professional hockey career. It was, of course, because he — along with a number of teammates — was sexually abused on hundreds of occasions by Graham James, who then was the Broncos’ general manager and head coach. . . . I have written it before and here it is again: It is long past time for the WHL to unveil an award in Kennedy’s honour, one that should go to anyone who has been involved with the WHL at any level and has gone on to do outstanding work outside the walls of the league.



According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Knicks, who are one of the NBA’s poorest-run operations, carry the highest valuation of the Association’s 30 teams, at $4.6 billion. . . . Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports reacting to that: “The Knicks should serve as a true inspiration to anyone who dares to dream of being super rich despite sucking at pretty much everything. That’s the real American Dream.”


JUST NOTES: Congrats to Brent Kisio, who became the winningest head coach in the history of the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night, when he put up victory No. 189. That put him one ahead of Bryan Maxwell. It’s believed that Kisio also has more friends among the zebras than Maxie did. . . . The Everett Silvertips have signed head coach Dennis Williams to a two-year contract extension. A tip of the fedora to Everett GM Garry Davidson for announcing the length of the extension — through the 2022-23 season. The 40-year-old Williams is in his third season with the Silvertips. His regular-season record is a rather solid 127-48-14, and he is 19-13 in the playoffs. . . . Earlier in the week, the Winnipeg Ice signed head coach James Patrick to a three-year extension. Patrick is in his third season with the Ice, which will make the playoffs this go-round for the first time on Patrick’s watch. . . .

Hey, Sportsnet, I think it’s time to suggest to your hockey analysts — hello there Garry Galley; hi Louie DeBrusk — that they stop talking when the play resumes. There’s a time for analysis/nattering and a time for play-by-play; when the puck is in the area of a goal, it’s play-by-play time. And we won’t even get into the fact that Galley talks far too much. . . . Nick Taylor, who calls Abbotsford, B.C., home, went wire-to-wire in winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the weekend, even starting down Phil Mickelson in the final round on Sunday. Here’s hoping that Taylor’s accomplishment isn’t forgotten by all of the year-end award voters come the closing weeks of 2020. . . .

The best part of a Major League Baseball game is the strategy involved; it’s why you don’t have to be a fan of one of the two teams involved in a game to enjoy it. That’s why I absolutely despise the rule announced this week involving a relief pitcher having to face at least three batters if he doesn’t end an inning. It also could spell the end to the left-handed specialist. . . . And a big happy birthday to Brad Hornung, a friend who turned 51 on Thursday.


Scattershooting on a Saturday night while pondering QB Eli Manning’s career earnings . . .

Scattershooting

The Kansas City Chiefs last appeared in a Super Bowl in 1970. Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports with a look back at a few things from January 1970: M*A*S*H” and Patton were the two-highest grossing films; Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, by B.J. Thomas, was in the top spot on the Billboard Top 100; Abbey Road, by The Beatles (ever heard of them?), was the top album; All My Children premiered and The Carol Burnett Show was one of the the top shows on TV; and the average price of gas in the U.S. was 36 cents a gallon.

——

BTW, CBS Sports ran a Madden 20 simulation of Sunday’s game. According to Blackburn, the San Francisco 49ers intercepted Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes three times en route to a 20-7 victory.

——

NFL security apparently will be using some new-fangled facial recognition software on Sunday in Miami in an attempt to keep bad guys from getting into the Super Bowl. As comedian Argus Hamilton noted: “We’ll be lucky if the NFL can field two teams.”


Hey, Regina, don’t ever change . . .


Podcast


ICYMI, Kevin Sawyer, a former Spokane Chiefs player and assistant coach,  has issued an apology after he made comments in reference to an incident that involved D Jared Spurgeon, who was a 16-year-old freshman with the WHL team at the time. It was during 2005-06 when the Chiefs, according to Sawyer, “Saran-wrapped him to a pillar in the arena, about six feet up in the air . . . he was tiny. He looked like he was 12.” . . . Sawyer, now an analyst for TSN on Winnipeg Jets’ telecasts, apologized late last month, saying that  after “reflecting on my comments,” he was “insensitive in sharing a story that was inaccurate and should never have been told on television in the first place.” . . . Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun has more right here.



Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post, after watching the Harlem Globetrotters eke out a 43-41 victory over the Washington Generals on Tuesday night: “If it’s any consolation to the Generals, they have defeated the Globetrotters more recently than the Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup. Washington last prevailed in 1971, four years after the Leafs’ most-recent title.”



