Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Vityaz At it Again

Does the name Darcy Verot ring a bell?

The 33-year-old veteran of 37 NHL games, who is averaging about 10 penalty minutes per night (and about nine minutes of ice time) on the last-place team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League is having one heck of a January.

First, the Vityaz Chekhov enforcer (I call him an enforcer, but I’m pretty sure they’re all enforcers) played key part in a huge series of brawls that forced the suspension of a January 9th game between his club and Jaromir Jagr’s Avangard Omsk – a game that featured a world record 840 penalty minutes (25 for Verot) in just 3:39.

Once he served his stiff, but deserved one game suspension (/sarcasm), something crazy happened – Darcy Verot went an entire five games without taking so much as a minor penalty, even doubling his point total to four during that span!

Old habits die hard though, and Verot soon realized that he wouldn’t beat his personal best of 511 penalty minutes in a season by playing within the rules – either that or he thought no one was looking when he performed his latest act of goonery.

On the ensuing face-off after a CSKA Moscow goal made it a 4-1 game midway through the second period, Verot went right at Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov and hit him with a fierce sucker punch, dropping him like a Russian…I mean a fly.






Verot was given five and a game for roughing and two minutes for slashing on the play, putting him back on track to set a new PB, and Filatov picked up his second assist of the night with his team on the power play.

The KHL needs to watch it with this kind of stuff though – a player like Filatov is only there because the Blue Jackets sent him on loan for the rest of the season. Teams will stop making deals like that if they think their prospects might get their heads caved in by some plug (or "tough guy" if Verot himself is reading this) trying to hit 600 penalty minutes.

Maybe the Jackets should send Jared Boll on loan to protect their investment!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random (late) Friday Thoughts

Calling it a Career

Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner has decided to retire following a pretty good season that ended with a loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

Warner's career is a remarkable story - he started professional career playing Arena Football, after stocking shelves at an Iowa grocery store for $5.50 an hour. He was a two-time Arena Football All-Star before getting a shot with the St. Louis Rams, where he won a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP and league MVP in 1999.

That was his first of three Super Bowl appearances and first of two MVP awards and he was also a five-time Pro Bowler.

Warner retires as the top passer in Super Bowl history and completed an NFL record 92 per cent of passes during one game this season - not bad for an old guy!

Here's a video of Kurt Warner's top ten moments, via YouTube:


On the subject of retiring quarterbacks, if you're wondering about Brett Favre's plans, as always, you'll have to wait.

Kickin' it

LeBron James may not get called for nearly as many fouls as anyone else in the NBA, but he wasn't able to escape the wrath of David Stern for his abuse of a...water bottle on Wednesday.

The Cavs forward has been fined $25,000 for kicking a water bottle during a comfortable 109-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. The incident happened with just 12.4 seconds left in a fourth quarter that James didn't even participate in.

Apparently James was rattled about some non-calls in the offensive zone and decided to take out his frustration on the poor bottle.

Incase you're wondering - it's not the first time in the last year that a water bottle has featured in a sports-related dispute.

Last August in the English Premier League, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger got himself in some trouble for bottle abuse – it happened after his club had a game-tying goal called back in the final 30 seconds of a 2-1 loss to fellow EPL giants Manchester United.

Here’s a video of the incident featuring a pretty funny commentary from former Celtic, current Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan:



Different Kind of Headshot

Dallas Stars defenceman Mark Fistric showed us a new way to get at an opponents head this week during a fight against Calgary Flames forward Eric Nystrom.

About eight minutes into the game Fistric ane Nystrom came together along the boards in the neutral zone and decided to drop the mitts to resolve their differences.

Seconds into said fight, Fistric pulls Nystrom’s helmet off his head by the chinstrap, doesn’t let go, and with his next punch, clocks him with his own lid – though he claimed afterwards that it was accidental.



Accident or not, the Edmonton native was slapped with a $2,500 fine but escaped a suspension.

Going Blue

If you’ve ever wanted to watch your favorite professional sports team play in 3D, but can’t afford tickets to an actual game, ESPN is hooking you up this summer – but they won’t be the first broadcaster to go down that road.

Sky Sports is beating ESPN to the punch this weekend, and while the rest of the world goes green, the British broadcaster is going blue in its efforts to provide the world’s first live 3D sports broadcast.

Sky Sports has teamed up with Avatar director James Cameron, the “pioneer of modern 3D cinema,” to get some tips on developing its 3D system which, after years of development, will launch in select pubs in England, Scotland and Ireland on Sunday.

Soccer fans in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin will be treated to 3D action, but the broadcaster won’t say which pubs are involved to avoid a “stampede” to see the games.

Things kick off with a huge game between two of the top three teams in the EPL: Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium. Water bottles beware!!!!!

Formula For Success?

The Canadian Press brings us this interesting gem ahead of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver: a US economics professor says put your money on the Canadians!

Does anyone actually bet on the Olympics? I have no idea. What I do know is that Colorado College professor Daniel Johnson says Canada will lead all countries with 27 total medals and will finish in a three-way tie with the US and Norway for gold medals with five each (he predicts Russia will lead that category with eight).

You're probably saying to yourself "Big deal, I can make a prediction too" - but Johnson is 94 per cent accurate on his total medal projections since 1999, and 87 per cent when talking strictly gold.

The interesting thing here is that if you or I were to pick, we'd probably be going by the athletes involved, but not this guy!

He bases his projections on per capita income, population, climate and political structure of countries, combined with 60 years of Olympic results - the same process used to predict the unemployment rate, according to Johnson (minus the Olympic results, of course).

Another factor that is taken into consideration is the host country's home snow advantage, but there's one more thing that may come into play this year: Johnson is making his first trip to the Olympics - I hope he doesn't jinx anything!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: When Good Pranks Go Bad

Have you ever had a prank totally backfire on you?

