Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Contributing Editor Bill Morphy. This week, WE return to action with a little bit of this and a whole lot of THAT. Hope you enjoy our take on things and don’t be afraid to send along your feedback! Always good to hear from you.
Some Unsolicited Advice – No one asked for our opinion but….professional sports in North America needs to wake up and call off this half-baked expedition for resuming the season and peewee tournament playoffs. A reminder – one person with COVID-19 can spread the virus to up to one thousand people in a month. When MLB needs a 100-page protocol in order to return to action, something is amiss. How many needles do you need to thread? How much jeopardy are you willing to subject the players to? To date, Major League Baseball has 38 reported cases while the NBA has 25 confirmed cases.
The NHL, for its part, plans to bring in up to 50 support staff for each team to Edmonton and Toronto, the two designated “Hubs.” Rosters will be around 25 so that means there will be at least 900 people in each hub city. Does that sound like a good idea? How can you possibly control community spread?
Having the two NHL hub cities both in Canada is a terrible idea and potentially very harmful to all the good work we have done as a country to date. If just 5% of those coming into the country have symptoms, that’s 45 people. Things are so bad in the U.S., the NHL had no choice but to turn to Canada. What suckers we are? All hell has broken loose in the U.S. with a record 50 thousand new cases recorded in a single day this week. Can we expect that no Americans crossing our border will be symptom-free? There’s also a reasonably high percentage of players returning from Sweden where the country chose not to shut down during the outbreak. Do you think that none will carry the virus when they arrive?
Where are the health officials in Alberta and Ontario who signed off on this? We get the economic benefits but sorry, it’s not worthwhile. Dr. Bonnie Henry here in British Columbia told the NHL to take a hike. Good on her!
The Fix Is In – So a week has passed since the NHL Draft Lottery. Have you been able to figure it out yet? Every year, the NHL makes something that could be so straightforward into something beyond comprehension. This year, they took it to a whole new level. You couldn’t figure it out if you went to MIT.
Conducting the draft lottery before the play-in round when we truly find out who’s in the playoffs and who’s not has turned out to be the stupidest decision by the NHL in memory. Those random lottery balls have probably shifted your team’s focus from making a miracle Cup run into cheering for losses.
NHL team executives never have the guts to come right out and say it but this year’s lottery was an unqualified disaster. NHL Vice-President Bill “Won’t You Come Home Bill” Daly came up with the brilliant plan. We waited six weeks to find out who nabbed the big prize in Alexis Lafreniere, and whoops, sorry you will have to wait another month. Even NHL apologist Brian Burke was quoted as saying “Tonight, it should’ve just been the seven teams that are not in the play-in round. Give the teams that need the most help the best players. I think this result is nothing short of a disgrace.” Others were not as charitable who rightfully pointed out that the eight play-in losers now have better odds at getting Lafreniere than all but Detroit and Ottawa had when the lottery was conducted. We could have predicted it would go this way when the play-in teams had a combined 24.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, just a shade behind Ottawa who had the best odds at 25 percent.
Can you imagine the outrage if Pittsburgh or Toronto or Edmonton fail to reach the playoff round and end up winning the first overall draft pick? Only in the NHL could this fiasco take place. What’s worse is the NHL has set up a scenario where fans will be cheering against their own team in the play-in round just so they will keep open the possibility of winning the top pick. Crazy! The Canucks have the option of keeping their first round pick this year from the J.T. Miller deal so it’s not out of the question they could end up with Lafreniere. Go Minny!
Voter Fraud – There are 18 members on the voting committee for the Hockey Hall of Fame. You need 14 votes or 75% to be voted into the Hall yet, almost every year, they get it wrong on at least one candidate. Last year, it was Guy Carbonneau. Great checking forward, but sorry, not a Hall of Famer. This year, it was Kevin Lowe. Fine defensive defenseman and Mr. Nice Guy, but not a Hall of Famer. Of course, would you expect anything different from a cast of voters who, over the years, have voted Dick Duff, Clark Gillies, Rogie Vachon, Dave Andreychuk and Dino Ciccarelli into the Hall? And please, don’t start saying someone had Hall of Fame numbers when they hung around forever just to achieve some career milestones? Andreychuk scored 640 goals in his career but played 1,639 games.
