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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Contributing Editor Bill Morphy. This week, Toradol and its growing carnage. The Seahawks rise again, plus a look back at the Masters and a salute to a baseball executive whose time has come. 

Late-Breaking News – The framework for starting the 2020-2021 NHL season is reportedly in place. Provided they can get underway on the proposed January 1 start date, the NHL plans to play a 60-game schedule with a Canadian division and three U.S. divisions. There will be no Hub cities this time. All games will be played in each team’s home arena. They will play a baseball-style schedule with back-to-back games in your own building.

With cross-border travel restrictions still in place, the seven Canadian teams will play in a Canadian division. The U.S. divisions will consist of eight teams each. Division #1 will have Boston, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina plus the Rangers, Islanders and Devils. Division #2 will have Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Division #3 will include Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado, Dallas, L.A., Minnesota, San Jose and Vegas.

NHL players are still resisting any further cut in salary as part of the shortened season. They have already agreed to a 10% salary deferral in addition to a 20% escrow deduction. It will be interesting to see if they will agree to a further cut in salary in order to get the season underway.

Killing the Pain – It’s becoming more and more apparent that there’s a huge problem with use of the drug Toradol in professional sports. Players have reportedly been taking the drug too often and too long without proper medical direction regarding its serious long-term side effects. Here’s a description of the drug from various medical journals.

Toradol (ketorolac tromethamine) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug similar to over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, only much more powerful and requiring a prescription. It’s great for relieving severe short-term pain without being addictive, but also comes with a high risk of internal bleeding and kidney problems—including kidney failure—when used for an extended period of time. Toradol should not be used for more than 5 days. It can cause stomach or intestinal bleeding, which can be fatal.

Under Further Review referenced the drug’s serious impact when reporting on the drug overdose death of former NHL pugilist Derek Boogaard. He had often turned to Toradol to kill the pain during his ill-fated NHL career. In a recent TSN Original documentary, we learned about the deteriorating condition of former Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler who has admitted to prolonged use of Toradol. Kesler was forced to retire from the game because of chronic hip issues but now that’s the least of his worries. Kesler is now dealing with Crohn’s Disease, a debilitating form of inflammatory bowel disease. One of the prominent side effects of Toradol is renal failure and that’s basically what Kesler is dealing with. When Kesler’s contract with the Anaheim Ducks is paid out following the 2020-2021 season, he will have earned over $46 million during his NHL career. A lot of good that does him now with his future health in serious jeopardy.

Reports indicate that during the 2012 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers administered 7,442 doses of Toradol to the 53-man roster. This is not surprising in a sport where every game is described as being in a series of small-car accidents. Usage in baseball is reportedly commonplace especially among starting pitchers. It’s even been alleged that medical staffs in the NHL and NFL were providing dosages of Toradol strong enough to cover up concussion symptoms.

Players are deliberately kept in the dark about the drug’s seriousness and you can guess the reason. For the vast majority of NHL and NFL players, your career is constantly on the line. Remaining in the lineup is paramount because there will always be someone around to take your job. The pressure to play hurt is always there and Toradol provides the perfect short-term solution. The pressure in contract years only increases.

The NFL has faced a slew of lawsuits from former players who claim they were administered Toradol without warning of the side effects. The DEA even launched an investigation based on a “suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” Without any real oversight, you can see how Toradol use has rocketed out of control. Leagues have been far too lax on the distribution of drugs in the locker room and the damage is being felt.

Seahawks This Week – (Seahawks vs. Rams)

We can blame the Seahawks defense until the cows come home but Sunday’s loss to the Rams in L.A. was squarely on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. Two more interceptions and a fumbled snap ran the turnover count in the past four games to ten. Unacceptable for a guy touted as NFL MVP just a short time ago!

Teams have been blitzing the Seahawks with frequency in recent weeks and its working. Without a running game, it’s hard to counteract it. Without Chris Carson or Carlos Hyde to carry the freight, teams can pin their ears back and go after Wilson with abandon. Interceptions have followed.

There were a couple of key plans in the game that loomed large in the outcome. Wilson served up an interception in the Rams end zone when he had a huge running lane. It came right after a fumble by Rams QB Jared Goff and quickly quashed any momentum. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Pete Carroll chose to punt on fourth and inches inside the Seahawks 45 and rely on the Seahawks defense. You know how that works! The Rams drove for an 88-yard touchdown and a 23-13 lead. Turn out the lights! They’ve now taken five of the last six meetings with Seattle.

