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Follow Up To The Winter Classic

January 3, 2008 @ 11:01

Yesterday I wrote about the Winter Classic in Buffalo and the scalper’s paradise it had become.

Well there were a couple of other things I forget to mention.

Neighbour John’s sons not only got into the game with great seats purchased by their generous dad, but that got to spend the afternoon with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

Kelly had seats right behind the boys and from all accounts he was fantastic with them.

He made it clear that he wasn’t too interested about being bothered by adults looking for pictures and autographs, but when it came to kids he was game for anything.

And I received this e-mail from my good friend and ultra important record executive Ivar Hamilton.

"I wish I knew you were there. I was there with Sam Roberts performance as my ticket in. I parked right beside Mulligans so I definitely would have had a beer with you!"

Category: Sports

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Reluctant Praise

January 3, 2008 @ 11:00

Right off the bat, I’ll tell ya, I’m not a big fan of Rosie DiManno.

Granted, the woman can write but much too often I don’t like “what” she writes.

She’s got an attitude and opinion that I rarely agree with and about a year ago I wrote a piece about a DiManno attack on Q-107’s John Derringer.

It was ridiculous and consistent with some other shit she had written over the years.

However, I’ve got to be honest, this morning DiManno writes a piece about the Toronto Maple Leafs and is dead on perfect.

I wish I had written it myself.

Category: Sports | Stuff

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Scalpers Win At Winter Classic

January 2, 2008 @ 10:20

I went all the way to Buffalo with neighbour John and his three sons yesterday, but I didn’t get inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.

I watched the entire “Winter Classic” from inside “Mulligan’s Tavern” which is just kitty corner to the stadium and right across the street from the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s what happened.

Neighbour during an early New Year’s Eve toast, John mentioned to me that he was taking the boys to Buffalo the next day for the hockey game and planned to buy tickets from scalpers out front.

Here was the strategy. Given that 71 thousand tickets had been sold, and the weather forecast wasn’t the greatest, the chances of getting reasonably priced tickets were pretty good.

I thought about it for a while and they told him I’d come along. I like notable sporting events but thanks to my long and “storied” career as a sportscaster not too often did I ever have to pay for anything. That has changed and I’m slowly getting my head around it, but only to a point.

When we arrived in Orchard Park about 11:30 we started talking to scalpers and the early prices were high. The cheapest face value seat we saw was 53 dollars and the scalpers wanted two hundred.

We laughed it off and went on to the next scalper who was obviously working for the same network as the first guy. He wanted two hundred for the 53 dollar ticket, but he was willing to be more reasonable for a two hundred dollar club seat. He only wanted $350.00 for those but he was holding firm.

Neighbour John and I quickly determined that we’d have to wait these guys out. We’d wait till after the bloody puck was dropped if we had to, but there was no way we were going to pay those kinds of prices.

We walked around for awhile, and then at about 12:30, John got lucky. He wanted to make sure the boys go into the stadium before the game to see the spectacle of it all and he ran into a guy who wasn’t scalping he was a regular guy who had a few corporate seats left over and he just wanted to get rid of them.

He had three to be exact, just enough for the boys so John paid him $450 for three, $220 seats, expensive, but based on face value, a pretty good deal.

John and I walked the boys to their gate and made sure they were through and we went back to the street with a new strategy. We would buy singles. It’s harder to for scalpers to get rid of singles but we decided we’d buy them at a reasonable price and then hook up inside.

It was game time now and the puck had just been dropped when John hit pay-dirt. It was another guy with corporate seats and he had one club level seat left. John gave him $90 for the $220 seat and I urged him to immediately go into the stadium because the game had started and I knew he’d feel better being inside with his boys.

It didn’t matter anyway, because I felt pretty confident I too was going to get a good deal within the next few minutes. Wrong.

First of all, I couldn’t find a “corporate” guy and unfortunately there were way too many people like me who thought they could beat the scalpers by waiting them out.

Turns out there were a lot more people like me than there were tickets available so all it did was drive the prices up even more. The scalpers stood there with people from Buffalo, Toronto and Pittsburgh desperate to get inside waving money around.

Those $53 tickets became $250 and the club seats held their value, and then the clincher came for me.

A scalper showed me a ten dollar ticket. A ticket that was only good for getting into the stadium. The view was next to non-existent and they were printed only for those who wanted to feel the atmosphere without really seeing the game.

Perfect I thought, I’ll buy one of these and then weasel my way to where John is. I asked the guy “how much” and was floored when he said one hundred bucks. But as I took a few seconds to ponder getting sucked in this bad a young woman reached over my shoulder with a hundred bucks and it was gone.

That was it. I was done. The scalpers only had the expensive stuff left and they were getting their way with every transaction.

I walked across the street to “Mulligans Tavern”, but not before buying a piece of pizza off a vender in one of those big trailers. New York Pizza it was called, and it was absolutely delicious. Especially the crust which was fresh, soft and tasty.