Something tells me Wayne Gretzky had a hand in getting Lowe into the Hall. No doubt he made a few calls and influenced the voting. Steve Simmons of the National Post made a good point about Lowe’s selection. If anyone watched the Battle of Alberta skirmishes between the Oilers and the Flames back in the 80’s; you would agree that Paul Reinhart of the Flames was a better defenseman than Lowe yet Reinhart has not received anything close to a Hall of Fame nod. Who’s next on the list – Charlie Huddy?
It’s absolutely inexcusable that the Hockey Hall of Fame refuses to divulge the voting numbers. They are the only Hall to do that. Publish the voting results! Not necessarily with names but with numbers. We should know that Jarome Iginla was a unanimous selection this year. What’s wrong with that!
If they did their homework, how could they miss on Paul Henderson or Keith Tkachuk or Alexander Mogilny or Daniel Alfredsson? Henderson was the pivotal figure in the greatest hockey summit in history. Tkachuk came to define the modern-day power forward and had the career numbers to back his candidacy. He was absolutely feared by every team in the league. Mogilny made his NHL debut in 1989. He scored 473 goals and 1,032 points in 990 games. He scored 76 goals in one season, tied for the fourth highest of all time. And he did it in only 77 games. He was an 8-time 30-goal scorer with over a point a game in his career. Mogilny has been eligible since 2009 and to put Lowe in ahead of him is a joke. If his old junior linemates Bure and Federov are in the Hall, so too should Mogilny. Former Buffalo Sabre teammate Pat Lafontaine once said of Mogilny, “I have never seen a player do what he does at such electrifying speed.” He also won a Cup in New Jersey.
In case you were wondering, the Hockey Hall of Fame voting committee is currently comprised of John Davidson, Chair; David Branch; Brian Burke; Cassie Campbell-Pascall; Mark Chipman; Bob Clarke; Marc de Foy; Michael Farber; Ron Francis; Mike Gartner; Anders Hedberg; Jari Kurri; Igor Larionov; Pierre McGuire; Bob McKenzie; Mike Murphy; David Poile and Luc Robitaille. Only four journalists out of 18 members doesn’t seem right to me. By comparison, the Baseball Hall of Fame voting committee is made up of at least one local baseball writer from each major league city and it’s the toughest hall to get into.
Comedy Central – Bulletin: The Buffalo Sabres stink! Yes, you have probably heard that the Sabres have fired general manager Jason Botterill. He’s been replaced by Kevyn Adams, the former NHL player who had been serving as senior vice president of business administration. Adams becomes the fourth GM since Terry and Kim Pegula took over the team nine years ago. Oh yes, did we mention they have also drilled through six coaches? All told, the team has let go some 30 employees throughout the organization including most of the scouting department and the Rochester Americans front office staff. The Countess Kim Pegula makes Eugene Melnyk look stable. How Adams plans to run the draft without any scouts and no experience is beyond me.
It smacks of the Edmonton Oilers in the 90’s when they would hire one rookie GM and rookie coach after another. Since they let go Darcy Regier, the Sabres have hired three first-time GM’s in Tim Murray, Botterill and now Adams. They have also hired two rookie coaches in Ron Rolston and Phil Housley. The front office is a shell with little or no experience. The Pegulas claim that part of the problem the Sabres are experiencing is because they took the wrong advice. Frankly, it’s the other way around. They hire people and don’t listen to their recommendations. Botterill was against long-term contracts yet they handed Jack Eichel an eight-year extension. He was also against the lavish, long-term deal given to Jeff Skinner last summer. The Pegulas refused to listen and the Skinner deal will be an anchor for years to come. As for Eichel, he already wants out and they may be forced to move him. Would you want to play for the Count Pegulas?
Random Thoughts –
- If you asked me to handicap the Vancouver-Minnesota play-in round, I would probably have to give the nod to the Wild. Their top four defense corps of Matthew Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter is far superior to the Canucks top two D-pairs. The Canucks overall defensive structure has a tendency to break down far more often.
