Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carlton Gets Cut

The Toronto Maple Leafs can wait no longer and they've decided that a change has to be made.

Despite their somewhat inspired play of late, the braintrust (?) at MLSE has had enough, and made a drastic move to try to turn around the fourtunes of their sad-sack hockey team.

They've fired...Carlton the Bear.

While MLSE says that Carlton will be "retired" mid-December, we all know what's really going on...this is definitely a FIRING!

Rather than point the fingers at players like Blake, Schenn or head coach Ron Wilson, they've made Carlton the Bear, the scapegoat..or...scapebear!

For 20 years, Carlton has poured his heart and soul into the Leafs, and THIS is how they repay him???

In light of Carlton's dismissal, I thought I'd bring you my top 5 mascots...based on a highly scientific formula where e=laughs and x=giggles while y=head shaking disapproval.

5. Fin - come on, I have to slide a Canucks reference in here. And it's pretty cool when the smoke comes out of his blowhole!
4. The Stanford Tree - how can you not love a freakin' TREE that's a mascot?
3. The Philly Phanatic - Long serving and instantly recognizeable...does a great "fat umpire" imitation
2. Youppi! - Very VERY cool that the Habs adopted Youppi! after the Expos moved to DC
1. The Famous Chicken - Who else could it be? He is truly the best in the business!!

Who are your faves? Post a comment and let me know.

How can you not love The Chicken???


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Great American Traditions

There aren't many things that make me say, "Boy, I wish I was American"...but there are a few.

Being able to pick up 24 cans of Bud for 9.99 at the grocery store is one, and the other, Thanksgiving football!

Sure we can enjoy the traditional slate of 3 Turkey Day games here in Canada on the tube (being a freelance writer I'm preeeetty sure I'll find some time to watch), but from what I can gather, I would REALLY enjoy kickin' it USA style on Thanksgiving.

You know...spending an entire day sitting around with the family and friends, eating turkey, drinking that cheap Bud and watching a full day of NFL football!

In between games, we could all gather on the lawn for a little game of two hand touch and throw the ball around while wearing our cords and oversized fall themed sweaters (does that really happen?)

The beauty of this day is that the games don't even have to be the best matchups. In fact, this years games feature some pretty lousy teams...ahem...Detroit, Oakland and the 5 game losing streak Broncos. But, WHO CARES?

While I still think that the Canadian Thanksgiving falls at the perfect time (mid-October gives you enough time to digest all that turkey before downing another bird at Christmas), it's tomorrow's Thursday football frenzy that makes me envious of the US version of Thanksgiving Day.

Hmmm...Thanksgiving Day...TD...touchdown! It's all starting to make sense to me!

Oh ya, that Black Friday shopping spree isn't such a bad thing either.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Bring on the games, and I hope your turkey doesn't turn out like this:


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting A Grip On Handles

Saturday night, Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings dropped 55 spectacular points on the Golden State Warriors (the second highest single game point total for a rook in NBA history).

Immediately and deservedly, Jennings was thrust into the sporting spotlight.

In the ensuing days, the thing that has impressed me most about Jennings wasn't his skill, his background (having played a season in Rome because he wasn't eligble for the NBA draft, and his grades were too low to get into college), or his projected totals for the 2009/10 season.

What impressed me most, was his nickname. He was given it in Grade 12 and has it tattooed across the back of his back: YOUNG MONEY.

I love it!

It's short, it's catchy, it epitomizes a guy who is money on the court, with money in the bank!

Unfortunately, too many nicknames these days are terribly uncreative.

Smith becomes Smitty. Johnson becomes Johnny. Kane becomes Kaner. Stone becomes Stoner (actually that one is pretty good!)

That being said, there are some GOOD nicknames out there...but very few GREAT ones.

These are some of the GREAT ones that come to mind from today and days gone by:

NFL - Christian "The Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye - for an NFL linebacker to see this guy, who was likely larger than most of the LB's, running at definitely was a nightmare.

NHL - Ken "The Rat" Linseman - The nickname that perfectly described a guy that would stick you in the groin, and while you were down, take the puck and put it in the back of the net.

