Looking Back at 2014

Standard

2014

What an interesting year it has been in sports.

2014 began with an outdoor game between the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings in Michigan. Throughout the year we’ve seen the Canadian Junior team finish the World Junior Hockey Championships without a medal for the second straight year, the Emerald City became home to a Super Bowl champion, Canadian athletes did well at the Sochi Olympics, the Men’s and Women’s hockey teams both won gold, the Maple Leafs suffered an utter collapse, and the Raptors turned some heads.

Spring began with a great start for the Toronto Blue Jays, Stanley went Hollywood once again, San Antonio won the NBA championship and helped end LeBron’s days in Miami, Canadians dominated  the NBA draft, and the Leafs hired on a Stanley Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist and Hockey Hall of Famer to run the ship. During the summer the Blue Jays started getting hurt and falling fast from the division and wild card races, Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic let the tennis world at Wimbledon know that they are a force to be reckoned with.

The fall ushered in a new tradition in televised hockey in Canada, the Yankees captain called it a career, Giants got “Mad” and finished on top of the baseball world again, and Calgary stampeded all the way to the Grey Cup.

2014 saw the sports world say goodbye to likes of Pat Quinn, Jean Beliveau, Oscar Tavares, Tony Gwynn, Don Zimmer, Ralph Wilson, Jim Fergosi, and Chuck Noll.

2015 will begin in the U.S. Capital with Chicago and Washington meeting in the Winter Classic. Who knows what the new year will bring to sports fans. Merry Christmas everybody, talk to you again in the new year.

Winners Blaze Their Own Trail

Standard

Vince Lombardi Trophy

Championship teams got to where they are through creativity and originality. They didn’t follow what other teams are doing. The Toronto Blue Jays blazed their own trail in winning the World Series in 1992 and 1993. This despite the media and their disciples who pleaded with management to go rip off other teams. While teams that win Stanley Cups or World Series or Super Bowls often extract ideas from other championship teams, that doesn’t mean all plans are one-size-fits-all.

Noted baseball agent Scott Boras continued his rant towards the Blue Jays specifically pointing out the club’s policy of not signing players to contracts of more than 5 years. He believes Jays management would be wise to do things the same way as other teams. Remember the time when the Blue Jays term limit was 3 years? That didn’t hamper them from winning back-to-back World Series championships. It’s nice of Boras to show his concern about our baseball team. Maybe he can enlighten us as to the real reason Alex Rodriguez dumped him in 2010. Then perhaps we’ll take him seriously.

For those who want the Blue Jays (or the Maple Leafs for that matter) to follow some other team’s model, maybe you should consider following another team. Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick were the architects of two World Series championships because they did things their way. They are truly original in every sense of the word. Today, Alex Anthopoulos wants to build a championship team and, to his credit, he is following his gut instead of listening to critics or some bitter agent. We tried using Moneyball just like the Oakland Athletics did. So how did that turn out? I can bet Richard Griffin at the Toronto Star couldn’t wait to crack open the champagne after JP Ricciardi was fired by the Blue Jays.

Same can be said with hockey. After the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2006 with a European captain and a slightly-above-average goaltender, there were cries from the media to have the Maple Leafs follow Detroit’s system. Then there was that stupid reporter who asked Brian Burke why the Maple Leafs have not followed the “Pittsburgh model”. There is no charge more damning in the journalism world than being accused of plagiarism yet they are encouraging those to lift other people’s ideas.

It is so easy to simply jump on the bandwagon of say the San Franciso Giants or the Seattle Seahawks just because they won championships. But they didn’t exactly go about stealing another team’s playbook nor did they achieve their success overnight. It required them to do a lot of planning and then executing it in order to achieve greatness. Sometimes it involves years and years of trial and error before succeeding in the end. Perhaps if more people went about taking care of their own business, no one would be talking about the problems that are happening in the world today.

What Happens When the Passion is Gone?

Standard

Hockey SkatesBelieve it or not, there was a time when I had no interest in hockey. It was years and years ago when there was an incident at school while playing road hockey that I started a large fight. I don’t remember much of that, apparently it involved me swinging a stick at another player, but I never picked up a stick after that.