- When do we come to the realization that Olli Juolevi may not be part of the Canucks core? It’s been four years since Juolevi was drafted fifth overall in the 2016 draft. He’s the only player from the top 17 who has yet to play an NHL game.Fans keep penciling him into the lineup each year as though he’s going to be a regular on defense, no questions asked. Well, we may have to wake up to the fact it’s not going to happen. He would be the first player in 20 years chosen in the top five to never play a game in the NHL.
- We were sorry that the Senators didn’t win the lottery and end up with Alexis Lafreniere. The Sens now hold the third and fifth overall picks. The best-case scenario sees Ottawa select German centre Tim Stutzle and the top-rated defenseman Jamie Drysdale.
- It looks like NHL players will be returning to the next two Winter Olympic Games as part of a new collective bargaining agreement. However, if I’m a player, I would be having second thoughts about going to China in 2022 given the current political climate.
- Canada Day wasn’t the same this year without free agency frenzy. July 1 signaled contract bonus day for many NHL stars. The Leafs wrote cheques of $15.2 million to Auston Matthews and $14.3 million to Mitch Marner. Connor McDavid got $13 million from the Oilers while Artemi Panarin received $12 million from the Rangers. NHL free agency is now expected to take place on November 1. The draft is going to happen sometime around mid-October.
- July 1 is also Bobby Bonilla Day. That’s because it’s the day the 57-year-old collects his annual check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets, as he has and will every July 1 from 2011 through 2035. How can this happen when he stopped playing almost two decades ago? Well, in 2000, the Mets agreed to buy out the remaining $5.9 million on Bonilla’s contract. However, instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million at the time, the Mets agreed to make annual payments of nearly $1.2 million for 25 years starting July 1, 2011, including a negotiated 8% interest. At the time, Mets ownership was invested in a Bernie Madoff account that promised double-digit returns, and the Mets were poised to make a significant profit if the Madoff account delivered — but we all know it didn’t quite work out that way. Bonilla will be 72 when he cashes his final check.
- The St. Louis Blues may live to regret the seven-year, $6.5 million dollar per year contract they handed defenseman Justin Faulk. If it prevents them from resigning Alex Pietrangelo, then that’s a big mistake. The Canucks, and other teams, should look into acquiring Vince Dunn. The Blues may not be in position to offer him an extension.
- There’s a lot of key names ready to return from injury when the NHL resumes play. Some top Cup contenders will really stand to benefit.
- If the NHL playoffs started today, the Maple Leafs would send out a third line of Pierre Engvall – Alex Kerfoot – and Denis Malgin, and a fourth line of Kyle Clifford – Frederik Gauthier – and Jason Spezza. Do you think for a minute the Leafs would beat anybody? And we haven’t even looked at their defensive corps.
- The State of Florida has been criticized for its cavalier approach to the coronavirus and now, to no one’s surprise, Florida’s virus numbers are off the charts with more than ten thousand new cases on Thursday. Good luck to the Toronto Raptors who have been holed up in an undisclosed Florida city preparing for the resumption in play. The NBA seems to be using them as some kind of COVID test-tube baby. Great place to be right now!
- The NBA’s plan to restart the season at Disney World in Orlando is looking very risky. There’s a groundswell of NBA players who are opting out of a return to play. Don’t be surprised if more players don’t do the same thing. Being forced to leave your wife and family in that environment is completely irresponsible on the part of the NBA and every other league for that matter.
- Good luck to the Toronto Raptors who have been holed up in an undisclosed Florida city preparing for the resumption in play. The NBA seems to be using them as some kind of COVID test-tube baby. Good luck to the Toronto Raptors who have been holed up in an undisclosed Florida city preparing for the resumption in play. The NBA seems to be using them as some kind of COVID test-tube baby. Florida’s virus numbers are off the charts with more than ten thousand new cases on Thursday. Great place to be right now!
- Good on MacKenzie Hughes for his performance last week at the PGA TOUR event in Hartford. Hughes opened with a 10-under 60, then birdied three of the last four holes in the final round on Sunday to jump from T7 to T3 and earn himself a very hefty pay cheque of almost half a million. Canada now has three players – Hughes, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin in the top 100. Hughes may have bought himself a ticket into this year’s PGA Championship.
- Conners should be encouraged by his recent play but he can’t be happy with how he’s closed out tournaments. Conners dropped 13 spots to T19 by posting a one under 70 in the final round at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. This followed a final round one over 71 and a T21 finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth, a Sunday score that caused him to drop 13 spots.