At one time or another it seems to happen to everyone, and it happened to students at a Kansas City high school during a pep rally this past week.

Olathe Northwest High School bio teacher and basketball coach Joel Branstrom was promised tickets to the Final Four tournament in Indianapolis in April if he could do what probably seemed impossible at the time - hit a blindfolded half-court shot.

Imagine the students surprise when the former walk-on at the University of Kansas hit the shot with ease, since they didn't actually have any tickets!

As you'll see in the video below, a kid with clear height issues delivers the blindfold, Branstrom gets warmed up, DRAINS it like a pro and is then swarmed by students as "We Are the Champions" blasts through the speakers.






The best part of the story is that once the video became an internet hit, some mystery person righted the students' wrong by offering to give Branstrom and his family tickets and transportation to the tournament and even put him up while he's there.

If I were him, I’d get them back with the old “running practice followed by a bio test” gag.

It's a Wash

That locker-room disagreement between two members of the Washington Wizards over a gambling debt back in December that ended with both guys pulling guns took another interesting turn this week.

Earlier this month, Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge for his role in the incident, and now, Javaris Crittenton has also pleaded guilty to a gun charge, though he will likely avoid jail time.

What he wasn’t able to avoid though, along with Arenas, was a season-long suspension from the NBA, which was handed out by commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.

Stern would likely have added “plus the playoffs” to the punishment, but there is literally no way Washington is playing more than 82 games this season.

According to NBA.com, the suspension will cost Arenas about $7.4-million – though he could stand to lose a lot more money depending what happens on March 26th.

That’s when a D.C. Superior Court judge will decide what type of sentence he’ll serve for his carrying a pistol without a license conviction. He signed a plea deal, so he’ll probably wind up with a pretty short sentence, but even a year in prison could prove very costly for the man they call Agent Zero.

He still has $80.1-million left on a six-year deal and his conviction carries a penalty of anything from probation to five years in the slammer.

I bet the students at Olathe Northwest High School are glad Gilbert Arenas isn’t their coach!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Harm, but No Foul?

It’s no secret that big-name players in every sport seem to get “special treatment” from the refs from time to time, but have you ever wondered just how deep it goes?

Zachariah Blott with Empty The Bench has, and so he decided to take a long, hard look at the face of the NBA: LeBron James.

James is no doubt an amazing athlete – the 25-year-old leads the league in scoring, averaging just shy of 30 points per game after 46 outings to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists. But what’s even more impressive is that he has been putting up numbers close to that for his entire six-year career.

The most interesting part of his stat line, as Blott points out, can be found in the “personal fouls” column.

In just over 1,700 minutes on the court this season, King James has racked up 77 fouls – one for every 22.1 minutes played. The rest of the league (298,868 minutes played; 26,473 fouls) is averaging one foul every 11.3 minutes.

Conspiracy theorists, get your notepads out: That means that James is about half as likely to be called for a foul than the rest of the league as a whole!

If you’re still skeptical, Blott compares the Cleveland superstar’s numbers to other players of his stature throughout the years like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan…and he’s still registering far lower numbers in that category.

Why is this significant?

Well, the NBA isn't that far removed from a scandal that rocked the sport: a veteran referee wound up going to jail on wire fraud charges related to gambling on games - and Tim Donaghy claims he wasn’t the only one doing it.

He recently said he could correctly pick the outcomes of about 70 per cent of games based solely on who was reffing.

Of course the NBA brushed his claims aside, trying to make us all believe that he acted alone…but the stats make you wonder, don’t they?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Performance Incentives

If Sidney and the rest of Team Canada bring home the gold at the upcoming Winter Olympics, they’ll be treated just like any other Canadian Olympians.

That is to say, they’ll each be $20,000 richer (That’s Canadian dollars, but still!).

The Canadian Olympic Committee says there was some debate as to whether or not Canada’s hockey team should be eligible for the “Own the Podium” bonuses provides to athletes who win a medal at the Games.

The COC started the bonus program for the 2008 Beijing Games: Canadians who win gold will earn the $20,000 prize; it’ll be $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for a bronze medal win.

Ultimately, they decided the players should be treated like every other athlete and given the opportunity to receive the money. Really, the only difference between Canada’s hockey team and the rest of the athletes is the millions of dollars they earn on a yearly basis (Canada’s hockey team earns over $120-million per year from the pockets of NHL owners!).

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson says players will be spending a lot of money to get their families out to watch the games and they aren’t paid to play at any other international tournaments – adding they’ll be given the option of donating their bonus money to charity or doing “what they see is fit.”

I think it’s safe to say that they potential bonus money won’t be what’s driving Team Canada when they open up their Olympic schedule against Norway on February 16th, but I guess we could all use a bit of extra pocket change!

Business or Pleasure

Another athlete we’ll see this February that doesn’t need any kind of financial incentive is Olympic gold medalist Dale Begg-Smith.

The world’s top-ranked moguls skier was born in Vancouver and trained with Canada’s national team when he was younger, but actually skis for Australia (Jamaica has a bobsled team, Australia has a moguls team!).

Begg-Smith moved to Australia with his brother at the age of 15 “for business reasons,” became citizens and trained under former US moguls skier Steve Devosich, who had taken the coaching job in that country.

You’re probably asking yourself “What ‘business reasons’ could a 15-year-old possibly have?”

Begg-Smith launched several high-tech businesses as a teen that made him enough money that he has never even needed corporate sponsorship and allowed him to own a $300,000 Lamborghini in his early 20’s.

Apparently some of his business ventures include the type of advertisements on websites that some call “spam,” and he received a rough ride from the Australian press when that came to light.

