Monday, March 31, 2008

Thank God for Mathematical Elimination

Die hard Leafs fans should be breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Whether you wanted the Leafs to tank and win the Stamkos/Filatov/Doughty Derby or whether you wanted them to get into the playoffs, the pressure is off.

Where they end up in the standings is no longer worth fretting over. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to watch young players like Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty tell off Richard Peddie with their actions. They each scored two goals hours after MLSE henchman Peddie publicly stated the Leafs, the team he was in charge of, had no young players worth watching.

Not even Peddie's comments can shatter the remaining ruins of this Maple Leafs' season. Enjoy what's left, because that's all you have.

fil-lw CSKA/stam-c sting/doughty-d/guelph

Amateur Lip Service

Amateur athletics in Canada gets very little recognition, and seemingly less funding. In an Olympic year like 2008, that is inexcusable.

I've come up with a scheme to help combat the financial crunch faced by amateurs.

The GST recently dropped to 5%. Instead of pooling all that money into one giant money bag at Revenue Canada, I propose some of that go to amateur sport.

Allocating 1% of the GST levied on pro sporting tickets to Canada's amateur athletes and organisations would be a god send. I'm not advocating huge salaries, but enough to live on, and above all - infrastructure.

There are so few facilities to go around. Some of that GST revenue would go a long way to help repair and expand older buildings. It could also help break ground on new arenas, tracks, and courts.

This is a win, win situation. Ordinary citizens don't have to pay extra and businesses don't lsoe any cash.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hockey Central? Not By a Long Shot

Toronto is not the Centre of the Hockey Universe; it is merely the Capital of Leafs Nation.

The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to sell out game after game, season after sub-par season. The Marlies, 3rd in the AHL, North division leaders, clinched a playoff spot a week before the Leafs lost their post season dance tickets. According to the game sheet, attendance at Ricoh that night was 4 309. I was at the arena and to say 1500 bums were in seats would be generous.

Leafs lemmings blindly shell out $50.00 for standing room to watch the Leafs lose, yet $40.00 gets a platinum seat to the Marlies. $120.00 gets 4 tickets, 4 pops, 4 popcorn and 4 hot dogs at Ricoh! At the ACC that gets a couple three hours leaning against a cold rail, as far from the ice as possible.

A 30 minute schlep from the ACC gets you even more bang for your hockey bucks. Just over $500.00, the cost of two golds at Always Counting Cash, buys season tickets for the Mississauga St. Mike's Majors. They even throw in the parking and programs! MLSE just seems to throw in the towel. The Majors prices are similar for the other 6 0HL teams within an hour of the Big Smoke.

Brampton and Mississauga were both in the OHL playoffs, yet struggled to fill the seats.

This isn't a new phenomenom. In the 1970s, Toronto's WHA team, the Toros managed at best 10 000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens. That was largely due to star players Frank Mahovlich, Paul Henderson amd Vaclav Nedomansky.

The Toronto Roadrunners, Edmonton's AHL affiliate had a terrible time getting crowds to Ricoh Coliseum. Pundits placed the blame on bad location and no connection to the Leafs. Location is a non issue; over 1 million people manage to get there just fine during the CNE, thank you very much. Toronto FC fans have no problem getting to BMO Field, and they're not smarter than hockey fans. If they were they wouldn't be at a footie match!

Lacking a Leafs connection is another baseless argument. The Marlies have a 100 year long umbilical cord to the Leafs. For 62 years the Toronto Marlboros were the Buds breeding ground. Despite that, they still had rough spells when it came to ticket sales.

You see, you can't say Torontonians are hockey fans. The ticket take screams otherwise.

Sorry Hogtown, you're Leafs greatest fans, definitely not hockey's.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

George Gross - R.I.P.

Readers from outside the Toronto area might not be familiar with George Gross. Please, do yourselves a favour and go through his columns online. I was saddened to hear of his death on Friday and wrote this.

The number glares at me from my cell phone, a high tech haunting.

I should have completed that call. "I can't! I'll be late for class! I'll wait until after Easter."

A few hours later, it was a moot point. George Gross passed away before I had the chance to meet him in person. We had exchanged emails, and he'd extended an invitation to a weekly get together he had with friends. Not being one to crash the party, I held back for a few weeks.

This week, I decided I would go. Oddly enough, George Gross and I patronised the same spot on Saturday mornings. He, being the early bird was there bright and early, between 7:30 and 9:00; this night owl usually arrived after 10:00

Today, I arrived earlier; I knew I could not meet "The Baron" but I had to keep the promise I had made to myself.

