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Under Further Review – March Edition – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss, Peter Hucul, Bill Myles, Glen Myles and TB in Vancouver.  This week, fallout from Putin’s tyranny. We have the latest from the Canucks and around the NHL. A few post-Olympic thoughts and tell Phil to put a sock in it.

World in Crisis – The actions of one man have thrown the world of sports into full-on chaos and who knows where it’s all leading. Faced with financial sanctions, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is being forced to sell Premier League club Chelsea. The price tag may be upwards of $2.5 billion. To date, this is one of the harshest business repercussions in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich claims any net profits will be donated to victims of the war.

Meantime, Ukrainian diplomats have urged Canada to stop issuing travel visas and work permits to Russian athletes. Numerous countries have already shut their doors to Russian athletes. The IOC, IIHF and FIFA have all banned Russia from upcoming competitions. CCM is cutting Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin out of their worldwide marketing plans. One thing is certain. Russia is toxic. The fallout is just beginning.

Canucks Notebook – As we move closer to the March 21 NHL trade deadline, you can be sure the Canucks new brain trust is exploring every available option. If they want to map out a path forward, there are a couple of NHL organizations that the Canucks would be wise to emulate.

We’ve maintained for years that the blueprint for building a contending NHL team is all about patience and a methodical, step-by-step approach. It’s about incremental improvements rather than hitting home runs. Sure, you would like to win the lottery and land a generational talent but sometimes it’s the smaller moves that end up determining success. Jim Benning’s biggest mistake was trying to swing for the fences. It all comes down to building organizational depth. The top teams have it. You won’t reach the top floor until YOU have it too.

The best moves Benning made were the smaller deals that landed Tyler Motte from Columbus for Thomas Vanek, Michael Highmore from Chicago for Adam Gaudette and Juho Lammikko from Florida for Olli Juolevi. Those three under-the-radar acquisitions now comprise a fourth line that is giving teams fits. These types of deals are Jimmy Rutherford’s DNA. Look for him to make a series of smaller transactions over the next few years to provide the Canucks with much-needed depth.

If you want to find a model template for building a sustainable winner, look at the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes. Like the new Canucks regime, Panthers GM Bill Zito inherited a precarious cap situation. Like the Canucks, the Panthers had an expensive blueline that was nowhere near Stanley Cup quality. Zito managed to offload Mike Matheson, Keith Yandle and Anton Stralman who combined to earn nearly $17 million. Zito let forwards Mike Hoffman and Evgeny Dadonov walk in free agency, resisting the urge to lavish them with expensive new deals. He stripped it down, created cap space and began the retool around the Panthers two legit starts, Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Finding undervalued talent is critical. The Panthers sit near the top of the league thanks to their success in unearthing cost-efficient players. Reclamation projects like Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Mason Marchment and Sam Bennett have been instrumental in Florida’s rapid turnaround. Over the past two seasons, the Panthers have found four top-six forwards and two top-four defencemen just by providing opportunity. Couple that with internal improvement from some of the team’s top holdovers and you have a recipe for success.

Unlike the Canucks, the Panthers stockpiled draft assets. Over a six-year period, from 2016 to 2021, Florida did not trade away a single pick in the first or second round of the NHL draft. Once they moved into their contention window, it allowed them to deal a 2022 first-round pick to Buffalo for Sam Reinhart. That’s just smart business. Rutherford and company should work from the same script.

The Hurricanes have also avoided the big mistake. Saying goodbye to Dougie Hamilton last summer is looking pretty good right now. No team in the NHL has done a better job of resisting massive pay-outs than the Hurricanes. It takes discipline and a strong belief in your organizational values.

Rutherford’s biggest challenge will be carving out cap space. Cap gymnastics will determine how quickly he can point the team in the right direction. Gutting the middle class like the Panthers is step one. Jason Dickinson, Tanner Pearson, Travis Hamonic and Tucker Poolman are likely victims. Does it make sense to offer Brock Boeser a rich extension? Probably not. You can be sure the Canucks will be exploring every avenue in order to create cap flexibility. Everyone is predicting the Canucks will trade JT Miller. Is that the right move? Not likely unless you can land a genuine top pairing defenceman under 22.

