Blue Jays drop opener to Red Sox on Devers’ late dinger . . . Is U.S. college football season in jeopardy?

 

 

Yes, Thursday was to have been Opening Day.

Of course, it was wiped out.

But . . . baseball fans . . . there is hope.

I found this atop a story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Since 1962, baseball lovers have played a board game called Strat-O-Matic, which uses real statistics, player tendencies and dice rolls to simulate games and seasons.

“Starting Thursday, which was to be Opening Day, New York-based Strat-O-Matic Media will replicate the postponed 2020 season through the computer version of the game and post the results, box scores and standings each day at 11 a.m. PDT on its website.

——

Some Opening Day highlights from the Strat-O-Matic website:

“The defending-champion Washington Nationals knocked off the Mets, 4-3, on a ninth-inning, tiebreaking home run by Howie Kendrick off Mets closer Edwin Diaz. Rafael Devers’ ninth-inning solo shot off Ken Giles gave the Red Sox a 3-2 win at Toronto. Colorado’s Garrett Hampson’s RBI double followed by David Dahl’s two-run single keyed a 10-7, 10-inning victory at San Diego. And Kolten Wong’s leadoff bomb off Raisel Iglesias in the top of the ninth lifted the Cardinals over the Reds.

“Pinch-hitters also produced two late-inning heroics for wins. The Milwaukee Brewers walked off the Chicago Cubs, 7-4, on a bottom of the 11th, three-run home run by Brock Holt, while Johan Camargo came off the bench to take Yoan Lopez out of the yard in the top of the ninth to propel the Braves past the Diamondbacks.

“And though not a last at-bat win, Baltimore scored twice off Adam Ottavino in the seventh inning to ruin the Yankees’ debut of Gerrit Cole in a 3-2 Birds win at Camden Yards.”

If you visit the Strat-O-Matic website, the link to the simulated games is right at the top.

Enjoy!


Soy


If you’re a hockey fan, you are going to want to check out cougarshockeyproject.ca. . . . According to a tweet that launched the website, it celebrates “this history of the Victoria Cougars in the Western Hockey League (with) player profiles, database, Vancouver Island arena guide and a blog.” . . .


With advertising revenues dropping like punctured balloons, news outlets are starting to issue layoffs and furloughs to employees. . . . Sound Publishing owns 43 publications in Washington state, including the Everett Herald, has cut staff. One of those to be furloughed was Josh Horton, who, among other things, has been covering the WHL’s Everett Silvertips. . . . Four of the seven people in the Herald’s sports department were furloughed. Sports columnist Nick Patterson, who used to be on the Silvertips beat, has been moved to the news room. . . .

——

 


The Thought of the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, via Will Rogers: “Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what’s going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?” . . .

BTW, the curmudgeonly one also is the supplier of many of the cartoons that end up on this site, and I thank him for brightening our days. . . .


The Indianapolis 500 had been scheduled to run on May 24. It now has been postponed until Aug. 23. . . . This will be first time since 1945 that it hasn’t been held on the Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t held from 1941-45 because of the Second World War. . . . This will be the first Indy 500 since Roger Penske purchased IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. . . . IndyCar is hoping to get its season started with a race in Detroit on May 30. . . .


SourCream


If you don’t think that we have fallen down a rabbit hole consider that the odds-makers at www.SportsBettingDime.com have come up with some over/unders involving President Trump’s favourite words and phrases during his yammering in those inane press briefings/campaign rallies that go on daily. . . . Here’s a look:

Fantastic +Incredible + Amazing + Tremendous 24.5

Great 11.5

Big/Bigger/Biggest 10.5

More Tests than any other Country 9.5

Fantastic 8.5

Incredible 6.5

Amazing 5.5

Tremendous 5.5

Best 5.5

I/We’ve been treated unfairly 3.5

I/We inherited a broken system 3.5

Working Very Hard 2.5

We’re doing a great job 2.5

Not our fault 2.5


The OHL’s Kitchener Rangers have signed general manager Mike McKenzie to an extension that runs through the 2024-25 season. He has been the club’s GM since March 2017. He also acted as the team’s interim head coach from November 2019 through the end of this season. . . . He has been with the Rangers since 2012 when he signed on as an assistant coach. . . . McKenzie’s father, Bob, is a TSN hockey insider.


