Scattershooting on a Tuesday night while waiting for Meghan and Harry to arrive for tea . . .

Scattershooting


Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, writing about the MLB sign-stealing scandal and the Houston Astros:

“It was clear the Astros were doing something unusually effective. While power hitters generally strike out frequently — a trade-off for swinging aggressively — the Astros’ lineup has an extraordinary knack for slugging without whiffing. From 1910 through 2016, only two teams — the 1948 Yankees and the 1995 Cleveland Indians — led the majors in slugging percentage while also recording the fewest strikeouts. The Astros did it in both 2017 and 2019.”



G Taran Kozun, who played in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds, now is with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon. On Saturday night, he posted a shutout as the Huskies beat the host Calgary Dinos, 3-0. Oh, Kozun also scored a goal. . . . That also was Kozun’s second straight shutout, as the Huskies had beaten the Dinos, 4-0, on Friday night.

Kozun is the second goaltender in Canada West to be credited with scoring a goal, but the first to actually shoot the puck into the opposing team’s goal.

On Oct. 26, 2012, Kurtis Mucha of the Alberta Golden Bears

As Neate Sager reported for Yahoo! Sports at the time: “It was the standard opposing-goalie-off-on-a-delayed-penalty, errant-pass-goes-in-the-net scenario. Mucha . . . was credited with the goal since he was the last U of A man to touch the puck after stopping a long shot. The one twist is that the Lethbridge Pronghorns’ off-the-mark pass from out of the corner to the goaltender’s left banked off the boards in the neutral zone and rolled into the net.”

That night, Mucha, like so many snipers before him, was talking about the points that got away. He was quoted in a U of Alberta news release: “The funny thing is, I almost had a couple of assists that night, too. I moved the puck up ice a couple of times and was the third assist on a couple of goals, so I was pretty close to a two- or three-point night.”


There is good news for followers of the Winnipeg Ice. F Matt Savoie, who turned 16 on New Year’s Day, is captaining Team Canada at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lausanne, Switzerland. . . . Savoie hasn’t played for the Ice since Dec. 28 when he was KO’d on a fierce open-ice hit during a 3-2 victory over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The first selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, Savoie has five assists in 12 games with the Ice. When he isn’t with the Ice, he is with the Rink Hockey Academy Prep team in Winnipeg. He’s got 16 goals and 26 assists in 17 games with RHA. . . . Savoie had a shorthanded goal and an assist on Sunday as Canada beat Denmark, 6-0, outshooting the Danes, 44-8, in the process. That left Canada at 1-1 as it earlier had dropped a 6-2 decision to Russia. . . . Canada then lost 2-1 to the U.S. in a semifinal game played on Tuesday.




“Hey,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “if Clint Eastwood can talk to an empty chair, why not this? Philadelphia’s WTXF-TV ‘interviewed’ T.C., the Astros’ dugout trash can, as part of its coverage of MLB’s sign-stealing scandal. ‘I was beat over and over and over,’ T.C. revealed to the Good Morning Philadelphia show. ‘It took me two years to get all the dents out. It’s the worst job in sports.’ ”

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Perry spent some time on the NFL crime beat recently . . .

“New Orleans police issued an arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr. after the Browns receiver slapped the butt of a Superdome security guard following LSU’s championship-game win. Though he hopes to get the simple-battery charge reduced to illegal use of hands.

New England receiver Julian Edelman jumped on the hood of a car in Beverly Hills, Calif., apparently damaging it and earning himself a police citation for vandalism. Or as Patriots apologists tried to spin it, he got flagged for piling on.”

I would suggest that Perry should be flagged for being offside.



The Kamloops Blazers lit up the visiting Tri-City Americans for a dozen goals in a 12-3 victory on Friday night. . . . If you were wondering — and I know you were — that was Kamloops1the 27th time in franchise history that Kamloops scored at least 12 times in one game. The franchise’s single-game record is 16 — the Jr. Oilers beat the visiting Kelowna Wings, 16-1, on March 11, 1983; the Blazers whipped the visiting Victoria Cougars, 16-4, on Jan. 19, 1990. . . . The last time the Blazers had struck for 12 goals in one game was on March 13, 1994, in a 12-4 victory over the host Americans. . . . Interesting note: The Blazers have scored in double figures twice this season — they beat the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 10-1, on Nov. 20. Prior to Nov. 20, Kamloops last scored at least 10 goals in a game on Sept. 20, 2002, in a 10-2 victory over visiting Seattle. . . . Interesting note No. 2: Kamloops once scored 10 goals in a game and lost. On March 6, 1984, the host Seattle Breakers scored an 11-10 victory. . . .

On Saturday night, the Blazers romped to a 9-0 home-ice victory over the Americans behind G Rayce Ramsay, who made 24 saves. . . . On Sunday, the Blazers went into Langley and beat the Vancouver Giants, 4-0, with G Dylan Garand stopping 21 shots. . . . The Blazers have put up six shutouts this season, with Garand and Ramsay each earning three. . . . The last time Kamloops blanked the opposition six times in one season? That would be 2012-13 when the total was seven (Cole Cheveldave, 6; Taran Kozun 1). . . . The franchise record is nine from 2003-04 (Devan Dubnyk, 6; Dustin Slade, 2; Geoff McIntosh, 1). . . .

BTW, Garand now has four shutouts in his WHL career, putting him into a tie with Kenric Exner for 10th on Kamloops’ career list. Ramsay has three and is tied for 12th with Dylan Ferguson, Jeff Bosch and Daryl Reaugh. . . . Dubnyk is the franchise’s career record holder, with 15, one more than Corey Hirsch. . . . Prior to Saturday, the Blazers last won a game by a 9-0 count on Jan. 11, 1995 when they beat the host Thunderbirds behind 21 saves by G Rod Branch. . . . Kamloops now has eight 9-0 victories in its regular-season history.



The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3

Bookshelf

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

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

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich

The Border, by Don Winslow

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

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

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

November Road, by Lou Berney

The Other Woman, by Daniel Silva

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

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bookshelf . . . Part 2 of 3

Bookshelf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TOMORROW: Part 3 of 3.