- The NFL owes Colin Kapernick an apology. It’s just wrong that the league hasn’t come clean. Bob Costas was right when he flatly stated that the NFL black-balled Kapernick out of the league.
- Kudos to NASCAR for taking a strong stance and outlawing confederate flags at NASCAR events. The decision was unequivocal and came at the expense of alienating a large portion of their fan base. All the drivers, and Bubba Wallace is the only African American, marched along with him. Saying confederate flags will not be tolerated was a very important message.
- Look for some big rule changes when major league baseball returns. As part of the return to play agreement, we could see an expansion of the designated hitter to the National League. The union also said it wants to discuss allowing games to end in ties after a certain number of innings and the relaxation of substitution rules in extra innings. Extra innings that start with runners on second base has been happening in the minors for the past two years.
- Delighted to see that the Blue Jays have signed Austin Martin, their top pick (5th overall) in the recent MLB draft. Martin is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, a long-time Jays nemesis, so it’s great that they avoided any lingering animosity. Martin should rise quickly through the Jays system. Where he plays is still very much in question.
Maple Leaf Racers – F1 is set to return and it could be the start of a new era for drivers sporting the Maple Leaf. There are only 20 seats on the F1 grid and two will belong to Canadians – Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi. Only once has a Canadian won a world championship. That was Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
While 2020 won’t bring another title, we can expect a big improvement from Stroll and Racing Point. His new car, bankrolled by his Dad, has been dubbed “the Pink Mercedes” and it is clearly running faster than a year ago. Stroll was 7th in Friday qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix, the opening race of the F1 season. It would not be surprising to see him take a few podiums this season. Latifi is an Iranian-Canadian from Montreal who drives for Williams. His father is CEO of Sofina Foods.
The Times Are A Changing – News broke late Friday that the national movement to social justice has spurred another renewal to eliminate insensitive team names. The Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins both promise to consider a name change. The Indians name has been in place since 1915. They finally removed the offensive Chief Wahoo logo from their team caps and jerseys in 2018 but it’s still present in merchandise available in team stores throughout Ohio. In tribute to the Steel Belt, the Indians should become the Cleveland Smoke Eaters. It worked for the Trail Smoke Eaters. Cripes, they won a world hockey championship with that moniker.
Meantime, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, one of the true clowns in sports ownership, has consistently refused to change the Redskins name. However, this time his tune has changed after FedEx, which paid $205 million for the naming rights to the Redskins stadium, stepped forward and called for change. Nothing like a little money to get someone’s attention.
Memo to the Atlanta Braves – You’re next! In fact, we have a suggestion. Why not just drop the ‘s’ and become the Atlanta Brave. You can wrap yourself around the American flag and all that ‘Home of the Brave’ stuff. It will work perfectly. Never hurts to honour all those brave American soldiers fighting injustice in every corner of the world. You know, the ones you see in the movies. It’s a bitter end for Chief Nock-A-Homa!
Isn’t political correctness exhausting?
Statue of Indignity – It was great to learn that the Minnesota Twins chose to take down the bronzed memorial to former owner Calvin Griffith in the wake of the George Floyd killing. There had been a long-standing furor over the still-standing statue of the racist former owner outside of Target Field.
Griffith was the last MLB owner to end the practice of housing players in racially-segregated hotels during spring training, a practice he ended only four months before the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed. Griffith was once quoted as telling an all-white Lions Club gathering that he’d relocated the Washington Senators to the Twin Cities in ’61 because he’d “found out you only had 15,000 Black people here.”
Rod Carew, the Twins Hall of Fame second baseman, was one of my favorite ball players growing up and without a doubt, one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history. It’s a shame he had to play much of his career under Griffith. Carew later said Griffith was basically responsible for running him out of town.