They aren't too many famous Slovak Canadians. To a Slovak Canadian writer, Gross is an inspiration.

Long before I knew about the hockey history lurking in the walls of an Etobicoke bakery, it was one of my favourite spots to read and write about hockey. Once I found out, it all made sense.

The best stories, the greatest insights are not found in musty, post-game dressing rooms. The best stories are found at the table - coffee, croissants, and conversation.

George Gross taught me that.

God Bless, Baron, God Bless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dear GTHL - Give the Kids a March Break

I can understand holding rep tournaments during March Break, but give the house leaguers a break, a full March break. My son's team was down 2 players for each of their break games, but others fared worse. One Mississauga Hockey League(MHL)team had to play a game with only 7 kids. They were beyond exhausted.

Spare me the spiel about knowing the schedule months in advance; we don't know. The schedules were done week to week, two weeks if we were lucky. Some teams play this weekend, Easter Weekend. To further complicate things, the playoffs fell during March Break, and during playoffs teams have to play within 18 hours notice.

18 hours to fly home from Florida? 18 hours to re-arrange your work hours, school schedule? Some parents are in school and have our own exams to write that week, thank you very fucking much.

You find out in September when March Break will be. Adjust the schedule accordingly so kids, coaches, and parents can a week together without leaving little buggers exhausted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heroics & Hysterics

Hockey is a game of heroics, and hysterics. No team serves them up better than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Right when we thought it was safe to order Stamkos sweaters, the Leafs started to pull wins out of their asses. Last night's game was no ordinary victory.

The Leafs coming back from behind, coming back from 3-nothing, coming back from a 2 period long coma, coming back on Sundin's spine once again, was a message from the players themselves.

The message was clear: we love our teammates, our fans, our pride.

Mats Sundin and Pavel Kubina, considered selfish, stupid bastards a few weeks ago for not waiving their No Trade Clauses were the reason the Leafs won this game.

Sundin, as usual, spoke first – the sound of a slap shot landing behind Biron was sweet music to Leafs fans. Kubina hit another note with his goal, one that rang with hope. Jeremy Williams, goal-a-game Williams struck an even chord. Kubina's overtime heroics were the booming bass that sent Tank Nation into hysterics.

Too little, too late? For the playoffs, most likely. For pride? It's never too late to play for pride.

It's never too late to play for the fans. Kubina handed his stick to a fan after the game; he'd left his heart on the ice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Leafs Trade Day

Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Fletcher lived up to his nickname Trader Cliff. He made 3 moves at the deadline. Teh first one sent fan favourite Wade Belak to the Florida Panthers for a 5th round draft pick. Popular with team mates, Belak often watched games from the press box.

He'll join Chad Kilger who was dealt to the Panthers for a 3rd rounder.

Hal Gill was traded from the Leafs to the Penguins for two picks. He'll join the newest Penguin, 5 time all star winger MArion Hossa. Along with PAscal Dupuis, he was traded from the Thrashers for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito, and a first round pick.

Hossa brings the threat of secondary scoring, something the Pens have lacked. Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin are pleased with the addition.


The Toronto Maple Leafs are in full flight to finish 9th in the Eastern Conference. They nipped at the heels of the Panthers in a 4-3 shootout victory. Jeremy Williams scored the first Leafs goal. It was Mats Sundin donning the Captain Clutch helmet, scoring twice, including the tying goal with barely a minute in regulation. Tomas Kaberle, lone scorer in the shootout, had the winner.

Mixed Martial Arts Blog

Boxing, wrestling, karate I understand the interest. To the casual observer Mixed Martial Arts is nothing more than legalised blood-letting, lions and Christians for a modern audience.

Boxing, even with its innate brutality, has moments of skill and grace. I'm not a fan of blood sports. Watching two guys in the ring or on the mat doesn't do it for me. That said, I'd watch those over M.M.A.

From the clips I've seen M.M.A. is nothing more than an excuse to see how close to men can get to murder without serving time.

Give me a good old bench clearing brawl instead.

Off The Cuff School Assignment

If it weren't for big money tournaments, no one would give a damn about televised poker. It's less exciting than watching paint chips dry.

Poker can't hold a candle to the fast-paced, high flying flurry of Euchre. No time to sit and stare - Euchre is the action man's card game.

When people finally come to their senses Euchre will trump poker as the ace game.

Sundin NTC - 25.02.08

Just say NO. That's exactly what Toronto Maple Leafs Captain Mats Sundin did when asked to waive his No Trade Clause. He issued the following statement:

"I cannot leave my team mates and join another NHL club at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player."

