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Friday, March 11, 2011

Bettman: Sabateur?

Bill Simmons (aka "The Sports Guy") once put forth a theory years back that Gary Bettman was out to ruin the NHL and more and more, he's looking like he might have hit the nail on the head.  Ignoring the lunacy of going into non-hockey markets repeatedly, moving to a nothing U.S. network rather than sticking to ESPN, even if you're losing money on the venture, let's look - again - at how they're handling player safety.  Air Canada, one of their biggest corporate sponsors, expressed concern over how they have handled the Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara situation specifically, but over-the-line play in general.   The league's response?  They thumbed their nose at Air Canada. Even NASCAR knows you don't piss off your sponsors.

Looks like the Miami Heat's fans had better things to do mid-way through the second quarter against the LA Lakers last night.  The Heat managed a win, however.

I couldn't agree more that the NHL has its collective head in the sand here (and in general).  Since January, they've now had their biggest star, Sidney Crosby, (out, by the way) question the way things are going, and you can now add Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin to the sceptics , sponsors (Air Canada), owners (Mario Lemieux earlier this year and now Habs owner Geoff Molson) and politicians express concerns.  And these are CANADIAN'S (Sedin aside) who are generally apologists for the game.  If that doesn't suggest things have crossed a line, I don't know what has.  They're EXTREMELY lucky right now that Max Pacioretty will be able to walk again, and they're playing with fire if they don't address safety more than they have. 

The UFC is contemplating a move to 9pm starts for its pay-per-views to attract more east coast viewers and let them make the Sunday morning papers in the east. Say what you will about Dana White and his company, but nobody thinks more about growth of their sport and business and doing what's better for fans. UFC 129 in Toronto will be the first to go at 9pm by all indications.  No UFC fighter has ever been stretchered from the octagon, or suffered fractured vertabra, by the way.

I would love for the Toronto Sun and other publications explain to me why printing the first, second and third tables for Scottish soccer makes sense. Their Premier League barely warrants a run.

Tom Verducci, who has made quite the name for himself over the year's in analyzing pitchers at risk of injury for excessive work below age 25, is now dipping into looking at mechanics, with a look here at Stephen Strasburg and how his motion likely blew out his elbow. On his "watch" list? Toronto Blue Jay Kyle Drabek.

Which of these seems more likely: reading yesterday that Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay threw six superb innings, or that Minnesota Twins starter Carl Pavano has been the most impressive pitcher of all this spring?  While the first is true,  the latter is what some scouts also said yesterday.

Bad scenes in Japan today.  Say a prayer.

Somebody took the time to do an amazing animation of Tottenham Spurs Gareth Bale shredding Inter Milan in group play of the Champions League a few months back.  And here are the actual highlites, starting 3:11 in.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Air Canada strafes NHL

Air Canada fired a serious shot across the bow of the NHL with a strongly worded letter saying they would be reviewing their sponsorship of the NHL and its teams if a serious and immediate action on headshots wasn't taken, because they fear a fatality.  So there you go Gary Bettman, you've got yourself a full blown, hammer-you-in-the-wallet crisis on your hands from all the foot dragging you've done on that issue.  Congratulations.  Shame that Sidney Crosby's words weren't enough to get them thinking months ago.  Bruce Arthur says the NHL's "it was a hockey play" excuse is played.

Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty, he of the severe concussion and fractured vertabra - lucky he's not paralyzed - told TSN that he thinks Zdeno Chara's hit on him Tuesday night was intentional, so not surprisingly, he's disgusted that no suspension was given.  Vancouver Canucks forward Tanner Glass told The Province’s Jason Botchford that “if you polled 700 NHL players, 680 would say he knows exactly what he’s doing and knows the turnbuckle is there.”  Presumably the other 20 are Boston Bruins and wouldn't say.  I refuse to believe a pro wouldn't know where he was on the ice.