Scott Owens, the general manager and head coach of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, has announced his retirement. Owens, 64, spent 15 seasons as the head coach of the Colorado College Tigers. He has been with the Stampede for five seasons. . . .


An unidentified player with Colorado Avalanche has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. He is the third NHL player to test positive, along with two members of the Ottawa Senators. The Avalanche said they got the test result on Thursday and that the player “has been at home in isolation since the first systems appeared, has recovered and is back to normal.” . . . The NHL halted its regular season on March 12. The Avalanche and Senators both were in California prior to that decision coming down. . . .


Winston


A year without any U.S. college football? The whispers have started. . . . Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports writes: “What was once unthinkable has quietly become a discussion point and concern throughout college athletics. Will the coronavirus pandemic force the cancellation of the 2020 college football season?” . . . The kickoff to the season (Aug. 29) is more than five months away. But the way things are going in the U.S., who knows? . . . Dodd’s piece is right here.

Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “Spring games and practices have already been canceled and there’s no certainty that programs are going to be able to get work in this summer given the way things are trending right now. Are we going to be ready to stuff 100,000+ people into some stadiums around the country by the time fall rolls around? I wish I could say yes, but nobody can provide an end date for this ordeal.” . . .


 


 

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

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


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



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

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

——

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


Washing


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


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


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


Area51


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

——

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

——

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



Cleaning


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


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


Trump

QMJHL cancels rest of regular season; WHL, OHL expected to do same . . . Eskimos bow out of Brady chase

DailyNews


The QMJHL announced on Tuesday that it has brought an end to its regular season, which was to have ended on Friday. The league also has postponed its annual draft that had been scheduled for March 25. . . . The QMJHL is still hoping to be able to put together some kind of playoff with teams seeded based on points percentage. . . .

——

The WHL’s board of governors was to talk on Tuesday, but so far . . . crickets! However, it is widely believed that the WHL and the OHL will cancel the remainder of their regular seasons perhaps as soon as Wednesday. . . .

Bob McKenzie of TSN tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “The WHL will be following the same path as the QMJHL. The OHL has a governors’ conference call (Wednesday), at which time it will be no surprise if the OHL also cancels the regular season.”

——

——

The two players from the Winnipeg Ice who were tested for the COVID-19 virus are fine. Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reports that a source with the team has told him that both tests came back negative. . . . “The club,” Sawatzky wrote, “did not immediately make further comment.” . . . Both players had been symptomatic so were tested, while the remainder of the players were allowed to go home. . . .


On a day when it was announced that four players from the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, including Kevin Durant, had tested positive, it was learned that one player from the Ottawa Senators has tested positive. The player, whose identity wasn’t revealed by the Senators, is the first NHLer to test positive for the virus. . . . The team said the player’s symptoms are mild and that he is in isolation. . . . Hailey Salvian and James Mirtle of The Athletic reported that “multiple Senators players are ill and awaiting test results to determine how many have been infected.” The Senators played the host Los Angeles Kings on March 11, their last game before the NHL shut down. The NBA’s Brooklyn Nets played at Staples Center on March 10 and have had four players test positive. . . . The Senators also played in San Jose on March 7, which was after health officials had recommended a ban be placed on well-attended events. . . . Of the four Nets players involved, only one is experiencing symptoms. . . .


So . . . Tom Brady isn’t going to be returning to the New England Patriots and, at the age of 42, is expeced to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will pay him in the neighbourhood of US$30 million for one season. . . . So much for him ending up in the CFL. . . .


The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled two more men’s tournaments — the Division I Group A tournament in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the Division I Group B event in Katowice, Poland. Both were to have run from April 27 through May 3. . . . The IIHF Council continues to discuss the status of the world men’s championship that is scheduled for Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, from May 8-24. . . .

The B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League officially cancelled the remainder of its season on Tuesday. . . .

The Achilles International Track Society announced Tuesday that it was cancelling the annual Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic. It was to have been held at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium on May 30. . . .

The French Open tennis tournament now will be played from Sept. 20 through Oct. 4. It had been scheduled to being in Paris on May 24. The change in dates will make it the last of the four majors this year, and it will begin a week after the U.S. Open. . . . The Guardian has a good story right here on the reaction to the date change and, yes, there is some unhappiness. . . .