And oh yea, on the way home we stopped off at the Anchor Bar.

Category: Neighbour John | Sports

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Marek Makes His Mark

December 30, 2007 @ 10:19

It was just by chance that I happened to be on my Ottawa Starchoice feed last night and saw Jeff Marek on Hockey Night in Canada.

He was doing the rink side stuff that Elliotte Friedman often does in Toronto and Jeff looked right at home.

I don’t know if this was Marek’s debut on Hockey Night in Canada, but when I saw him I wondered what must be swirling around his head. Appearing on Hockey Night in Canada is the dream of any young sportscaster in this country, and Jeff Marek has made it.

Eyebrows were raised when Marek left am 640 and his association with Bill Watters because many felt he was leaving conventional radio for satellite radio and that’s still considered precarious at this point.

But that wasn’t the entire story. Marek was leaving 640 to work for the CBC and Hockey Night in Canada, the vehicle that he would be hosting just happened to be on Sirius satellite radio.

Marek made the move with a long term goal in mind. He was promised opportunity within the HNIC franchise and other work with CBC including the Olympics so it was something he couldn’t say no to, and last night was just the first step in what I’m sure will be a long and lucrative career.

Jeff’s a good boy and I can’t help but think back to 2001 when I first started working with him at MOJO.

Marek became the newscaster on the Humble and Fred Show and I remember knocking heads with him during the aftermath of 911.

Jeff subscribed to the idea that American foreign policy was to blame for 911 and it would probably open the door for a war in the Middle East and an excuse for George W. to go into Iraq.

Marek laughed at the weapons of mass destruction stories while I supported them whole heartedly. Marek predicted a long and useless war in Iraq that would accomplish nothing but make a whole lot of people rich, and Marek predicted that Osama Bin Laden would never be caught because the Americans really didn’t “want” to catch him.

I vehemently disagreed with the naive young man and figured time would tell the real story and eventually he’d be forced to understand the realities of the situation.

Oh well.

Category: Friends | Sports | Television

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Leafs 2008

December 26, 2007 @ 12:00

My first observation looking towards the New Year deals with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you love them, really love them, you will want them to lose every game they play staring tonight on Long Island, and right through the end of the season.

If you love your Leafers and you want them to return to lost glory there is only one way for it to happen and that’s for them to fall to the bottom of the standings and then work their way up again.

This is not rocket science or nothing new or profound, it’s the way successful hockey organizations become successful. We all know it but it never happens in Toronto.

I don’t have to go on about MLSE and they position they’re in. Answering to shareholders and the Teachers Pension Fund means they need playoff games, and that’s why they’re patchwork attempts at building a team have put us where we are.

The ironic part is that patchwork has actually seen them miss the playoffs the past couple of seasons, so they’ve pretty well wasted two years on the road to respectability.

Oh no, I haven’t forgotten that they didn’t have decent draft choices the past couple of years because they dealt them away in dumb as trades that they’re still paying for.

I’m talking ideally. If they had made the right choice to take the proper route three or four years ago they would have been leaps and bounds ahead of where they are now and who knows, maybe they'd have a future superstar in the lineup.

But they don’t. It’s the same old crap and the only way its going to change is for it to get worse before it gets better and that brings me back to my original point.

If you really love the Leafs you will want to lose every game they play starting tonight. When the game begins, get it in your head. Bad is good. The worse they are the better.

It’s a simple concept that could bring joy through pain and there are many examples of other teams going through the same thing to get to where they are now.

I’m going to stop now. I could go on about the importance of good ownership and management to make the right decisions to pull this off, but then I look at the Leafs drafting record over the past four decades and it’s not very good.

As it stands, Maple Leaf management is more than capable to fall to the bottom of the standings, it’s climbing back up that poses the problem.

Category: Sports

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A Desperate Man

December 26, 2007 @ 11:59

Category: Sports

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Searching For Racism

December 23, 2007 @ 11:18

The world really has gone mad. In the good old days someone like Chris Simon would stomp on somebody’s leg with his skate blade, he‘d get a suspension and that would be the end of it.

But not in 2007.

No, today it’s got to be twisted into a racial issue even though the vast majority of people didn’t even think along racial lines to begin with. In todays politically correct, over analyzed world, the very people who don’t want race brought into situations often do it themselves.

A fine example is First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine who turned the Simon suspension into stereotyping of native people.

It blows me away.

When Simon was suspended on Wednesday, the fact that he was native never came to my mind. And when NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell suggested Simon get help through the leagues “drug and alcohol program”, I failed to make a link between his problems and his native heritage.

But Chief Fontaine did.

Even though Simon apparently doesn’t have a problem with drugs or alcohol and it’s strictly an anger management problem, Simon will still be directed through the leagues Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program, and that’s what Campbell was referring to.

Here we have a situation where one player stomps on another player with his skate and he’s suspended, and even though he's been offered help, which he asked for, it’s been turned into a racial issue by Fontaine who claims the very suggestion that Simon might have a drug or alcohol problem creates a stereotype.