Tottenham and Schalke advanced to the quarter finals in Champions League play yesterday.  The other four to advance will be sorted out this coming Tuesday and Wednesday with four more games.  Already a few new entries among the final eight, which makes things even more interesting.

Apparently, if there is a streaker in a sixth division soccer game in England dressed up as Borat, do not tackle him to the ground even if stewards are in not-so-hot pursuit.  You get red carded for that, though I don't recall ever hearing about such a rule.  Question: what was someone doing with a camera at a sixth division soccer game?

Duane Rollins checks in with a sobering look at the upcoming Toronto FC season, which will start next Saturday with a game in VancouverWhitecaps part owner Steve Nash is hell-bent on making it to the game, traveling back to Vancouver despite his Phoenix Suns playing the Friday night as well as the next day.

Ohio State football made $63.7 million last year. Wonder why there might be pressure on coaches to stretch the rules now and again?

Tiki Barber...oh why even bother cracking on him?  Desperate times, right Tiki?

Awesome story, and pics, of a hardcore New York Yankees fan that broke into (old) Yankee Stadium as it was being torn down with a lady friend and slammed some beers while taking some pics. 

Love, LOVE Chris Webber mocking the Miami Heat.  Memo to the Toronto Raptors: next time the Heat roll into town, rock the old "Tears Are Not Enough".  I'm begging.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Messi: not made like you or I

Arsenal sit second in the English Premier League, and are by anybody's measure more than a decent team.  But when you go into Barcelona and 110,000 fans are waiting and the host team is on its game, you get what happened yesterday: a 3-1 whitewash that saw the hosts win the possession battle 74%-26%,  fired 20 shots to Arsenal's zero (yes, "0"), and completed 717 passes to Arsenal's 195 for the game.  Domination.  Lionel Messi scored a pair, and the first it looked like he made the ball levitate in the air before stabbing it home.  Incredible stuff from Barca.  If you don't appreciate what they do, you don't appreciate sports.  You could argue that Robin Van Persie's red card with the score just turned 1-1 was a game changer, and it was as weak as it gets, but that's the position you put yourself in when you take a ridiculously selfish card late in the first half the way he did, but it really only expedited the inevitable final result. RVP was not impressed, not surprisingly.  In the other game, AS Roma barely showed up in their 3-0 loss at Shaktar Donetsk, who advance to the quarters for the first time.  Up today, AC Milan visits Tottenham, and I'm banging the hosts at Pinnacle even though they don't necessarily have to win to advance.  FC Shalke hosts Valencia in the other game, slight lean to the home side.  Both games kick off at 2:45pm.

Bruce Arthur at The National Post looks at the winds of change that have hit Mike Milbury with regard to fighting in the NHLTie Domi isn't willing to talk about his thoughts on fighting.  This came after he was spoon fed apple sauce and had his drool wiped up.  Only some of that is true.

The San Antonio Spurs have won 60+ games in the NBA season again, their - wait for it - 12th straight year knocking out 60+.

The Miami Heat lost again last night, which can only mean that quoting one LeBron James from Twitter back in December is more and more prophetic as it turns out and maybe not the dig at the Cleveland Cavaliers it was first thought to be, from @KingJames: "Crazy. Karma is a bitch.  Gets you every time. Not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!"  Perhaps somewhat inspired by "" that gained traction in December comes "".

The NHL's best second half win percentage in history was registered by the 1979-1980 Montreal Canadiens who were on a .813 clip that year. That makes this year's New Jersey Devils .875 rip this year all the more impressive.

ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd has his annual "March Madness" of his own up, and this year's subject is for Best Rock BandGet your votes in here for the first round.  How the hell did Creed and Nickelback get in as a 16 seeds and the Foo Figthters aren't even in the tournament?  Criminal. Looks like Bob Marley & The Wailers vs. Beastie Boys is the tightest race so far.

I'm not saying for a fact the two are linked, but back in January, Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty scored an OT goal to beat Boston, and Zdeno Chara was none too happy.