The Canucks are 18-8-4 since Bruce Boudreau took over the team in December. They have 27 games remaining. A playoff berth is still not out of the question. The players deserve a ton of credit for not cashing in the season. They can thank Thatcher Demko. He should be, without question, a Vezina Trophy finalist.

NHL Notebook – It’s getting to the point of embarrassment to see how poorly Canadian teams are doing. There have been in-season coaching changes in four Canadian markets. It’s possible only two Canadian teams will make the playoffs. D.J. Smith in Ottawa is now the longest tenured coach in Canada and he was hired in the summer of 2019. If the Senators don’t show marked improvement next season, he will probably be shown the door. Dominique Ducharme didn’t have a chance in Montreal.  A year after guiding the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup final, he had to try and make it work without his number one goalie, number one defenceman and number one centre. No Carey Price. No Shea Weber. No Phillip Danault. No chance to make it work.

The Canadiens dipped into the peewee ranks to fill the coaching vacancy, naming Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis as their new bench boss. At a generous 5-8, St. Louis can see eye-to-eye with many of the vertically-challenged Canadiens. The Habs should call the Canucks and make a pitch for Conor Garland. That’s if Billy Barty is not available.

The Arizona Coyotes are a never-ending bad joke. By our count, they have eleven players on their roster who have been placed on NHL waivers at one point or another during their career. Only six players are under contract for next season. What better time to sell the team to a new owner with a clean slate and a truckload of draft picks to make a fresh start? Is that too much to ask? Instead, they have come to an agreement to play the next three seasons in a five thousand seat college arena. The Coyotes got kicked out of their home because they couldn’t make lease payments. What makes you think they are going to come up with half a billion dollars to build a new arena?

The New York Rangers have made encouraging strides this season. Can you imagine where they would be if Alexis Lefreniere and Kappo Kakko were making bigger contributions? Lafreniere (2020 #1 overall pick) and Kakko (2019 #2 overall pick) have combined for only 31 points in 89 games this season.

The L.A. Kings are intent on moving out of the rebuild stage and into legitimate contention status. They demonstrated the shift with the acquisitions last summer of Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvedsson. The Kings have a huge chunk of money coming off the books this summer so they could be a team to watch at the trade deadline. The Kings could open up more than $20 million in cap space by moving on from Dustin Brown ($5.875 million), Andreas Anthanasiou ($2.7 million), Olli Maata ($3.3 million), Alex Edler ($3.5 million) plus a potential buy-out of goalie Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million).

One of the leading scorers in the WHL is Surrey native Arashdeep Bains. The 21-year-old has been passed over three times in the NHL draft. The Red Deer Rebel forward is trying to become the first South Asian player to lead the league in scoring. Several NHL teams are following Bains with an eye on signing him to an NHL contract.

Big Slovakian centre Juraj Slafkovsky is raising eyebrows and could end up as the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. The 17-year-old was the youngest player in the Olympics and was named MVP. How about that?  He scored seven goals in seven games to lead the tournament. Slafkovsky is 6-4” and over 200 pounds and scouts see shades of Anze Kopitar. More than a few scouts believe he has surpassed Shane Wright as the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft.

Hall of Famer Larry Robinson holds the NHL career plus-minus record of +722. Playing on those exceptional Canadiens teams in the 70’s obviously helped. In case you were wondering, Bobby Orr finished his illustrious career at +587. The worst single-season mark for plus-minus is held by Caps defenceman Bill Mikkelson at minus-82. He accomplished that in only 59 games during the 74-75 season.

We Can See It Coming –  Let’s get this straight. The erratic Toronto Maple Leafs are charting the Stanley Cup parade route. Is that correct? The same team that nearly blew a pair of five-goal leads over the weekend against the Detroit Red Wings before getting slapped around last night by that Buffalo Sabres juggernaut 5-1.