MLB - Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas - I could sit here for a year and fail to come up with a better nickname for a guy this huge.

NBA - Charles "The Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley - he never won an NBA championship, but he is the champion of sound bites as a broadcaster for TNT and his girth brought us his wonderful nickname.

Those are just the ones that come to mind...what about you? Leave me a comment on what nicknames are the GREAT ones in sports!

Oh, and although it's not sports related, there is one more great nickname that should be recognized:


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

(Fortunately) The Peter Forsberg Saga Comes To A Close

Peter Forsberg has told Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis that he is committing to play this hockey season in Sweden and that he won't be coming to the NHL.

Thank God!

I know Forsberg has a very impressive track record (249 G, 636 A, 885 PTS in just 706 NHL games) but the Canucks, and the NHL for that matter, do not need another Sundin-esque will-he-or-won't-he drama overshadowing the season.

If you recall, and who can forget it, last year Mats Sundin took the majority of the season to decide if he was interested in actually playing in the NHL. Eventually he signed with the Vancouver Canucks and played out the last quarter of the season with mixed results.

But the entire season the media, fans, and likely NHL players too, spent WAY too much time talking about a guy who couldn't decide if he was in or out.

The Sundin talk made news about NHL labour struggles seem breathtaking by comparison. Yawwwwwwwwwwn.

So as we headed into this season, rumblings came out of Sweden that maybe Forsberg would entertain an offer from the Canucks to join the team. In turn, the Forsberg Files began to get more and more coverage...until he quashed all the rumours the other day saying he's staying in Sweden.

It's reported today that his old buddy Markus Naslund may join him to play together on MoDo as well.

Anyhow, to make a long (and boring) story short, Forsberg ain't comin' to the NHL so drop the puck and we can all move on.

At least, until NEXT off season!

Until then, let's all remember what kind of skill and grace Peter "Nut Punch" Forsberg brings to the game:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Day To Remember...

Being November 11th, Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in the States, it's a time to remember everyone who has given their time, their spirit and in far too many cases, their lives, for our freedom.

It's a day to remember people like Pat Tillman.

For those who are unaware, Tillman was a starting safety with the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.

He had dedicated his life to football and the Cardinals, even turning down a multi-year contract offer from the St. Louis Rams so he could remain loyal to the Cards.

But more than anything, Tillman was loyal to his country.

In May 2002, eight months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Tillman gave up his football career to serve his country in the Army.

After going through all the usual levels of training and participation in the field, Tillman was eventually redeployed to Afghanistan.

On April 2004, nearly two years after Tillman left football behind for a life as a soldier, Pat Tillman was killed.

Initially the Army told his family that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire...and subsquently he was awarded a Silver Star for his selfless actions in trying to protect his fellow soldiers.

But it wasn't a simple open and shut case...far from it.

As the details emerged, it turned out that no hostile forces were involved in the firefight. It was reported that the two Allied Forces groups fired upon each other in confusion, after a explosive device detonated nearby.

There were more accusations that Tillman may have been killed by shots fired at short range...perhaps by his fellow soldiers. The coroner even refused to sign the autopsy because he said the gunshot wounds were not consistent with the Army's original story.

But what DID really happen?

Finally July 14, 2008 the investigation committee stated that its "investigation was frustrated by a near universal lack of recall" among "senior officials at the White House" and the military. It concluded:

"The pervasive lack of recollection and absence of specific information makes it impossible for the Committee to assign responsibility for the misinformation in Corporal Tillman’s and Private Lynch’s (another soldier) cases. It is clear, however, that the Defense Department did not meet its most basic obligations in sharing accurate information with the families and with the American public."

To date, the REAL truth about what happened to Pat Tillman has not been determined. A very sad and tragic ending to Pat Tillman's time on this planet.

Can you think of another pro athlete that would give up EVERYTHING to join the military? Without knowing any of them personally, I highly doubt that there is anyone who would make the choice and sacrifice that Pat Tillman did.

Please take time today to remember EVERYONE who has, and continues, to serve our (or your) country and fight for the freedom that we currently enjoy.

For more check out the 60 Minutes piece from May 4, 2008:


Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Story of Pat Dapuzzo

I've been meaning to get this story out to the masses for a while but I've just been a little busy moving to do so.