So last night, in the rematch, here's what happens to Max Pacioretty when he comes near Zdeno Chara.  He was stretchered off and taken to hospital. Said Chara post-game: "Unfortunate when I pushed him that he leaned and jumped a little into the glass extension," which brought this fantastic response from the National Post's Bruce Artur, fast becoming a fav of mine: "That's an effing joke.  Zdeno, that's like effing saying that [the late Georgian luger] Nodar Kumnaritashvili leaned into the goddamn stanchion at Whistler. Jesus Christ."  Seems hard to believe Chara would be completely oblivious to where he was heading, no?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

KFC Yum!

The second leg's of Champion's League get under way today.  Barcelona host Arsenal needing to overcome a 2-1 road loss and really, I get the feeling they could drop a four or five goal curb stomping on the Gunners, who looked to be down Robin van Persie and coming off an uninspired Sunderland performance, until ti was revealed RVP will indeed start.  I recall previous year's where Arsenal would have Champions League/FA Cup and their EPL runs all end in consecutive games.  The latter might not happen this time, but the previous two just may. The other game today sees AS Roma at Shaktar Donetsk, with Shaktar winning the first leg last month and largely in cruise control for this one.

Amar'e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony were laughing it up over the reports of the Miami Heat having some players in tears after their latest loss.  I'm loving the Knicks more and more all the time, especially for how they openly disrespect the Heat.

The arena in Louisville, Kentucky is named the "KFC Yum! Arena". Only in Necktucky.

Why is it everytime the Toronto Maple Leafs lose of late - and it hasn't been often, it must be said - the papers start speculating that goalie James Reimer is tired?  Plenty of goalies lose games without being tired. Crazy, I know.

Saw a list for NHL Rookie of the Year that included Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Taylor Hall, James Reimer and...PK Subban? For me, Reimer hasn't played enough and Subban is only on if he's wearing Skinner's jersey again. The former Kitchener Ranger - Skinner - is a lock.  That's no knock on Subban, who I think will be a star and is a nice break from the cliche spewing NHL machine, I just don't think he's had a great year.

Poor LeBron James, he will only need his Miami Heat to go 19-0 to close out the season to win more games than he did last year in Cleveland. There's a hole in my soul.  Great bit here on the idea that Miami never considered the possibility of what Dwayne Wade would think of watching LeBron fail repeatedly when games mattered most.

While it will barely register insofar as important MLB announcements are, it will register presumably insofar as your enjoyment of Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts on Rogers SportsNet go: Gregg Zaun is retiring.  Here's hoping he doesn't make it back up north to ruin broadcasts.

Sidney Crosby's sister has a concussion as well, and it makes front page news.  Only in Canada.

Steve Simmons at the Toronto Sun checks in on the latest with the Steve Moore lawsuit of Todd Bertuzzi  and the former Vancouver Canucks owners expected to make its way to trial next year and the .  It was seven year's ago yesterday that Moore was driven into the ice and had his neck broken.  My how far the NHL has come since then! Simmons says this one has the potential to bring the NHL to its knees.

When you're Carlo Ancelotti, manager at Chelsea, and declare that the team isn't really your team because it is the owner making personnel decisions, isn't that essentially saying "if it doesn't go right, it isn't on me"?  Going to guess that's exactly how owner Roman Abramovich interprets it and Ancelotti, accurate or not, walks the plank for saying so.

Here are the 25 Most Overrated Wrestlers. Lost on me: who rates Finlay, never mind overrates him?

Since their February 18th blockbuster deal, the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues have gone a combined 3-12-1.  Wonder if TSN and SportsNet will devote a day of coverage to analyzing that?

Could the stories of Alex Rodriguez being on the downward slope be premature? If early indications are accurate, A-Rod could have a monster year.

Epic Meal Time...road trip! The crew rolled to Kingston this weekend, where everything is legal, as long as you don't get caught.