Begg-Smith isn’t apologizing for anything though and says he doesn’t really do much in terms of business these days anymore short of just managing his investments – must be nice!

Local Talent

Still on the topic of the Winter Olympics – a friend of mine qualified for the Games last week, which I find incredibly exciting.

Mike Robertson is a snowboard-cross racer who travels the world with the Canadian National Team; with a fifth place finish at an event in Stoneham, Quebec, last week, he is officially Vancouver-bound.

Mike grew up in Edmonton before moving to Canmore to be closer to the mountains and is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet.

If you manage to catch his even next month, make sure you cheer extra hard for the hometown boy!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Simon Says

If you thought Allen Iverson making the NBA All-Star team as a starter despite playing in less than half of his team’s games this season was a bit silly, wait ‘til you get a load of this:

According to RussianHockeyFans.com, Chris Simon (yes that Chris Simon) has been added to the Kontinental Hockey League’s All-Star roster.

The KHL uses a similar format to the American Hockey League’s Canada vs. PlanetUSA format – Team Yashin is made up of Russian stars, while the “international stars” will suit up for Team Jagr.

Yes, KHL journalists have done something no one else ever has – they’ve labeled Chris Simon an international star. Wow. Not only that, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old who was suspended for a total of 70 games during his 15-year NHL career will be on Team Jagr’s second line!

I never thought I would hear Simon mentioned in the same breath as Sergei Fedorov, but I guess things are different over in Russia.

On the subject of Russia and the KHL – add former NHLer Sergei Zubov to the list of disgruntled non-Olympians.

It wasn’t quite a Mikael Samuelsson style reaction, but when Zubov found out that he was being added to the Russian Olympic squad as a substitute it’s safe to say he wasn’t impressed.

The 17-year NHL veteran, who decided to play in the KHL last season, called being named a sub a “complete humiliation of me as a person and a sportsman” and a “spit in my face.”

Hey, at least he made the All-Star team!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Oilers started the week with a 6-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche and lost all three games they played, despite getting progressively better after the blowout loss on Monday.

The team was treated to a bag skate after the loss in Denver and responded with a strong game against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, where a phantom penalty in overtime cost them in a 3-2 loss. The Oil held a one-goal lead from early in the second period all the way into the final five minutes of the game where the Canucks tied it up and then won it in the extra frame. The one point was just their fourth in 17 games.

On Friday night, the Oilers lost a heartbreaker to the visiting Dallas Stars - they battled back from a 3-1 deficit, scoring the game-tying goal with just 1:02 left on the clock; however, with 23 seconds left, James Neal put the Stars back on top with his 20th goal of the season off a bad defensive-zone giveaway.

That loss was the Oilers 10th straight defeat and 17th in their last 18 games. On top of that, they've now lost six in a row and 13 of 14 at Rexall Place.

This week:

The Oilers play three times this week - tonight against Chicago, Thursday against the Blues and then they travel to Calgary to take on the struggling Flames on Saturday night.

Thursday's game against St. Louis wraps up a four-game stretch at home but the Oil are right back at home for two games after their trip to Calgary. They play seven of their next eight games on the road.

Blackhawks @ Oilers
Tuesday Jan. 26th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Chicago Blackhawks have been on a tear this season after a pretty strong year in 2008/09 - they currently lead the Central division by 13 points and are almost as strong on the road as they are at the United Center in the Windy City. The Hawks are 8-3-1 to start the month of January after going 11-3-0 in December, but they have lost two of three coming into this game against the Oilers, including a 5-1 loss to the Canucks on Saturday night. Chicago is undefeated in two previous meetings against the Oilers this season; tonight is the third of four games between the two teams. Chicago is dangerous on special teams - they're power play ranks sixth and their penalty kill is fourth in the NHL, so the Oil will have to stay out of the box and capitalize on their chances. The team is led offensively by a core group of younger players with Patrick Kane on top of the scoring chart with 21 goals and 57 points. Defenceman Duncan Keith is second with 11 goals and 46 points (second among all blue liners) and captain Jonathan Toews is the third of four Hawks players with at least 40 points, with 17 goals and 25 assists (Patrick Sharp has an even 40). Between the pipes, Cristobal Huet (22-9-3) has started the bulk of Chicago's games, though Antti Niemi is a respectable 13-4-1 with a league-best 1.99 GAA.

Blues @ Oilers
Thursday Jan. 28th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Blues and the Oilers split their first two meetings of the season, including a 7-2 St. Louis win back in mid-December. Since then, the Blues have been very up-and-down, losing seven straight and then winning five of six. In their last nine games they are surging though, with a 6-2-1 record and are still in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference, just four points out of the final spot. Brad Boyes leads the team in scoring with 34 points, while Andy McDonald has the team lead in goals with 16. St. Louis' youth movement, players like David Perron and T.J. Oshie have also showed promise and put up pretty decent players. Chris Mason has shouldered most of the load this season, putting up a 15-15-7 record but they also have Ty Conklin, who might not have the best numbers but has proven himself to be a pretty decent backup in the past few seasons. The Blues and the Oilers are two teams headed in different directions this season - St. Louis is playing for the playoffs, while Edmonton is playing for pride at this point - so I expect the visitors to be playing with a lot of intensity, which the Oil will have to match in order to come out on top.

Oilers @ Flames
Saturday Jan. 30th - Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-It's a tough time to be a pro hockey player in Alberta - the Oilers are struggling big time right now, but so are the Flames. Coming into this week, the Flames had lost seven in a row and nine of their last ten games including a 9-1 loss and six games where they scored one or fewer goals. The struggles faced by the Oilers and Flames are eerily similar, as both clubs started losing after putting together five straight wins; one difference though is between the pipes. The Oilers have been relying on rookie backups since mid-November - not so in Calgary though, where longtime starter Miikka Kiprusoff has lost six straight and seven of eight. Another reason they've been losing games is the production of their captain, Jarome Iginla, who hasn't scored in 11 games and has just three points during that span. Still, Iginla leads the team in scoring with 21 goals and 44 points, followed by Rene Bourque's 38 points. When they're rolling, the Flames have a dangerous mix of forwards and defenceman that can score, but right now nobody is doing a whole lot on that front. The good thing about a game like this is someone has to win!