Following the pond hockey 10-7 win over Detroit Saturday night, a smiling Mitch Marner was photographed holding four pucks. Marner scored four goals and added two assists in the game. Who the hell celebrates when your team gives up seven goals? Want to know what’s wrong with the Leafs. There’s your answer! Have you noticed that every time the Toronto Maple Leafs face a tough opponent, they go into fetal position? They’re great at beating up on the bottom-feeders. Well, usually. The team is about as mentally tough as Rory McIlroy.

The Leafs act like they are the smartest guy in the room yet, what have they accomplished? Since 2006, the Leafs have missed the playoffs eleven times and been knocked out in the first round on the other five occasions. No other NHL team wants to help them because they come off as arrogant.

Every season, when the Leafs inevitably flop, they always have excuses at the ready and their gushy media minions buy into the narrative. They blamed Nazem Kadri for getting suspended and sent him packing. When they were bounced out by Columbus, Freddie Andersen was tossed under the bus. (He’s just among the NHL leaders in wins this season) When the Leafs they bowed out to the Canadiens last season, it was because of the injury to John Tavares. Side bets this year it will be Soupy Campbell?

There’s a mini-crisis in Toronto right now over Campbell’s shaky performance. He’s never appeared in more than 31 games in any NHL season. He’s already played 38 games this year. The Leafs rank 31st in the NHL in save percentage since December 1 and they are also near the bottom of the league in scoring chances off the rush. Not a good combination. The warning signs for another early playoff exit are staring them in the face.

The number of former Toronto Maple Leafs making major contributions on other teams is hard not to notice. There’s an every-growing list of bad deals that are coming back to haunt Kyle Dubas. Most notable – Nazem Kadri is enjoying a breakout season with the Avalanche. He deservedly made his first All-Star team and has been among the top half dozen scorers all season.

The minor deal that sent Mason Marchment to the Florida Panthers for fringe forward Denis Malgin is turning into a major blunder. Marchment has 28 points in 28 games this season. That’s 28 more than Malgin had in his brief eight-game stint with the Leafs. The Panthers also feature another Leaf castoff, forward Carter Verhaeghe. He had 16 goals and 40 points in 52 games. The Los Angeles Kings second defence pairing includes Sean Durzi and Tobias Bjornfot, two pieces who were part of the Jake Muzzin deal. Former Leaf Trevor Moore has also blossomed after arriving in L.A. Meanwhile, Ottawa Senators forward Connor Brown, a heart-and-soul guy, continues to improve every year and may be the best penalty-killer in hockey. There’s forward Kasperi Kapanen in Pittsburgh and winger Andreas Jonsson in New Jersey. Oh? Did we mention Zach Hyman in Edmonton? All-in-all, there’s productive former Leafs scattered around the NHL, all thanks to the Leafs Boy Wonder.

Winter Olympic Recap – The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be remembered as the Disinfectant Games.

If you were actually there competing or covering the events, it’s not like you were going anywhere. Hotel, bus and back again. Cathal Kelly of The Globe & Mail summed it up nicely: “These days, you come to the Olympics to suffer.” Regardless of where you were, there was a small army of workers in full-body PPE with spray guns disinfecting everything in their path. Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris captured it best: “Sports prison. You don’t do anything. You’re just chillin.” Forget about any sharing of culture. These games were about as dark and grim as you can get.

One thing we learned from these games is the men’s hockey tournament means nothing without NHL players. You can’t create excitement without best-on-best. If NHL players are unable to compete for any reason, they should just go back to an amateur competition and have juniors and college players form the basis of each team.

No one can sell the women short any longer. The gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada drew 3.54 million viewers on NBC, more than any NHL game on television this season. The game drew a little more than two million across multiple platforms in Canada.

For a lot of us who have covered the Olympics, its hard to avoid complete and utter skepticism. Once again in Beijing, the spineless IOC gave Russia another free pass after 15-year-old Kamila Valieva failed a drug test. Think about that for a minute. This is a country with a history of doping allowing a virtual child to be drugged up. Valieva is the current world-record holder in women’s figure skating.