The NFL needs to come to a labour agreement, quick.  Or, we'll be treated to more horrific videos like Tom Brady getting his groove on at Carnival in Rio, with a disaster of a pony tail.

Check out this past weekend's Duke loss (yeah!) at North Carolina at three frames a second, with no Dick Vitale (even more "yeah!")

Beer prices in Canada could rise by 33%.  Hello, vodka!

Here are nine very incriminating names. So awesome.

Pretty incredible game of rock, paper and scissors against a computer.  The computer eventually learns your tendencies and uses them to hammer you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Woe is LeBron et al

  They showed - physically - up to Anfield a half hour late, and barely showed up on the field at all, and the result saw Liverpool move into sixth place with a 3-1 win over a very flat Manchester United yesterday morning.  Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt netted a hat trick from a combined six or so feet in front of the goal.  If you're wondering what United midfielder Nani was so upset about after a nasty tackle from Jamie Carragher yesterday, wonder no more.  Nasty, nasty pictures here of his leg cut to the bone, and he's said to be done for the year.  United striker Chicharito scored the lone goal for the leaders, his 10th on 14 shots this year.

Memo to the Heatles: The Fab Four used to make girls cry, not the other way around.  Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said several of his players were crying in the locker room after yesterday's 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls.  And isn't it awesome how the Heat have gone from this last summer to this yesterday?  That's no photoshop work, either.  Said Dwayne Wade: "the Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now because the Heat is losing."  Yep, couldn't agree more.  And might D-Wade wish he jumped to Chicago in the off-season, as was heavily speculated?  The Heat are now 1-15 in game tying/winning shots in final 10 seconds.  Imagine what they'd be if they had no timeouts and not 17 a half!? 

After yesterday's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, the New Jersey Devils are now 20-2-2 in their last 24 games, and find themselves 7 points out of last playoff spot in East. They likely won't have enough games to make it, but impressive given the huge hole they dug for themselves in the first few months of the season.

The NHL regular season ends five weeks from today and only six teams are more than seven points out of a playoff spot.  They are Colorado, Edmonton, Florida, New Jersey, Ottawa and St. Louis.
A hilarious graphic to help determine which baseball team you should cheer for.  Sadly, the Toronto Blue Jays don't even make the grade, which is about right. Kidding.  They did make it.  Just had to get that in.  I have no soul, after all.

Perhaps I was a bit harsh Thursday in hammering Trevor Gillies of the New York Islanders.  I mean, a guy with 16 goals and 47 assists for 63 points in 775 hockey games in various leagues, including the Ontario Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, American Hockey League, and of course, the NHL, deserves far more respect.  Gillies has also collected 3,302 penalty minutes...a mere 55 hours in the penalty box.  Gillies was suspended 10 games for his latest nasty hit.  On the Hotstove on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday, Mike Milbury had an epiphany, and seemed to suggest fighting has no place in hockey: "The only reason we have fighting in the game is because we like it." He laughed off the suggestion it polices anything, and this is a guy that used to be as hawkish as they come.

The Sports Guy (Bill Simmons) best summed up the NBA foisting a pair of Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets games on London, England this past weekend, both won by the Nets: Love that we're trying to pique England's interest in NBA basketball with 2 Nets-Raptors games. Plan B: WNBApalooza.

Good to see Brett Favre being made fun of even in his home state, as you can see in this Mardi Gras video with 2:44 remaining.

FIFA banned the "snood" finally.  I've played piles of games of 90+ minutes, with the odd 120, and never once thought a glorified scarf would be a good idea.  In protest, Italian players worldwide are contemplating a strike this weekend.

I probably follow boxing more than 99% of the people I know, but have no idea who this David Haye is that will be fighting Wladimir Klitschko to unify the heavyweight title.

How bad has attendance been in Atlanta at Trashers games? The 50/50 jackpot winner has owed the team money each time out.  We jest.

This is how concussions happen.  Guaranteed.