Who's hot:

Sam Gagner - The Oilers forward didn't register a point against Chicago, but has nine in his last 11 games, including a two-goal performance in that disappointing loss to the Stars last Friday. Gagner is playing with a lot of confidence right now - a bright spot in an otherwise dull stretch right now for his club.

Ryan Potulny - After going four games without a point, the young Oilers forward has goals in back to back games and three points during that span. He's shown in the past that he can go on a run and put up some points if he gets going. The Oilers need that in a big way right now.

Patrick O'Sullivan - O'Sullivan has five points in his last seven games and has been a minus player in just two of those games, which is an encouraging stat. He's playing solid offensively and if guys around him start producing, he'll probably start as well.

What to watch for:

Something's got to give - This can't possibly go on forever - 11 straight losses and one win in 19 games; one win in their last 15 at home...it can't possibly keep going like this. At some point, you'd have to think the team will string together a couple of wins and get out of this slump.

Trade talks - As we get closer to the trade deadline, more names are going to start popping up in trade talks...just today I heard TSN say that Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky and Ethan Moreau are three of the top 10 players that will most likely be moved. That uncertainty in the dressing room could make things better or worse for the players involved.

Pride is at stake - When a team falls out of the playoff race as badly as the Oilers have, it comes down to playing for pride. They're more than likely out of the playoff race, but the players have to try and start over for the rest of the season and show the city that they're still playing hard, despite their situation.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Stiff Enough?

The Windsor Spitfires will have to wait 20 more games to see newly acquired forward Zack Kassian (attempt to) play his first full game with the team, following an announcement from the Ontario Hockey League on Thursday.

Kassian got himself in trouble when he drilled Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts last week in a game between the two OHL heavyweights. The puck was in the air and Kennedy was looking up at the time of the impact, which left the Colts forward needing stitches on his face and staples in the back of his head.

So after sending a player and two draft picks to the Peterborough Petes for Kassian earlier this month, the Spitfires will get a total of two and a half games out of the Buffalo Sabres prospect. Is 20 games enough though?

Personally, I think a ban of that length definitely sends a strong message...but the OHL sent a stronger message a few months ago when doling out punishment for a hit that, in the minds of most, wasn't as bad as this one. When measured up against the season-long ban that Mike Liambas was handed, a 20-game suspension that'll allow Kassian to play in the postseason just doesn't seem stiff enough.

On Monday the QMJHL will announce the punishment for Patrice Cormier, whose hit on Quebec Remparts defenceman Mikael Tam was definitely worse than both Kassian and Liambas' hits.

Missing Luggage

Did you hear what happened to the Stanley Cup this week?

Mike Bolt, the lucky man charged with taking care of Lord Stanley's mug, was on his way from New Jersey to Vancouver for a charity event (why else would the Cup be in Vancouver? Burn!)...and when he arrived at his destination, he was missing some luggage.

Bolt says Air Canada staff called him over to tell him that "the package" wasn't there. How the heck do you misplace something as big and bulky as the Stanley Cup?

Well, apparently it had tags with both Vancouver and Toronto airport codes, causing the mix-up. Bolt got the Cup back later, but not in time for the event in Van City (it's an Omen, Canucks fans). This isn't the first time the "holy grail" of hockey has been misplaced...

Wings on the Move?

The Detroit News reports this might be the Red Wings last season at The Joe...which is bad news for anyone that wants to, but hasn't seen their favourite team play in that legendary barn (like me).

Wings GM Kenny Holland says he doesn't expect the team to be moving homes, but the lease with Joe Louis Arena is up after this season and they have yet to renew it. Word is, the Ilitch family has been looking at other options too, including the home of the Detroit Lions, Ford Field.

Another option is The Palace of Auburn Hills, where the Detroit Pistons of the NBA play, because the woman who owns the team and the stadium is seriously considering selling both properties. Karen Davidson inherited ownership from her late husband.

I hope they renew the lease for a couple more years at least because I need to see a couple of games at The Joe before I die! I was in Detroit for a day once and tried to go for a tour of the rink,

The Curse of the Red Sox Gaffe

If you're running for office in Massachusetts, it's probably best to avoid trying to endear yourself to voters by talking baseball.

The Wall Street Journal says that a few politicians have fallen victim to the newest curse involving the Boston Red Sox - The Curse of the Red Sox Gaffe - when talking about America's Pastime while on the campaign trail.

Martha Coakley is the latest to fall victim to this phenomenon. She lost the election for the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown on Tuesday after calling the hero of Boston's 2004 World Series victory, Curt Schilling, a Yankee fan on a local radio station.

Coakley was reminding the host that Rudy Giuliani, a Yankees fan, was in town to support her opponent and when the host said that Schilling was also backing Brown, she said "Another Yankee fan..."

It's not the only time this type of thing has happened either - John Kerry was trying to earn brownie points while campaigning for the presidency in 2004 by showing his knowledge of the Bo-Sox...it's just too bad that "Manny Ortiz" isn't a real player.

I guess that would be like someone trying to get your vote up here by reminiscing about the glory days when Wayne Messier and Mark Kurri led the Oilers to all those Grey Cups. Those were the days!

Pac-Man goes on the Offensive

Remember when boxing became relevant again for a couple of months there?