So, what does the IOC do? That would be nothing. They gave Russian the soft treatment and allowed Valieva to compete. She won a gold medal in the team competition before bombing out in the women’s solo final. This nonsense has been going on for six years since Russia’s state-sponsored doping program was uncovered. Beijing is the fourth consecutive Olympics in which Russia has been able to send athletes under the flag of Olympic Athletes from Russia or, if you will, the Russian Olympic Committee. Some punishment! They are still Russians winning Olympic medals.

Another murky takeaway from the Olympics in Beijing is the proliferation of newly-created medal sports, most of which are not worth watching. Thanks to the IOC for giving us mixed curling, team ski jumping, team figure skating and yes, team speed skating. You can thank television for this. All it does is distort the medal count.

Our favourite story from the 2022 Winter Olympics? That would be the unfortunate Finnish cross-country skier, Remi Lindholm, who suffered frostbite to his penis in the 50km race. He battled brutal temperatures and harsh winds for over an hour, causing his penile area to freeze. In such cases, you can suffer skin damage. In worst cases, a skin graft may be necessary. I hate it when that happens!

The Summer Olympics in Paris in two years can’t come quick enough.

Can You Hear Those Lions Roar? – Looks like the BC Lions are serious about starting a Canadian at quarterback.  What’s the over-under on that lasting through next season? As of right now, the Lions plan to go with Nathan Rourke as the starter with recently-signed free agent Michael O’Connor as the back-up. Hey, it’s only been 50+ years since a Canadian starred at quarterback. Somehow, I don’t think either one of them will make us forget Russ Jackson. Together, the pair have completed a grand total of 67 passes in the CFL. This is not going to have a happy ending.

Lions owner Amar Doman says the team plans a big event for the team’s opening game of the CFL season. He’s not revealing exactly what is planned. Please, not Loverboy?

Seahawks Notebook – If the Seahawks have any hopes of returning to the NFL playoffs next season, they have to start faring better at the draft table. The Kansas City Chiefs placed three players, C Creed Humphrey, OG Trey Smith and LB Nick Bolton, on the NFL’s All-Rookie team even though they were drafting late in every round. That’s three starting quality players as rookies on a team that went to the AFC championship.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, were in position to draft two of the three. In round two, they selected receiver Dee Eskridge with the 56th overall pick. The Chiefs took Bolton at 58 and Humphrey at 63. In round six, Seattle selected LT Stone Forsythe with the 208th pick. K.C. grabbed Smith with pick 226. The Seahawks need to find impact players in the draft, not backups. No more excuses, please.

The Seahawks will have money to spend this off-season and plenty of holes to fill. It’s been the pattern of the front office to shy away from the first wave of free agency and wait to shop at the bargain bin. The results, as we have chronicled, have been spotty and it’s a big reason the Seahawks missed the playoffs this season.

This should be the off-season where the Hawks change the narrative. Go big or go home! The offensive line needs attention across the board. The pass rush needs an impact guy off the edge. Cornerback is another area begging for an upgrade. Here are several players that will be available who should be on Seattle’s radar.

Terron Armstead, Offensive Tackle, New Orleans Saints

Armstead is an elite pass protector who’s graded above 75.0 every year since being drafted in 2013. He would give the Seahawks a high-end starting left tackle and allow them to walk away from fading veteran Duane Brown. Armstead is still only 30. His contract projection is three years, $57.75 million. It may be too rich for the Seahawks to bite.

Ryan Jensen, Center, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ethan Posic and Kyle Fuller are not the answer in the middle of the Seahawks offensive line. If the Seahawks want to fix the inconsistency, they should look to Jensen. He is outstanding at maintaining and finishing blocks. Jensen has been one of the most durable centers in the league. If Jensen chooses to move, Seattle should jump. The Rams Brian Allen is another option.