Meantime, in Cincinnati, there’s a petition to rename the University of Cincinnati baseball field which carries the name of former Reds owner Marge Schott, a well-known anti-Semite. It’s also time for the NHL to reconsider changing the name of the Conn Smythe Trophy which is handed out to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Here’s why. Herb Carnegie was a heck of a hockey player in the late 40’s and early 50’s who could have easily played in the NHL long before Willie O’Ree. Carnegie played with Jean Beliveau on the Quebec Aces but never got a shot in the NHL because he was black. After watching Herb Carnegie play, Conn Smythe apparently offered $10,000 to anyone who could turn Carnegie’s skin colour to white. He was joking, of course, but it defines the racism of the day. The NHL could make a strong statement about diversity by taking Smythe’s name off the trophy. Put Big Jean’s name on the trophy.
Joltin’ Joe’s Streak – During Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941, he struck out a total of only five times. The five K’s came in the first 24 games of the streak. He did not strike out once in the final 32 games. Think about that. He hit .408 with 15 homers and 55 RBI’s during the streak.
Comparing DiMaggio to today’s players is laughable. They routinely strike out 150 times a season. DiMaggio never struck out 40 times in a season in his 13-year career. Over the past three seasons, 2017-2019, a MLB player has struck out at least 40 times in a calendar month on 29 occasions. DiMaggio had one three-strikeout game in his career and had 205 games with at least three hits. Joltin’ Joe had 361 home runs in 13 years while striking out only 369 times. In other words, he had almost as many homers as strikeouts. He averaged 29 K’s per season and just one K every 5.5 games.
We haven’t even mentioned the fact that he was the greatest defensive center fielder of all time and that he won nine World Series in 13 years. What a career! Here is to you Joe DiMaggio!
Trivial Pursuit – It was 60 years ago this month that Arnold Palmer staged the greatest comeback in U.S. Open history. Arnie erased a seven-stroke deficit in the final round at Cherry Hills Country Club in suburban Denver to defeat a 22-year old amateur by the name of Jack Nicklaus by two strokes. After three unsuccessful attempts (including a double bogey in the first round), Palmer finally drove the first green (a 346-yard par four) in the fourth round on his way to victory. Arnie’s Army was never so happy!
Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin – Good to know that the Russian Parliament unanimously voted to change the constitution to keep Vladimir Putin in power until 2036. Charming guy. The results were tarnished by widespread reports of pressure on voters and other regularities. Oh yes, the amendments also include changes that outlaw same sex marriage. Hey Donald – over to you! What’s your next move?
The Joe Schultz Sports Quote of the Week – This week, we go with a few dandies from former MLB manager Leo Durocher.
“I never question the integrity of an umpire. Their eyesight, yes!”
“As a manager, if you don’t win, you’re going to be fired. If you do win, you only put off the day you are going to be fired.”
“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.”
The Irish guitarist and songwriter released a number of solo albums in the 70’s and 80’s after being part of a band called Taste. His albums sold over 30 million copies. Like many British artists, Gallagher discovered the blues and became a huge fan of Muddy Waters. Unable to find or afford record albums, Gallagher stayed up late to hear Radio Luxembourg and AFN where the radio brought him his only exposure to the actual songwriters and musicians whose music moved him most.
Rory Gallagher played the Montreux Jazz Festival on five occasions over a twenty year period. The two DVDs in the link below gather the crème de la crème from his appearances there between 1975 and 1985, as well as the complete 1994 gig.
Gallagher was reportedly asked to join the Stones before they settled on Ronnie Wood but he kindly said no. Many modern day musicians, including The Edge from U2, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Alex Lifeson of Rush, Brian May of Queen, Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa cite Gallagher as an inspiration in their formative musical years. In the later years of his life, Gallagher developed a phobia of flying. To overcome this, he was prescribed various drugs. By the time of his final performance in January, 1995 in the Netherlands, he was visibly ill with severe abdominal pain and the tour had to be cancelled. He was prescribed paracetamol for the pain, a drug that can be extremely harmful to the liver, especially with a heavy drinker such as Gallagher.
Here he is performing at Montreux, Switzerland in December of 1994 shortly before the tour was cancelled.
Gallagher was admitted to London’s King’s College Hospital in March 1995, and it was only then that the extent of his ill health became apparent; his liver was failing and the doctors determined that, in spite of his young age, a liver transplant was the only possible course of action. After thirteen weeks in intensive care, while waiting to be transferred to a convalescent home, his health suddenly worsened when he contracted a staph infection, and he died on June 14, 1995, at the age of 47.