When the rumours started to swirl that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were going to get together and duke it out, people finally started talking about boxing again. The current "pound-for-pound" master against the former holder of that crown; a guy with belts in seven weight classes against a guy with a 40-0 record. It was going to be awesome.

Then came the trouble - Mayweather's camp started saying that Pacquiao was on steroids and demanding drug tests that were more strict than that of any state athletic commission in the country. Pacquiao agreed to have his blood tested 24 days before the fight after saying no to 30 days, but then Mayweather's camp said they wanted it done 14 days before the fight. That was the issue that caused the fight to be cast aside.

On Wednesday, Pacquiao came out and said what most people have been saying for a while now: "He didn't want to fight me. I think maybe Mayweather is scared to lose."

That seems like a fair assessment.

Some people think the fight will still happen sometime in the future, but as it sits now, both guys have different fights lined up for the first half of 2010. Pacquiao on March 13th against Joshua Clottey at Dallas Cowboys Stadium; Mayweather on May 1st (or May 8th) against "Sugar" Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

UFC 113 is supposed to go on May 1st in Montreal, but word of the possible Mayweather/Mosley fight could force them to switch dates to capitalize on pay-per-view revenues, rather than splitting them with Mr. Drug Test.

One more thing...

If you've ever wondered why some people are so against fan-voting for all-star games, here's a perfect example: Despite playing in just 19 of the 40-some games of the 2009/10 NBA season so far, Allen Iverson will start for the East All-Stars on February 14th at Cowboys Stadium.

Iverson is averaging 14.4 points per game and 4.4 assists and is taking the spot of someone that is probably more deserving. It reminds me of the campaign to get Vancouver Canucks defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick into the NHL all-star game a few years ago!

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Playoff Picks, Week Three

Four teams remain in the battle for the Super Bowl as the NFL playoffs continue with the conference championships this weekend.

There weren't too many surprises last weekend in the divisional round, with Indianapolis, New Orleans and Minnesota advancing. The only one I didn't get right was the upstart New York Jets getting past the San Diego Chargers, who did not look good on Sunday.

It's a pure sin that I won't actually be able to watch the two biggest football games of the year to date as I'll be falling all over a mountain in BC trying to stand up on a snowboard. I'll be sure to catch the highlights though. Here are my picks:

NY Jets (11-7) @ Indianapolis (15-2)

My pick: Indianapolis

-To get to this game, the Jets had to win a pair of playoff road games - but I think this is where it'll all end for the trash-talking boys from New York. In their last meeting with the Colts, the Jets won but Indie didn't have its starters in the lineup for the entire game, which takes away from it a little bit. Last week, the Jets beat the Chargers, but San Diego didn't play like a team that had won 11 straight heading into the playoffs. I thought the Baltimore Ravens would be a pretty good challenge for the Colts and they spanked 'em 20-3 - the Jets defence will make this game interesting but I'll be very surprised if Peyton Manning isn't playing for a Superbowl on February 7th.

Minnesota (13-4) @ New Orleans (14-3)

My pick: New Orleans

-Both teams are coming off of lopsided wins in the divisional round last week and I’ve got to say – I’m not really sure who to go with. The Vikings have the veteran presence of Brett Favre and a stellar running back in Adrian Peterson; Drew Brees of the Saints has similar numbers to Favre, New Orleans looked unbeatable for most of the season and running back Reggie Bush is coming off a dominant performance against the Cardinals where he went on a couple of long touchdown runs. My gut tells me this is going to be a close one, but that it’ll be the Saints coming out on top. As good as the Vikings have been this season, their road game hasn’t been great (4-4) and I think that will be the difference.

Kerrzy’s Notebook: No “Quick Fix?”

The issue of headshots in hockey is on the minds of people all across the scope of the sport after two vicious hits in the CHL over the past week (which you can see here and here).

In international hockey they’ve been taking headshots seriously for years now and I’m sure we’ll see evidence of that at least once or twice during the upcoming Olympics. In Canadian major junior hockey, one player has already been sent packing for the season and two others should be seeing season-long bans shortly.

In the NHL…well, they’re working on it. Sort of.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Wednesday that the league would be taking a “serious look” at hits to the head during the general managers meetings in March, but they won’t be looking for a “quick fix” to the problem.

From CP: Bettman cautioned that finding a solution could take time.

You know what’s funny about that? The issue was “high on the agenda” at last year’s March meetings too. Since then, the league’s GM’s have discussed it, decided against a rule change, discussed it some more, formed a committee and…they might soon make a recommendation.

While other leagues hand out serious suspensions for blatant shots to the head, the NHL stands idly by, promising that when somebody dies at some point in the future, they will address the issue. For serious.

“We average 40 hits a game. That’s somewhere in excess of 50,000 a year; it’s an essential element to our game.”

No one is saying “take hitting out of hockey,” Gary. Of the 40 hits a game that Bettman speaks of, most are good wholesome checks. The ones the NHL needs to get rid of are the minority of hits that see players trying to decapitate unsuspecting opponents.

Get rid of the predatory hits and you get rid of the problem.

How do you do that? You punish the guys who go out there and blindside each other. You start penalizing deliberate shots to the head. You let the players know you’re serious about it; because right now, they know you are not.

You might think that sounds like a far-fetched way to get headshots out of hockey, but you probably though the same thing when the NHL decided to get rid of the clutch-and-grab style of play by calling everything.

It was hard to watch at first, but the game eventually evolved and is better for it, isn’t it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Dunking for Haiti?

Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal hit a pretty significant milestone on Tuesday night, but his mind was elsewhere afterwards.

With a lay-up in the opening minute of the Cavs 108-100 win over the Toronto Raptors, O’Neal became just the fifth player in NBA history to score 28,000 points, joining the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain in that exclusive club.