Chandler Jones, Edge, Arizona Cardinals

After moving from New England to Arizona, Jones developed into one of the top edge rushers in the NFL. He broke through in 2019 and has been elite ever since with a wide array of pass-rush moves while holding his own as a run defender. He would be an immediate difference-maker on the Seahawk defense. Jones will be costly but top edge rushers are rarely available on the open market.

J.C. Jackson, Cornerback, New England Patriots

The Seahawks have not had a shutdown corner since you-know-who left town. Jackson is the top corner on the market. He’s got elite ball skills. Pete Carroll will like him because Jackson rarely gets beat deep. Throwing at Jackson has produced one of the lowest passer ratings in the league over the past three seasons.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

If the Seahawks decide not to re-sign Gerald Everett, a pending free agent, then Gesicki might be a good alternative. He’s definitely a receiver-type tight end along the lines of Jimmy Graham. Gesicki has speed to get down field and he’s durable, missing only one game in four seasons. He would go a long way to helping the Seahawks solve their third-down woes.

Super Bowl Takeaways – When are NFL coaches going to wake up and stop gambling on fourth down? Forget about what the analytics say, it’s DUMB! On the Bengals opening drive of Super Bowl 56, what does Zach Taylor do? He gambles on fourth and one at midfield, and Cincinnati turns the ball over. The Rams then score the game’s opening touchdown and the Bengals are playing catch-up. How does this make sense?

If you fail to convert, you are basically handing the other team at least three points. In this case, seven. You are also handing the Rams momentum when it wasn’t necessary. Just punt the ball away, pin them deep, and let your defense do its job. We saw how this worked out for the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. They gambled on fourth down late in the opening half, forfeiting the chance for a chip-shot field goal. Had the Chiefs not been so greedy, those three points may have turned out to be the margin of victory. It would certainly have changed the Bengals decision-making in the second half. Botched fourth-down gambles prevented the Los Angeles Chargers from making the playoffs this season. When will coaches learn?  

Not sure how they grade officials but I would be handing out an ‘F’ to the Super Bowl crew. The missed call on Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey that allowed Bengals receiver Tee Higgins to score a touchdown early in the second half was inexcusable. You can’t miss on a play like that in the most important game of the season. There has to be a system in place where the Rams could challenge the face mask on Higgins. Then, on the Rams game-winning drive, the refs call a ticky-tack penalty on Bengal linebacker Logan Wilson that allowed the Rams a first down. We’re OK with the interference call on Eli Apple against Cooper Kupp that later gave the Rams a first down at the one-yard line. THAT was a penalty. However, these calls came after the referees basically put their whistles away for the entire game.

In our Super Bowl prediction, we got the winner right but not the score. We also hit on the Super Bowl MVP – Cooper Kupp. This guy is incredible. After Odell Beckham Jr. went out with a knee injury, he was Matthew Stafford’s only reliable option. Kupp finished with 8 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. In the playoffs, he had 28 catches for 417 yards and five TD’s. No receiver in NFL history has fashioned a season like this one. In 21 games this season, Kupp had 178 receptions for 2,425 yards and 22 touchdowns. It still bugs me that the Seahawks missed out on this guy who played his college ball at Eastern Washington University.

If the Bengals want to get back to the Super Bowl any time soon, they had better clean up their offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked a total of 70 times this season – 51 times in the regular season and another 19 times in the playoffs including 7 in the Super Bowl. At that rate, he won’t have a long career.

NFL Notebook – Need evidence that the NFC West is the most challenging division in the NFL? The Los Angeles Rams appearance in the Super Bowl was the sixth by an NFC West team in the past ten years – two by the Rams, two by the 49’ers and two by the Seahawks. Even the Arizona Cardinals won eleven games this season. It may not be a bad thing however. Having such stiff competition can only make you better and set the bar higher.

One year after foolishly surrendering a first-and-third round pick for Carson Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts are reporting shopping the broken-down quarterback. Who in their right mind would trade for the guy? The Eagles were so hot to unload Wentz last year they incurred a dead cap hit of $33.8 million, the largest in NFL history.