Wilson was sacked 6 times and the Seahawks failed to score in the second half. The defense gave up 389 total yards and seems incapable of getting critical stops. The Rams abused the Seahawks with play action and went 9 of 15 on third down. Inexplicably, Wilson did not target D.K. Metcalf once in the opening half. Metcalf finished with only two catches for 28 yards against the Rams All-World corner Jalen Ramsey. The hi-lite for Seattle was Jason Myers franchise-record 61-yard field goal to end the first half. Myers has now hit on 20 straight field goals dating back to last year.

Are you starting to question the Seahawks wisdom in giving up two first round draft picks for safety Jamal Adams? The guy can certainly get after the quarterback.  Witness his team-leading five and a half sacks. But his cover skills are questionable. The Rams acquired Ramsey for one first-rounder. The Steelers acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick for just one first round pick. The Seahawks would have been better off acquiring a top-flight corner instead of Adams.

(Seahawks vs. Cardinals)

Nothing like a balanced offensive attack to make the Seahawks look like a more complete team. Seattle rushed for 165 yards in a 28-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals that helped the Seahawks improve to 7-and-3 and recapture sole possession of top spot in the NFC West. The balance was there with 31 rushes and 28 passes and better yet, no turnovers. Carlos Hyde returned to the lineup from a hamstring injury and rushed 14 times for 79 yards. The running game is suddenly back. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense showed signs of life by holding the Cardinals, the top rushing team in the NFL, to a season-low 57 yards on the ground.

It certainly was a sloppy affair.  Who said they weren’t calling penalties in the NFL this season? Arizona was called 10 times for 115 yards. Seattle was penalized 8 times for 79 yards. An unsportsmanlike late-hit call on Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs in the third quarter was the most egregious. Arizona would have been three and out. It allowed the Cards to march down the field and score a touchdown. You simply can’t make those kinds of mistakes.

The Seahawks are now 10-and-1 on Thursday Night Football and 22-and-3 in prime time home games under Pete Carroll. It was the 93rd career regular season win for Russell Wilson, breaking Peyton Manning’s NFL record for wins in the first nine seasons. Including playoffs, Wilson now has 102 wins in his first nine seasons which breaks the record held by Tom Brady.

From here on, the schedule is very favourable. The Seahawks play four doormat teams in a row – the Eagles, the Giants, the winless New York Jets and equally inept Washington. Those four teams were a combined 8-28-1 after Week 10. The Seahawks will close out the season with a visit to San Francisco and a home date against the Rams. Next up is a Monday night encounter with the Eagles in Philadelphia. The break in the schedule should give Chris Carson and Shaquille Griffin, among others, more time to heal.

NFL Notebook – How about Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool? The Steelers rookie receiver has nine touchdowns in his first nine games including a pair last Sunday against the Bengals. Claypool is hands down the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year. How could 10 receivers been chosen before him in this year’s NFL draft? Hard to believe.

Don’t rule out the Miami Dolphins winning the AFC East. The Dolphins are 6-and-3 and just a half game back of the Bills. Miami has three cupcakes on the schedule coming up – the Denver Donkeys, the Jets and the Bengals.

Don’t rule out the New York Giants winning the NFC East. It’s not out of the question. The Giants are a game back of Philadelphia after knocking off the Eagles 27-17 last weekend. It was Daniel Jones’ 22nd start as Giants quarterback and the first time he’s got through a game without a fumble or an interception.

Who knows what the Las Vegas Raiders will look like on defense on Sunday night when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs?  They could be without nine starters on defense due to another COVID-19 outbreak. Not a good idea to be shorthanded against the Chiefs. Pat Mahomes will slice and dice the Raiders taxi squad defense.

NBA Draft Notes – The NBA Draft may have lacked a Zion-type generational talent but it was one of the deeper drafts in recent memory. There was a lot of debate over who should go first overall. Georgia forward Anthony Edwards ended up being the top pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Guard LaMelo Ball went third overall to the Charlotte Hornets. The unofficial new First Family of Basketball is now Lonzo, LaMelo and Dad LaVar Ball. They provide more laughs than Lucille Ball. It seems that LaMelo and LaVar didn’t let the pandemic get in the way of a lavish draft party. Prior to the draft, LaMelo was paraded around L.A. in a new Rolls Royce Cullinan SUV, an apparent draft-day gift.  Draft party guests were given ‘Big Baller Brand’ accessories including customized monographed pillows. “Greatness recognizes greatness,” LaVar said, referencing the fact the Hornets are owned by Michael Jordan. The elder Ball has even challenged Jordan to a one-on-one contest. I’m sure Jordan can’t wait to have Papa LaVar hanging around the Hornets facilities. In light of the Hornets 30-year franchise tailspin, do you think they will be pulled out by the Balls? If the Hornets organization had half a brain they would have traded down rather than selecting LaMelo Ball.