But now that I'm settled, I'll pass it on.

It's the story of NHL linesman Pat Dapuzzo. It's a story of suffering, not only a horrendous career ending injury, but also with the struggles with physical and mental pain, multiple surgeries, and of course the long, long road to recovery.

When I first saw the incident back in February, I was sickened by what I saw.

I had patrolled the lines in junior hockey for many years and had had a couple of close calls with sticks and pucks, but never with any skate blades. I couldn't begin to comprehend what was going through Dapuzzo's mind when the accident took place.

Rather than me tell you the story, I'll let Dapuzzo tell the story to you in his own words.

CLICK HERE for Dapuzzo's story as told to and re-printed in the October 30, 2009 edition of the Toronto Star (thanks to my brother Todd for passing it on to me.)

The video of the incident is below. As you can tell by the urgency in his voice and delivery, the rinkside reporter Steve Coates, knows that the injury Dapuzzo suffered was more than just a bad cut.

All the best to Pat Dapuzzo and his ongoing recovery.

CAUTION - this video does contain some graphic images


Sunday, November 1, 2009

It Was 50 Years Ago Today...

...that Jacques Plante, of the Montreal Canadiens, donned a hockey mask for the first time.

And with that, the look of hockey changed in an instant.

When JP first put on the mask, he was mocked, ridiculed and made fun of to no end.

"A goalie wearing a mask," John Q. Hockey player would say. "That's like a forward wearing a helmet! Or using a curved hockey stick!"

Ah, how the times have changed.

Being a former goalie (who will one day don the pads again...I swear!) I have been fascinated with masks forever.

There have been thousands of masks that have been worn in the NHL since November 1, 1959 and each one has had it's own unique look.

Unfortunately, all of todays masks are vitually the same, just with different paint jobs. While the images are very well done, they tend make the mask too busy and impossible to identify and understand without a close-up view. Check out Rick DiPietro's...CLICK HERE.

The GREAT masks were the ones that were worn in the 70's and 80's. They were fibreglass masks made out of a mould of the goalies face. They offered very little protection, but it was better than going out on the ice barefaced! They came in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and weren't "overdone" like contemporary ones.

To commemmerate the 50th anniversary of the hockey mask, I wanted to give you my top five masks of all time. Simply click on the name, to see the mask.

5. Brian Hayward, San Jose Sharks
Okay, I will give credit to one of the "new" style masks. This beauty was probably the mask that inspired all of todays goalies to get intricately detailed paint jobs. While far too many current masks are too "busy" for my liking, the simplicity and fierceness of Hayward's makes it a must for my top five.

4. Ron Low, Washington Capitals
Low used this mask to honour the USA's bicentennial in 1975. It's very difficult to find a good picture of Low wearing it in action (really, who would bother taking pictures of the 1975 Washington Capitals?), but it's certainly better than this ugly helmet/cage combo he wore later in his career.

3. Gilles Gratton, New York Rangers
A brilliant mask...what an amazing paint job. It could easily be number one on the's just that most people would say "Who the hell is Gilles Gratton?"

2. Gerry Cheevers, Boston Bruins
With each stitch representing a place on the mask where a puck, stick or skate would have cut him, if not wearing the mask, Cheevers would have been a very disfigured man today.

1. Gary Bromley, Vancouver Canucks
With a nickname like "Bones" it was appropriate that Bromley wore this amazing skull mask. Intimidating, cool, unique. It's ironic that he wore such a cool mask, while at the same time wearing what's been called the ugliest uniform of all time!

What would be really great, but I seriously doubt anyone would do it, would be for a goalie in one of tonight's games wear an "old style" mask for a period to honour the day. They could even wear one just for the warm up!

But with the speed of the shots and the lack of protection a crappy 70's/80's mask has, I don't think there'd be any way a goalie would step out on the ice wearing cool as it might look.

And just to think, there was a day where NO ONE wore one!

Leave me your comments on what masks YOU love...maybe it's the mask of Mike Liut, Mike Palmateer, Curt Ridley, or Ken Dryden. I'd love to get your feedback.

Happy Mask Day!