It wasn’t until I got involved in a hockey pool years later that I became interested in hockey once again. A dear friend of mine nagged me to get involved so I did. I had years of players stats to catch up but I was able to draft well and a few years later I won the pool. My passion for hockey has been resurrected.

Recently I visited my friend who I haven’t seen in years. We were catching up and I brought up my profession as a sports reporter. It kind of caught me by surprise that he doesn’t follow hockey anymore. When I bring up names like Tanner Pearson, Mark Scheifele, and Aaron Ekblad, 3 NHL first-round picks in recent years, he said those names don’t ring a bell. He mentioned to me that he kind of lost the passion for hockey years ago.

It was tough to hear that from him considering he is the reason I’m talking about hockey today. But I can tell you he is not the only one who has lost their passion for a sport, art, music, etc.. There comes a time when there is no longer a desire to continue doing something or following something that you once loved. But my friend made no spectacle about it, he simply walked away. I can’t say the same about others who seem to like to let the world know how they are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore. Riiiiight. These people, namely those who like to throw jerseys or waffles on the ice, are in need of serious professional help. Does anyone know the number of Dr. Drew?

But let’s be serious for a moment. If you don’t care about a sport for any reason, just leave. No one is pushing you out the door. There are those who are really putting a major damper on sports by making idle threats to leave. And not all of them belong to some left-wing, pinko group. Even those who call themselves right-wing, conservatives also fall in line and drink the Kool-Aid. It goes to show that you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire athlete to whine and complain. I don’t know of any former alcoholic wanting to have prohibition restored on beer and spirits, or a rehabilitated drug abuser joining in on the war on drugs. If a sport no longer suits our fancy, we should let the chips fall and move on.

However, I hope one day my friend will get his passion for hockey back, just like I did. It will take some time. There is an old saying that you don’t what you’ve got until it’s gone. I somehow managed to figure that out. Others will too.

In Defense of George Stroumboulopoulos

Standard

George Stroumboulopoulos

It didn’t take long for fans of Hockey Night in Canada to turn on its new host, George Stroumboulopoulos. Even Habs fans, who had initially welcomed the sight of seeing a fan of their hockey team as host, are now having buyer’s remorse.

Now, I am willing to give Stroumboulopoulos a chance to show his stuff. I’ve said it before, if Rush Limbaugh or Dennis Miller can talk football (or if baseball guy Keith Olbermann can talk politics), why can’t Stroumboulopoulos do the same with hockey? Anyone who follows Stroumboulopoulos knows before he went to the Edge, MuchMusic, and CBC, he got his start working at CJCL in Toronto (better known as The Fan 1430/590 and now Sportsnet 590 The Fan). He has worked with current Sportsnet analysts Gord Stellick and Elliott Friedman while at the Fan so he is no slouch when it comes to sports particularly hockey.

I mentioned this before but one of the reasons I think Stroumboulopoulos was chosen to replace Ron MacLean as host of Hockey Night in Canada was because of his background in pop culture and politics. Over the years we’ve seen things like gay players, human rights, and other social issues infiltrate the sports discussion. I believe the bosses at Rogers hoped Stroumboulopoulos would bring that into his role as host of Canada’s premier hockey broadcast. But from what I have seen in the 2+ months into the 2014-2015 NHL season, Stroumboulopoulos has done very little of that. In fact, his predecessor has talked more about politics and pop culture during his time as host of Hockey Night in Canada than Stroumboulopoulos has.

Stroumboulopoulos is doing what any good host should be doing: asking questions, moderating debate, and steering the conversation. He is no hockey expert and he knows that. That is why you have guys like Nick Kypreos, Glenn Healy, and Kelly Hrudey on the panel explaining the ins and outs of hockey. There are others on the Hockey Night in Canada panel, and the Rogers NHL broadcast, namely those who write or used to write for newspapers, who should be shown the door first. It is going to take a Jian Ghomeshi-like stumble by Stroumboulopoulos before we see the axe fall on him.

So I would cut Stroumboulopoulos some slack. In my experience, it takes time for change to settle in. As long as he sticks to the subject, he will do just fine.