The Oklahoma City Thunder collect first round draft picks like Liberace collected sequined dinner jackets. It’s a war chest that should allow a pipeline for years to come. Thunder GM Sam Presti has accumulated a remarkable 18 first round selections through the 2026 NBA draft, two of which were in this year’s draft. The Thunder made four trades in the past week, all of which brought back a first round pick.

The Raptors took a couple of guards with their two selections – point guard Malachi Flynn from San Diego State and 6’5” guard Jalen Harris from Nevada. Both are older, more seasoned prospects and should help boost the Raptors depth in the backcourt.

This year’s draft brings back memories of 2015 when the Raptors landed guard Delon Wright with the 20th pick in the first round. Wright was later packaged with Jonas Valanciunas in a deal with Memphis that brought Marc Gasol to Toronto. In the second round, the Raptors acquired the draft rights to Norman Powell and a conditional 2017 first-round pick (which became OG Anunoby) from the Milwaukee Bucks for Greivis Vasquez. It was one of the best trades in Raptors history. Gasol and Powell proved to be key pieces in the Raptors NBA championship. Anunoby is a stud and a big part of the team’s future.

Word came on Friday that the Canadian government has denied the Raptors request to play their home games in Toronto. The NBA season is set to start on December 22. Instead, the Raptors will make Tampa Bay their temporary home at least until it is safe to return to Scotiabank Arena. This could make it very difficult for the Raptors to compete for free agents including Canada’s Tristan Thompson who’s now rumoured to be rejoining his old Cleveland Cavalier teammate Lebron James in L.A.

Masters Recap – Let’s be honest. Dustin Johnson makes Jethro Bodine sound like a Rhodes Scholar. For the longest time, it looked like Johnson would never live up to his enormous talent. Heading into this year’s Masters, he had 23 career victories but only one major on his resume, the 2016 U.S. Open. Johnson has had a victory in 14 consecutives PGA Tour seasons but kept coming up short in majors. Who can forget the 3-putt on the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay in Seattle to gift the 2016 U.S. Open to Jordan Speith, or the 2-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a waste bunker which handed the title to Martin Kaymer at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010. Johnson had just birdied 16 and 17 to take a one-shot lead with one hole to play. It just seemed like Johnson’s career was to be star-crossed and marked by near misses. Not anymore!

Johnson donned the green jacket at Augusta with a record-breaking 20-under score, leaving no doubt he is the world’s #1 player. His Masters performance was emphatic. In addition to the scoring record, Johnson became the first player with two rounds of 65 or better in Masters history. He posted only four bogey’s all week, the fewest ever by a Masters champ. At times, he made Augusta look like a pitch-and-putt.  In his last seven tournaments, Johnson has three victories, three second-place finishes and a T-6 at the U.S. Open at Harding Park where he was in contention right until the end. In that seven tournament stretch, he is 100 under par.

Johnson could always drive the ball effortlessly but he has improved every other facet of his game. His ball-striking, putting and bunker play are all vastly improved. We should not underestimate the influence of the Great One. Johnson’s father-in-law told Johnson not to let his foot off the pedal and focus on bringing his best game to the course every week. Gretz also advised Johnson to build a work plan and stick to it.  It’s advice that has served him well. Johnson is now one of the hardest working players on Tour and the results are showing.

Masters Takeaways – I always used to think that the best putter wins the Masters. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind. Yes, you have to putt well but ball-striking is the most important element of Masters success because, if you can’t put those second shots on the correct side of the pin, you have no chance of winning. Run down the list of winners and you see a ‘who’s who’ of great iron players. Guys like Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed. Go back further and you will find more. At the Masters, a 30-foot uphill putt is far better than a 6-foot downhill putt with a foot of break. And if you are chipping from the wrong side of the cup, things get ugly fast.

Canada’s Corey Conners is an outstanding ball-striker so it was not surprising to see him have success at Augusta. Conners finished in a tie for tenth and received an automatic invitation into next year’s Masters in April. He shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday, the lowest score ever by a Canadian at the Masters.