So what was he talking about afterwards? Saving the NBA all-star dunk contest, of course!

The Big Aristotle had this to say when he was asked if he would like to see teammate LeBron James participate in this year’s festivities:

"As his manager, I will only allow 'Bron to do the dunk contest if Vince Carter comes back out, if Kobe comes back out and if another big name comes back out…The guys that are in it, no disrespect to them, but there won't really be any competition for LeBron. I want to see Kobe. I want to see Vince and I will allow my client to enter."

To sweeten the pot, O’Neal says there should be a big prize with half of the money going to the people of Haiti.

First of all, I think it’s great that Shaq is trying to think up creative ways to raise money to help out in Haiti, but maybe waiting until the day after the dunk contest lineup is announced isn’t the best way to go about it.

Also, just half the money going to the people of Haiti? We’re talking about guys that make $23-million (Kobe), $16.1-million (Carter) and $15.7-million (LeBron) per year here.

Having those three players participate would be awesome for the event, but pushing for it after the lineup is already set is a bit silly. Anyways, as you’ll see in the video below, there’s no shortage of highlight reel footage these days as it is:






Just for kicks, here are the top 10 dunks of all time:





Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Is the End Near?

If you like football, and I know a lot of you do, you’d better enjoy the upcoming NFL season.

If Sports Illustrated's Peter King is right, there might not be a 2011 season because the owners and the players union are having a hell of a time getting to work on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a pain hockey fans know all too well.

If you believe all those 2012 end of the world theories, next season could be the last ever too (I think the Mayans predicted failed CBA negotiations, didn’t they?).

Anyways – according to King, the threat of an (at least partially) abandoned 2011 season is very real because of the reluctance by both sides to budge on one key issue: player salaries.

League owners are apparently pushing for an 18 percent cut to player compensation, because they feel that players should be pitching in for “stadium construction, debt service and upkeep.” On the other side of the debate, the players union says they’re “not prepared to take a penny, or a percentage point less,” says King’s union source.

Again, this is a similar situation to the one that cost NHL fans a full season of hockey. In the end (after 301 days), the players wound up taking a 24 percent pay cut, a salary cap was brought in and rules were added to ensure that player salaries took up no more than 54 percent of the league’s total revenue.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out because if the NHL lost about $2-billion due to the cancelled season, I assume the NFL would stand to lose a lot more.

You know what else is worth keeping an eye on? The NFL could wind up playing without a salary cap next season, which you've got to admit would be pretty awesome.

Ahhh yes, it’s an interesting time in the NFL right now: the 2011 season is in jeopardy, teams might be spending NY Yankee money next year, a 40-year-old is dominating, running backs are inventing sweet new dances…oh yeah, and there’s that supreme court case that could wind up ending free agency.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees penned a piece for the Washington Post that ran a couple of weeks ago explaining the potential ramifications of the American Needle v. NFL court case.

It’s a bit long, but definitely well worth the read.

Basically, American Needle is a small hat manufacturer that was excluded from making NFL-branded hats when the league signed an exclusive deal with Reebok.

American Needle sued the league, saying the deal violated antitrust laws but the NFL actually won the case because a lower court decided the 32 teams that make up the league act as a “single entity.”

That “single entity” has players riled up, but I’ll let Mr. Brees take it from there. It’s actually a very interesting subject, which could very well tie back into the negotiations for a new CBA.

One more thing...

Once again - I've got this highlight of an unreal goal, but I don't think I can write a whole blog around it...so I'm just going to put it here.

This goal is courtesy of Scott Howes, Dirk Southern and Adam Taylor of the Harlem Globe...I mean, the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL. It literally looks like the Bakersfield Condor defenders are wearing blindfolds.







Also...

Can you believe the NHL's two Alberta teams lost by a combined score of 15-1 last night? The Oilers may have lost 6-0, but at least they didn't lose 9-1!!!!! Here's a beauty from Taber, Alberta's Devin Setoguchi:






PS:

In a completely unrelated note, I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge the death of Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, and thank him for (directly or indirectly) inventing of the double-decker taco. Mmm, mm, mm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers dropped all three of the games they played last week, finishing up a four-game home stand with losses to Nashville and Pittsburgh before going on the road and losing in San Jose.

On Tuesday, the Oil went down 4-0 in the first 27-ish minutes against the Predators in a 5-3 loss. They followed that up by blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Penguins, and then fell 4-2 to the Sharks.

Edmonton has now lost 14-of-15 games with just three of a possible thirty points during that span. The team is currently mired in a seven-game losing skid, their second such streak since mid-December.

This week:

This week, the Oil wrap-up a two-game road trip in Colorado and then host the Canucks and the Stars, part of a four-game stretch at home.

Oilers @ Avalanche
Monday Jan. 18th – Pre game: 5:30, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-The Northwest division leading Avalanche have won three straight coming into Monday night’s tilt with the struggling Oilers, who have won two of the three meetings between these two clubs this season. The Avs were dealt a pretty serious blow over the weekend though, when it was learned that Milan Hejduk, the team’s second leading goal scorer, would be out for 2-4 weeks following knee surgery. Paul Stastny leads Colorado in scoring so far this season with 44 points, with Wojtek Wolski’s 16 goals putting him in front of the rest of the team. The Avalanche are in a tight battle with the Canucks and Flames for top spot in the Northwest, so you know they’ll be looking for the two points. Craig Anderson’s 23-11-5 record is a big reason for their success, so the Oilers will have to get to him early if they want to come out on top.