Here’s what he said.

“It was extremely hurtful to Mr. Simon, and his many fans, including those in our First Nations communities, to hear from Mr. Campbell that such behaviour is related to drug and or alcohol abuse. Mr. Simon, and all of his fans, would like to hear an apology, especially since it smacks of stereotyping."

Stereotyping? How?

If anything, it’s Fontaine who’s perpetuating any stereotype. I’m convinced the vast majority of hockey fans who saw the incident and then heard about the suspension and then became aware that Simon had been offered help, even if they thought it was alcohol related, did not assume it was brought on by his native heritage.

It probably didn’t enter anyone’s mind until Phil Fontaine brought it up.

Chris Simon has been suspended seven times by the NHL and the last two incidents included clubbing a player with his stick and stomping on another player with his skate but its Colin Campbell who’s been turned into the bad guy for using the term “drug and alcohol” instead of “substance and behavioral.”

Chris Simon wanted help and he was offered help. That should have been the end of it.

Category: Sports | Stuff

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December 23, 2007 @ 11:17

Further to the Simon incident, how much of a hypocrite is Don Cherry?

Last night on Coaches Corner he came to the defense of Chris Simon and said he "understands" why Simon stomped on Pittsburgh Penguin Jarkko Ruutu's leg during a game last weekend.

"He broke the code, you never do anything like that, but you can understand it somehow," said Cherry. "The last two incidents that he's done, he's got 55 games. You know how many games his victims missed? None. I'm not making excuses for it, but none."

I know what Cherry’s getting at because I heard a few other guys defend Simon in a sideways manner this past week.

Ruutu is considered one of the NHL’s rats. One of those weasels who’s gained a reputation for doing underhanded things on the ice, but in the Don Cherry world of masculinity and integrity how could even suggest there was anything acceptable about what Simon did.

He's stooping to Ruutu's level.

Put it this way. For stomping on Ruutu’s leg Simon got thirty games. If he had gone the route that Cherry always advocates, dropping the gloves and fighting a man face to face, fist to fist, he may have gotten no games.

Even if Simon had chased Ruutu down, cornered the rat and kicked the shit out of him in a one way fight, he still wouldn’t have gotten thirty games.

What Simon did is indefensible on every level and to “understand” it, is a bit weird.

And Cherry’s argument that Simon’s suspensions have been too long because his victims haven’t missed any games is ridiculous. The intent and Simon's history justifies everything.

Having said all that, kudos to Cherry for his stance on the tedious racism angle and then for taking a shot at the even more tedious David Suzuki.

Category: Sports

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The Sweet Sound of Romy

December 22, 2007 @ 09:06

I made this point last year; one of the highlights of the Christmas break is the World Junior Hockey Championship that gets underway on Boxing Day.

Unfortunately, for the past several years the tournament has been missing one significant ingredient and that’s our pal Paul Romanuk.

Say what you will about Paul’s politics, when it comes to calling a hockey game there are few better. His voice became synonymous with World Juniors and then it came to an abrupt end when he made the decision to leave TSN for the doomed “Team” radio experiment.

Since then the play by play duties have been handled by Gord Miller, and although capable, he’s not nearly the equal of Romy.

Having said all that, you can still enjoy Romanuk’s over the holidays on Rogers Sportsnet. For the past few seasons Romanuk has been calling the games of the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland.

Admittedly, it’s not the World Juniors but it’s a good brand of hockey played by a bunch of guys who absolutely cherish the chance to wear the maple leaf on the front of their jerseys.

The Spengler also gets underway on Boxing Day, and at this point I’ll direct you to Romanuk’s website where he’s set up a Spengler Cup blog.

Please take the time to go over there and read some of the stuff he’s already written. It’s interesting to find out how he became involved with the tournament and the significant position he now holds.

Romy’s a good fella.

Category: Sports | Television

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Not Enough

December 19, 2007 @ 12:32

The NHL went a long way in upholding their image as the professional “Yahoo” League today by suspending Chris Simon for only 30 games.

It’s the longest suspension in the history of the NHL, but that means nothing when you consider his long history of goonery and the latest action that put him on the sidelines.

The NHL should have suspended Chris Simon for life without given it any more than a split second of consideration. If ever there was an example of assault with a deadly weapon in a professional sport, this was it.

Simon saw Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu in a prone position and deliberately stomped on the side of Ruutu's foot with his skate blade.

No different than taking a knife or a machete from underneath his sweater and using it in the same manner. Simon knew what he was doing, he must have thought about it before he raised his leg with a sharp skate on the end of it and stomped down.

To my mind its worse than head butting, slew footing or stick swinging. None are excusable, but using a skate as a weapon takes things into a whole new stratosphere and the NHL responded in a feeble manner.

To be honest, over the years when on-ice action found its way into the courts I never really bought into it. I thought the league was capable of policing its own.

This incident is different. Chris Simon should have been criminally charged.

Category: Sports

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