Rory McIlroy left Augusta still looking to complete the career Grand Slam. He posted a sloppy 3-over 75 in the opening round and spent the rest of the tournament scrambling back. McIlroy had only two bogey’s over his final 54 holes and finished at -11 and in a tie for fifth. He said he decided to stop pressing and try not to overthink Augusta. Like Johnson, Rory has underachieved over the past several years. The birth of his first child seems to have helped him relax. McIlroy needs to break his habit of missing short putts however.

This year’s Masters gives hope to the International Team in the next President’s Cup. Cameron Smith of Australia and Sungjae Im of South Korea finished in a tie for second place. South Africa’s Dylan Fratelli, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Sebastian Munoz of Columbia also had outstanding tournaments. Smith became the first player ever to shoot four rounds in the 60’s at the Masters.

Spain’s Jon Rahm has a ton of game. He finished T-7 but you have to wonder when he will win his first major. Rahm is still hot-headed when things don’t go right and his ball-striking can be less than dependable at times. It will be interesting to see how his game evolves over the next few years.

Did you catch Tiger’s meltdown on the 12th hole on Sunday? He plunked three balls into Rae’s Creek and walked off with a smooth septuple-bogey 10 on the infamous par-3. It was Tiger’s highest score on any hole in his career. Credit Tiger for refusing to pack it in. He birdied five of the final six holes to post a 77 and avoid a score in the 80’s.

Let’s not forget bulky Bryson DeChambeau. In the opening round, he averaged 334.6 yards off the tee. 62-year old Larry Mize, the ’87 Masters champ, averaged 247.4 yards. That’s 87 yards more than Mize. Yet, they both shot 70 in the opening round.

After becoming the oldest player to make the cut in Masters history, 63-year old Bernard Langer closed with a 71 to finish at 3-under and T-29. He was a shot better than DeChambeau and two better than Woods. Langer also bettered other notables including Tony Finau, and past champions Jordan Speith, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson. Langer gives us all hope.

And finally, here’s a great story from the New York Times on Augusta’s famed Green Jackets. They are supposed to be for winners and members only.

Groundbreaking Hire – 51-year old Kim Ng has become the first female general manager of a major pro sports team in North America. It is ground-breaking. It signals a culture shift and best of all, it was done on merit. Ng was hired as GM of the Miami Marlins after a long apprenticeship in baseball. She broke in as an intern with the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Ng built a reputation as an expert negotiator and was involved in presenting many arbitration cases. As assistant general manager of the New York Yankees, she negotiated the 10-year contract with shortstop Derek Jeter, who’s now the Marlins CEO. Jeter gained a lot of respect for Ng during her time in New York and it played a big part in her hiring.  For a small-market team like the Marlins, Ng’s negotiating skills will be very valuable especially when it comes to arbitration-eligible players. Kim Ng got the job because she was highly qualified. Not because she was a woman.

We’ve been banging this drum for a while. You may remember we documented the lack of education among many NHL general managers in previous columns. The days of GM’s making deals in back rooms over cigars and glasses of high quality scotch are over. Do you want someone who didn’t finish high school making decisions for your $2 billion dollar franchise? There’s a whole new breed of executives entering pro sports and it’s easy to see why. The stakes have never been higher.

The rumour-de-jour around baseball is that Theo Epstein, who quit this week as President of the Chicago Cubs, may be headed to the New York Mets. Epstein reportedly asked Cubs owner Tom Ricketts for a percentage of the team during contract negotiations. He was turned down flatly. New Mets owner Stephen Cohen said that won’t be a problem in New York.  Epstein is arguably the best executive in baseball. He built both the Red Sox and the Cubs into World Series champs and in the process, exorcised century-long demons that plagued both franchises.

Leftovers – Second baseman Robinson Cano has been suspended for the entire 2021 season following his second positive PED test. Cano was caught using the steroid Stanozolol, Ben Johnson’s drug of choice. He will now forfeit next season’s entire $24 million dollar salary. You would think a guy with career earnings of $214 million would not put his future health in jeopardy by using a steroid that was developed in the 1970’s. All in the interest of hitting a few more home runs! It may cost him a shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When Roger Neilson was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, owner Harold Ballard told him not to tell anyone what his salary was. Neilson deadpanned: “Don’t worry Harold, I’m as embarrassed about it as you are.”

Trivia of the Week – Who’s name is on the Stanley Cup more than anyone else? The answer is Jean Beliveau. Le Gros Bill won the Cup 10 times as a player and 7 more times as a team executive.

The Greatest of All Time – If anyone wants to debate, who is the greatest football player of all time, the discussion should not last long. It’s Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back. There’s no doubt he would be just as great today as he was back then.

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