Canucks @ Oilers
Wednesday Jan. 20th – Pre game: 6:30, Puck drop 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Canucks are coming off a big win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, ending a three-game losing streak that has kept them out of top spot in the Northwest. The Oilers could do the Canucks a favor by beating Colorado on Monday, actually. Anyways, the Oil are 1-3 against Vancouver this season and were outscored 11-4 in their last two meetings. Henrik Sedin currently leads the NHL in scoring with 21 goals and 67 points (as of Monday), but the Canucks have been getting steady offensive production from most of their top six forwards. The Oilers will have to watch out for Alex Burrows, who has 11 goals in his last seven games. The Oilers have a tough task ahead, trying to beat Roberto Luongo, but it can be done.

Stars @ Oilers
Friday Jan. 22nd – Pre game: 5:30, Puck drop 7pm; 630 CHED

-Coming into this week’s action, the Dallas Stars had lost six of their last eight games, but were coming off a shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings. Before they get to Edmonton, the Stars host the Wild and then travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks, which should be two fairly tough matchups. Brad Richards leads the Stars offence, with 54 points, 22 of which have come on the power play. Loui Eriksson and James Neal both have 19 goals on the season and the Stars roster has players like Mike Ribeiro and Brendan Morrow, who are always dangerous. Marty Turco’s inconsistent play and penchant for making costly mistakes as of late could be a big factor in this game.

Who’s hot:

Patrick O’Sullivan – O’Sullivan had a goal and three assists in the last week for the Oilers, including a two-point effort against the Penguins on Thursday. He seems to have regained a bit of confidence around the net, which is a good sign.

Sam Gagner – Another Oiler forward that seems to have regained his confidence around the net is Sam Gagner. He has points in six of his last seven games (1g, 5a) and has looked really strong with the puck.

Lubomir Visnovsky – After missing three games with a sore ankle, Visnovsky has three points in as many games, also picking up two points against the Penguins.

What to watch for:

The goaltending situation – Now that Jeff Deslaurier and Devan Dubnyk know that they’ll for sure be handling the duties between the pipes for the rest of the season, it’ll be interesting to see who embraces the role and who gets more starts as the season progresses.

Trade talks – It started out as an innocent question from a reporter, but the Sheldon Souray rumors continue to swirl, with ESPN's Pierre LeBrun weighing in over the weekend with a rumor of his own. Should the tough times continue for the Oilers, there will probably only be more of this kind of talk as the trade deadline nears. The team can’t let it distract them.

Kerrzy's Notebook: Electric Glide

Would you watch a sport where the players spend over 80% of a game just standing around?

Chances are, you already do.

The Wall Street Journal did a study on four recent NFL broadcasts and found that the ball is in play for an average of just 11 of the 60 minutes it takes to play a game.

The rest of the time players are either picking themselves up off the ground, running to the huddle or standing at the line of scrimmage waiting for the next play to get underway.

That’s a ratio of inaction to action of about 10 to 1!

So what do players do with all that free time? Some guys, like San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson, work on their dance moves.






“Electric Glide” has cheesy lyrics and even cheesier graphics, but I’ve got to say: I’m a fan!

For those of you that haven’t seen that before, it appears to be some kind of Nike thing judging by the close-up on the shoes at the beginning.

Unfortunately for LT and the Chargers, he had one of his worst games in about a month and a half in a 17-14 loss to the Jets on Sunday, ruining an otherwise perfect weekend of playoff prognostications from yours truly.

One more thing…

Full disclosure: I only wrote this blog today to give myself an excuse to post this amazing Pavel Datsyuk highlight from Detroit's 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Datsyuk pulls the move that made Oilers prospect Linus Omark a Youtube sensation last year and is probably the shootout goal of the season so far.






Just for good measure – here’s what happens when those moves just don’t quite work:





Kerrzy's Notebook: Bad First Impressions

Another day, another unbelievably dirty hit brought to you by the Canadian Hockey League.

Days after the OHL handed Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian an indefinite suspension for a vicious hit, there is sure to be a similar punishment on the way for Patrice Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Kassian got into trouble in his first game with Windsor; for Cormier, it took just three games following a blockbuster four-player, four-pick trade that sent him from Rimouski to his new club.
Here’s what happened midway through the overtime period of a 3-3 tie between the Huskies and the Quebec Remparts:

Patrice Cormier comes off the bench and spots Remparts defenseman Mikael Tam skating up the ice with the puck. As soon as Tam dumps the puck into the Rouyn-Noranda zone, Cormier levels him with an elbow right to the face.



As you see in the video, Tam lay convulsing on the ice after the hit, though initial (translated) reports say he was in stable condition in hospital with a concussion, a few missing teeth and a possible broken jaw.

What is it with these guys? Are they trying to impress their new coaches?

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Cormier, Team Canada’s captain at this winter’s World Juniors, play this style of hockey; you might recall this from Canada’s pre-tournament exhibition game against Sweden:






I expect we’ll see the QMJHL come down hard on Cormier for this hit.

Again, if Mike Liambas got a season-long suspension for his hit on Ben Fanelli last October, the penalty for Cormier should be right up there (as should Kassian’s).

***UPDATE***


The QMJHL has suspended Cormier indefinitely, with the length of the suspension to be decided once the disciplinary process has been completed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Playoff Picks, Week Two

Things heat up in the NFL this weekend with the Divisional Round of the playoffs, another two great afternoons of back-to-back games - though any of these match ups will be hard pressed to be more exciting than that Arizona/Green Bay game last Sunday.

Last week, I was 2-0 on Saturday and 0-2 on Sunday so hopefully I can pull it together this week as some of the big-name teams like

Indianapolis and New Orleans make their playoff debuts. Here are my picks:

Arizona (11-6) @ New Orleans (13-3)

My pick: New Orleans

-You'd think I would be picking Arizona to win this game after that performance last week where they pulled out a dramatic 51-45 overtime win, but I'm not convinced of their consistency this season. They've been a team that'll turn in impressive and brutal efforts in back-to-back weeks (example: Kurt Warner's five interceptions against Carolina and then five touchdown passes against Chicago the next week). The Saints, on the other hand, ended the season with three straight losses which has some people wondering if they're still good enough to dominate the way they did at other points in the year. I'm not one of those people - they're a rested team, they've had lots of time to refocus (if they had to). It should be a good battle between Kurt Warner and Drew Brees, but Arizona's defense can't play like it did last week if they hope to stay afloat.