You likely are aware that NFL teams employ an incredible number of coaches. Well, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, lives in the Washington, D.C., area and noted the other day that the Redskins had named Brett Nenaber director of player performance and Jeff Zegonia assistant defensive line coach.” . . . This prompted the curmudgeonly one to write: “I can imagine what the responsibilities of an ‘assistant defensive line coach’ might be for an NFL team; I may not have the full scope of the duties of that position in mind, but I think I have the drift. Such is not nearly the case with the position of ‘director of player performance’. Is he the guy who works with the team on those choreographed TD celebrations that sometimes rise all the way up to the level of ‘SILLY’?

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Here’s The Sports Curmudgeon on Wednesday, discussing the asking price for Super Bowl tickets:

“Super Bowl tickets on the secondary market are very expensive this year.  If you expect to make it to the game in Miami, expect to shell out at least $4,500 per seat at the game and some tickets have an asking price this morning that is just north of $15K per fanny-holder. Perhaps you really want to go to the game but just don’t have access to that sort of cash for you and your main squeeze at this moment. Not to worry. StubHub and its new partner, Affirm, will let you buy the tickets and finance them with a loan directly from Affirm that will let you pay over a period of three months or six months or 12 months at an interest rate of 10-30 per cent.

“I don’t want to go into full ‘Suze Orman Mode’ here, but somehow I doubt that incurring a debt in the $10K range or higher at an interest rate near or above 20 per cent is even marginally sound financial planning.”

You are able to find The Sports Curmudgeon at sportscurmudgeon.com. Be forewarned, though, that reading him daily will quickly become a habit.


Milk


“When it comes to baseball lexicon,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “the Houston Astros’ trash-can antics certainly give ‘bang-bang play’ a whole new meaning.”


In its last four seasons in Cranbrook, the Kootenay Ice won 12, 14, 27 and 13 games, failing to make the playoffs each time. This season, the franchise’s first in Winnipeg after moving east following last season, the Ice is second in the East Division and playoff bound, while playing before hundreds of fans in the 1,600-seat Wayne Fleming Arena. All of which makes one wonder how many fans a contending team might be playing in front of had it stayed in Cranbrook.


The 22-team WHL has its 16 playoff clubs all but settled, with only some jockeying for position left for the final 20 games or so. There won’t be playoff hockey in Red Deer, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Prince George or Kennewick, Wash., the home of the Tri-City Americans. . . . As for the Kelowna Rockets, the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup, they just dropped a home-and-home series with the Spokane Chiefs, who won 7-3 in  the Little Apple on Friday and 6-0 across the line on Saturday. The Rockets appear headed to a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, which could lead to a first-round matchup with, yes, the Kamloops Blazers, who are atop the B.C. Division. And wouldn’t that be something . . . a Battle of B.C., perhaps to match the Battle of Alberta!



The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks are to begin play in September. With that in mind, season tickets went on sale Saturday morning. Early-bird prices, through March 13, are $350 for adults, $330 for seniors and $160 for children. And a tip of the fedora to the Bucks for allowing children under 10 to get into games free of charge. . . . If you were wondering, the WHL’s Ice season-ticket prices prior to their final season in Cranbrook were $725 or $630 for adults, $590 or $510 for seniors, and $300 for children and students.


JUST NOTES: “Not only does Andy Reid deserve a Super Bowl title,” writes Bob Molinaro of The Virginian-Pilot, “his moustache does as well.” . . . Molinaro is correct, but I’ll still take the San Francisco 49ers, by 10. . . . One more from Molinaro: “This time of year, I like to trot out the memorably perceptive comment of enigmatic Cowboys running back Duane Thomas at Super Bowl VI, won by Dallas. ‘If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game,’ he said, ‘how come there is another one next year?’ Words that have aged well.” . . . QB Eli Manning announced his retirement late last month after spending 16 seasons with the New York Giants. Don’t cry for Eli, though. During his career, he made US$252.3 million, more than any other NFLer in history. Manning brought in $17 million in salary and bonuses for his final season, allowing him to pass his brother, Peyton, who retired having earned $248.7 million. . . . Next on the list, according to cbssports.com, are quarterbacks Drew Bree’s ($244.7 million), Tom Brady ($235.2 million) and Aaron Rodgers ($233.6 million). . . . The first non-QB on the list? WR Larry Fitzgerald, at a mere $175 million, in 10th place. . . . If you are going to live tweet from a hockey game, perhaps you should make a point of mentioning both teams, you know, for those of us who aren’t sure who’s playing.