It’s not so easy to unload veteran quarterbacks on big tickets. According to various salary cap websites, the Falcons are looking at a dead cap hit of $40.5 million if they wish to deal Matt Ryan this off-season. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has a cap hit this year of $45 million. If traded, Cousins would surpass Wentz with the largest dead cap hit ever.

With Tom Brady kissing his horse and riding off into the sunset, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are faced with finding a new quarterback. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs make a play for Houston QB Deshaun Watson. His legal issues have not been resolved but that probably won’t stop teams from acquiring his services. Watson faces 22 civil cases alleging sexual assault or inappropriate behavior. The big question is whether the league will suspend Watson under the personal conduct policy even if he manages to wrangle out of the legal mess.

The NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis. Only two Canadians received invitations, Alabama receiver John Metchie III and Ottawa-raised edge rusher Jess Luketa of Penn State. Metchie is rated to go in the second round. He blew out his knee back in the fall so its doubtful he will be able to run the 40. Luketa is likely to go late in round three.

Long-time Dallas Cowboys PR man Richard Dalrymple has had to resign after being accused of photographing Cowboy cheerleaders in their changeroom with a cellphone. The depraved deeds of Dirty Dick only cost owner Jerry Jones $2.4 million to have go away.

The Green Bay Packers are apparently trying to keep Aaron Rodgers happy. The Pack have hired former CFL star Tom Clements as quarterback coach. Clements helped groom Rodgers during his early years in Green Bay and they reportedly still have a close relationship. While the whining Rodgers ponders his future, it seems it won’t involve marriage just yet. He’s called off his engagement to lovely actress Shailene Woodley.

Striking Out – Things are starting to get nasty as negotiations on a new major league baseball CBA stall. Players are taking dead aim at MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Players are taking shots at Manfred on social media. Talks seemed positive over the weekend before coming to a halt on Tuesday. The latest rejection from the Players Association has caused the cancellation of the first two series of the season. It’s the first time since the 1994 strike that regular season games will be lost.

How about this for a nice five-year run? From 1962-1966, Los Angeles Dodger lefthander Sandy Koufax won 111 games, five ERA titles, three Cy Young awards (when there was only one winner between both leagues) and two World Series. Just over 79% of his career value came in those five incomparable seasons. Best leftie in baseball history, in our opinion!

NBA Notebook – The trade last summer that saw the Toronto Raptors deal Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat is looking like a major disaster for Masai Ujiri. The Raps acquired Precious Achiuwa and veteran guard Goran Dragic. Achiuwa has not exactly set the world on fire and Dragic went home and never came back after his playing time was limited. Dragic got paid for doing nothing and was finally sent packing at the trade deadline for veteran wing Thaddeus Young. It’s certainly not turned out to be a bounty for a franchise icon.

NBA beat writers should not forget about Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies when they are submitting their NBA MVP votes. In the past week, the quicksilver guard dropped 46 points on the Chicago Bulls and followed it up with 52 against San Antonio, a performance that included a poster dunk and an acrobatic buzzer-beater. After averaging 19.1 points per game last season, the Ja-Dropper is up to 27.6 this season.

Before being dealt at the NBA trade deadline from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, Ben Simmons paid $19 million in fines. Instead of being a sulking baby, why not act like a professional, show up, and earn the money until a deal is completed? Simmons will never lose the reputation now. Guess what? He’s out of the Nets lineup with a back problem.

Golf Notebook – Encouraging to see Surrey’s Adam Svensson starting to emerge on the PGA Tour. He found himself just a shot out of the lead midway through the final found of the Honda Classic. A couple of missed putts and a ball in the water at the famed Bear Trap sunk his bid for a first Tour victory. The 27-year-old fell to a T9 finish. Still, he’s starting to make his mark. Svensson won everything as an amateur including the B.C. junior crown, B.C. Amateur, Canadian and World Juniors.

Something doesn’t seem right when Tiger Woods, who hasn’t competed on the PGA Tour for more than a year, collects the $8 million-dollar top prize as part of the Tour’s inaugural Player Impact Program bonus. Guess who was second? Everybody’s favourite mouth-piece Phil Mickelson who will be gifted $6 million.