The PGA Championship has been postponed. It had been scheduled for Harding Park in San Francisco, May 11-17. One of the four majors for men’s professionals, organizers hope it will be played at Harding Park later in the summer. . . . Earlier, Augusta National announced that the 2020 Masters, which was scheduled for April 9-12, had been postponed. There now is speculation that it will be played in October. . . .

The PGA has cancelled the RBC Heritage (April 13-19), the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (April 20-16), the Wells Fargo Championship (April 27-May 3) and the AT&T Byron Nelson (May 4-10). . . .

The 2020 Canadian Transplant Games have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Winnipeg, Aug. 15-20. . . .


Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports is a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Here he is: “I’ll try to keep my weeping to a minimum, but it’s St. Patrick’s Day, our king has left us and all the bars are closed. Nothing makes sense anymore and us Pats fans can just never seem to catch a break.”

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 Tuesday evening after spending time on Monday with Sabrina . . .

Scattershooting

If you’re wondering, Dave Ayres and his wife, Sarah, are expected back in the Toronto area today (Wednesday) after being feted in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. You will recall that Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, is the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) who helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, on Saturday night. . . . They are expected to be back in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night where he again will be the EBUG, this time with the Vancouver Canucks in to play the Maple Leafs. . . . You don’t suppose that he might . . . nah, never happen.


BoardingPass


Congrats to Trevor Weisgerber, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Weisgerber, 40, who underwent a kidney transplant in St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on Jan. 26, has been named winner of the Joe Bloski Award as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Warriors went 30-13-1 and tied for fourth place in the 12-team league, one point out of third and seven short of first. They will open a first-round playoff series against the visiting Notre Dame Hounds on Thursday. . . . Weisgerber told me on Tuesday that “I am feeling pretty good . . . the fun begins on Thursday!” . . . If you aren’t familiar with Weisgerber’s story, you will find it all right here.



Grant Rezansoff, who played two seasons (1979-81) with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, died on Saturday at his home in Red Wing, Minn. A native of Surrey, B.C., he was 58. . . . In his second season with the Cougars, he scored 40 goals and added 57 assists. . . . After moving on from the WHL, Rezansoff played in the International and Central leagues before spending two seasons in Europe. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Disneyland


The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, a total of $1,193, 248.20 a year until 2035. Now we are free to wonder if the NHL is headed into the same territory. . . . At the NHL trade deadline, it was pointed out that the Buffalo Sabres are paying D Christian Ehrhoff the nice sum of $857,143 per year until 2028. He last played with the Sabres in 2013-14 and was last in the NHL in 2015-16 with the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Meanwhile, F Ilya Kovalchuk, who has gone from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals in the past few weeks, is taking up cap space on four different NHL teams, with the New Jersey Devils also in the Payin’ Ilya Club.


GiftCard


Until reading a book titled Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, I wasn’t aware that former Seattle Thunderbirds/Kelowna Rockets enforcer James McEwan had filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada.

It turns out that the lawsuit now is more encompassing that that, as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out here:

“Already facing a class-action lawsuit over not paying its players a minimum wage, the three major junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League could soon find themselves facing a concussion lawsuit that could include hundreds, if not thousands, of former frequent fighters in junior hockey.

“What started as a lawsuit launched against the CHL, the WHL and Hockey Canada by former WHL player James McEwan in January 2019 was recently re-filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include both the OHL and QMJHL. Six days after the lawsuit was re-filed, the QMJHL postponed a vote on whether or not to ban fighting, a vote that was scheduled for that day, but was moved to August.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.



JUST NOTES: Having heard about Sabrina Ionescu in recent days, I got a chance to watch her on a TSN channel on Monday night as her Oregon Ducks beat the host Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the day, Ionescu had spoken at the memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi — Ionescu was close with both of them. She also was fighting a flu bug and apparently was sick to her stomach before the game. The 5-foot-11 point guard then went out and led the Ducks to victory, in the process becoming the first player, male or female, in NCAA Division 1 history to have career totals of at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Yes, she is quite a player. Try to tune in if the Ducks are on TV again. . . . How goofy has the NHL’s trade deadline day become? Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, singling out one incident from Monday: “The best moment of the day came when Johnny Gaudreau inexplicably left the ice at the Calgary Flames practice, leading everyone to freak out and speculate. It turns out he just had to pee. Trade deadline day is the best.”

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

Scattershooting


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

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


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


Joggers


——

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

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

——

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


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


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


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


Murrow


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

——

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



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



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


Whale


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

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

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.