With the off ice antics surrounding Sundin resolved, the Leafs play the Ottawa Senators tonight. It'll be the Leafs first of a 4 game road trip.

Teemu Selanne parlayed his scoring prowess into a hat trick, leading the Anaheim Ducks to a 6-3 win over the Back Hawks.
The Toronto Raptors rebounded from Friday's loss to the New York Knicks, topping them 115-92. Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with 25 points, but Primoz Brezec stole the show. In his first game as a Raptor he surprised new team mates with "an energetic performance" popping in 11 points.
Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink is once again the bridesmaid not the bride. Manitoba skip Jennifer Jones led her rink to a 6-4 victory in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final. The Manitobans get an automatic berth in Olympic trials.

Leafs/Sabres 22.02.08

Buffalo Sabres 5 - Toronto Maple Leafs 1

That was the score of last night's game at ACC, helping to speed the Leafs slide towards the NHL basement. The lone Leaf to score was Pavel Kubina, with his breakawy goal fueled by a pass from Czech mate Tomas Kaberle. Ales Kotalik led the Sabres point tally, with two goals. High flying Thomas Vanek was held to an assist.

With Leafs losses piling up, so do the rumours swirling round the team. Sources claim a trade with Philadelphia was nixed when Tomas Kaberle declined to waive his No Trade Clause. Other signs of disgruntlement, Leafs fans cheered Sabres goals and booed the hometown team off the ice - again. the most ominous sign was Captain Mats Sundin refusing all interview requests. Matt Stajan was sent out for post game comments.

They used to stay in seats until the bitter end. Last night half the seats were empty by the third period.

Raptors Rant

The only difference between the Leafs and Raptors is that they lose to bottom feeders on different surfaces. The Raptors didn't simply lose their second straight to the mangy, scabby Bobcats, they didn't even mask disinterest.

They were listless. They were lethargic. They were losers.

Worse than tossing a meaty win to Charlotte's feeble feral kitties, the Raptors lost home court playoff position. Being Bosh-less is no excuse. If you can''t win without your top player, you don't deserve him.

The Raptors need to take adbantage of their easy schedule before other teams sntach it from their crumbling claws.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leafs Pushing Their Luck

Note: I am repeating myself on purpose in this post. For a school assignment I have to write 2 blog posts on the same topic, one for a sports station update, the other for a news sports update.


Whether your Leafs shot glasses are half full or half empty, one certain is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are pushing their luck. Those with the half full hooch holders maintain the Buds are pushing towards a playoff spot. The people with the half empty ones are convinced the team is pushing their way out of the Stamkos sweepstakes; the annual ninth or nothing stampede doesn't sit well with them.

I've come to the conclusion that after the Top Two draft picks, it's a roll of the dice, "draft schmaft" to quote current GM Cliff Fletcher. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not bad enough to end up last. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not good enough to guarantee making the playoffs.

What's a fan to do in this dastardly dilemna? Enjoy some good hockey. I don't give a damn if it's too little too late. Seeing Sundin's post score smile is something we should all be happy to see regardless of the standings.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans are divided into two groups. "Tank Nation" which expects the team to deliberately lose in the hopes of clinching a top draft pick, and the "Parade Planners", who believe the Leafs can win all their remaining games, get into the playoffs, and finally win the Stanley Cup.

I teetered towards tanking. Historically the draft is a roulette spin past the top pick. Professional athletes didn't get where they are by packing it in. The Leafs won't deliberately lose. This Leafs fan is simply going to sit back and enjoy the victories as they happen.

Weekend at the Rink

Big rinks boast amenities a plenty but hockey's heart beats loudest in local rinks. That's where I spent most of my time this weekend. I experienced the excitement of house league playoffs. My spawn and his team mates had a 7-0 victory; don't let the score fool you. The competition never let up; it was a goalie having a house league career game that made the difference!

After Spawn's game, we walked over to the bigger rink and watched the St. Mike's Majors take on the Ottawa 67s. Things looked dim for the Majors. Down 1-0 until Kyle Neuber scored his first OHL career goal, the Majors picked up their energy. Casey Cizikas notched the game winner.

The hockey marathon continued when we got home. Saturday nights in our home mean Hockey Night in Canada. Being a fan of Russian hockey, it was a treat to see the Washington Capitals Russian roster - Fedorov, Ovechkin, Semin, host the Toronto Maple Leafs. I got the best of both worlds - Ovechkin scored and the Leafs won!

Sunday morning it was hockey practice. For this night owl, waking up that early on a weekend - UGH. With only a couple more to go, I'll miss them.

Lucky for me I need never look far to get a hockey fix.