It looks as though the rebel Super Golf League, spearheaded by golf legend Greg Norman, is beginning to fizzle out. The rival tour is being bankrolled by a Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which was also involved in the purchase of Premier League club Newcastle United. So far, they have committed a war chest of $300 million but have not been able to secure commitments from any top PGA Tour players. Their biggest move to date is a partnership with the Asian Tour. The first event is in Thailand starting on March 6.

It looked for a while like Mickelson might bolt to the fledgling tour. He was rumoured to be entertaining the idea and defended the move with harsh criticism of the PGA Tour and its dealings with players. Mickelson said he would be willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s horrendous human rights record to gain economic leverage over the PGA Tour.

“They’re scary motherfuckers to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed (Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want (the SGL) to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the (PGA) Tour.”

Mickelson’s sponsors were quick to distance themselves from his comments. KPMG dropped their sponsorship. American Express announced the six-time major champ will no longer host their American Express tournament. Mickelson himself has gone into hiding, seemingly to figure out how he’s going to repair his severely damaged reputation. Nothing like biting the hand that’s fed you for the past 30 years.

Leftovers – Canada’s men’s soccer team continues its meteoric rise up the FIFA world rankings. Canada has climbed another seven spots up to 33rd in the world, an all-time high. They’ve now moved up 39 places since the start of 2021. The rise, of course, has coincided with their unbeaten run in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.  Canada was ranked a dismal 94th when John Herdman took over as coach in January 2018. What a remarkable story!

The IIHF has announced the World Junior Hockey Championships will be played this summer in Alberta in the middle of August. The tournament will be restarted so the December results are out the window. Teams will use the exact same rosters even if players turn 20 before the tournament gets underway. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will also be stage in Edmonton and Red Deer beginning the first week of August.

Medina Spirit has been disqualified as the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. Trainer Bob Baffert has received a 90-day slap on the wrist after the horse tested positive for a banned substance. Medina Spirit has since died. Churchill Downs has barred Baffert from entering horses in the 2022 and 2023 Derby. If Bob needs a job, we suggest he offer his services to the Russian Olympic team.

AHOY Paulina! – God, we feel sorry for Gretz!

Spotify Songs of the Month – We have a bundle of cool tunes for you in this edition from an eclectic group of singer-songwriters. Let’s start with two veteran Brits who are still going strong. Alan Price, who’s now 79, was keyboardist for The Animals in their heyday. Check out the track In My Dreams from his 2008 release “Based on a True Story.” 

76-year-old Alan Taylor is another obscure British singer who’s shown up on our Spotify playlist. We found a couple of tunes worth a listen – Dr. John, an ode to the Night Tripper himself released in 2021, and The Beat Hotel from Taylor’s 2017 release Hotels and Dreamers.

Mike Zito is a fine guitar player. Check out the track One Step at a Time from his album Pearl River featuring Anders Osbourne.

Chuck Prophet is a singer-songwriter from California. He received notice back in the 80’s with a psychedelic/desert rock group called Green on Red. We recommend the track Summertime Thing from his release No Other Love.

Tony Lucca is perhaps best known for starting his career on The Mickey Mouse Club. Now 46, he’s still trying to make his mark in the industry. Have a listen to Pretty Things from his release Come Around Again.

And finally, an outstanding tune from the documentary film soundtrack Take Me to The River New Orleans. Check out Stompin’ Ground featuring Aaron Neville and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

YouTube Feature Artist – Ray Wylie Hubbard has been around forever but never really broke through as a mainstream country artist, probably because he didn’t want to. He gained a reputation as something of a rebel artist. Hubbard turned 75 back in November. Here’s the official lyric video for Hellbent for Leather featuring Steve Earle from the new album Co-Starring Too.

Several artists have released songs about the Coronavirus lockdown. Hans Theessink and Big Daddy Wilson have teamed up to please Virus Blues from the album Pay Day. Take a listen.

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