Baltimore (10-7) @ Indianapolis (14-2)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The big question heading into this weekend was "which of the favorites will fall," but I don't think it's over for the big two just yet (Indie and NO). The Colts were lights out all season long until resting their starters in the final couple of weeks, and while Baltimore seems to be peaking right now they were helped last week by a New England offense that didn't have all of its weapons and wasn't playing at 100%. It's hard to argue with Peyton Manning, who threw for 4,500 and 33 touchdowns this season while leading the Colts to some pretty impressive victories over the course of the year. I think it’ll be a tight game, but I’m giving this one to Indie.

Dallas (12-5) @ Minnesota (12-4)

My pick: Minnesota

-The Vikings have lost three of their last five games, but they finished the regular season strong with a 44-7 thrashing of the New York Giants in Week 17. The Dallas Cowboys have won four straight, including consecutive poundings of the Philadelphia Eagles and a win over the then-undefeated Saints. They’ll be a tough team to beat the way they’re playing, but the Vikings have been a solid club all season long, especially on home turf where they are 8-0. Also, the way Brett Favre has played this year. I’m actually scared to see what he’ll do in a big game like this one.

NY Jets (10-7) @ San Diego (13-3)

My pick: San Diego

-No NFL team is hotter than the San Diego Chargers right now, which doesn’t bode well for those NY Jets. The Chargers haven’t lost since October 19th of last year, taking down 11 straight opponents to wind out the regular season after a 2-3 start. A big part of San Diego’s success has been the offensive production of LaDainian Tomlinson, who had 11 touchdowns in his last 10 games after a very slow start to the season. The Jets, on the other hand, were up and down all season but are coming off back to back wins over the Bengals, which followed a win over the Colts in the second last week of the season. This will be a good game, but I think Philip Rivers will win this duel with Mark Sanchez.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Another OHL Headcase

Depending who you ask, the most pressing issue facing the game of hockey today is headshots.

Whether it's predatory hits that see players targeting a vulnerable opponent, "clean" hits from the blind side or straight up dirty play, you're likely to start up some good debate if you bring up the topic.

While the NHL often does nothing when players run each other over in such a manner, other leagues have taken a far more serious stance. For example, the Ontario Hockey League (by extension of the Canadian Hockey League) handed out a severe punishment today for a hit that happened on Thursday night in a game between the league's two best teams: the Windsor Spitfires and the Barrie Colts.

Midway through the second period, as a Windsor defenceman attempted to break up a Barrie advance, the puck took a funny bounce up in the air and Colts forward Matt Kennedy got caught looking. As you'll see in the video below, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Spitfires forward Zack Kassian sees Kennedy looking and steps into him, cutting him open and sending him to the ice.


Now for the punishment : After Kassian racked up five and a game for charging and a fighting major, he was suspended indefinitely by the league pending further investigation. So the 19-year-old Buffalo Sabres prospect had a goal and 10 penalty minutes, lasting less than 27 minutes in his first game with the Spitfires, who sent a player and two second round picks to Peterborough for him last Sunday, and now he's out for what will probably be a while.

How long? Well, the OHL has already sent a player home for the season in what should be considered a pretty similar hit in a lot of ways. Mike Liambas, formerly of the Erie Otters, crushed Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli behind the net on October 30th in a hit that caused a lot of dialogue on the issue. Both hits are on unsuspecting players, but to me the Kassian hit is more predatory that the Liambas one, which you can see here:


On a side note, Liambas joined the IHL's Bloomington PrairieThunder after he was bounced from the OHL and was suspended for five games just a month into his tenure there for a hit from behind that ruptured a guy's spleen. I guess he didn't learn his lesson!

As for the victim of the Kassian hit, Matt Kennedy needed three stitches to his cheek and staples in the back of his head after the incident and Colts coach Marty Williamson was vocal about it afterwards, telling The Barrie Examiner "That's just baloney, Kassian is six-foot-three, he doesn't need to leave his feet and target a hit like that."

Baloney, indeed!

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say Kassian better start weighing his options outside of Ontario. What do you think?

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

More Tiger Woods…

Police in Colorado arrested a guy this week after dozens of Gatorade bottles showed up in stores in a few places across the state with a picture of Tiger Woods, his wife and the word “unfaithful.”

A fellow by the name of Jason Eric Kay is charged with misbranding food labels with the intent to hurt a brand or business (or person?).

Guess what? The 38-year-old is apparently pulling the “I’m an artiste” card, saying he was going for an “Andy Warhol” sort of thing. Sure bud.

Kay will be back in court on February 11th after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

If being called unfaithful by a batch of Gatorade bottles isn’t bad enough, General Motors says Tiger Woods now has to give back the loaner vehicles they let him keep after his endorsement with GM’s Buick brand ended in 2008.

The company says the agreement had previously been scheduled to end on December 31st, but either way, the hits just keep on coming for ol’ Eldrick, eh?

The Gun Show

If you're anxiously awaiting Gilbert Arenas' return to the hardcourt, don't hold your breath.

The 28-year-old Washington Wizards guard, who is currently suspended indefinitely by the NBA, now faces a felony gun possession charge and could very likely join the growing list of high profile American athletes spending some time behind bars.

Arenas faces one count of carrying a pistol without a license, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, though my guess is he'll wind up with something far less severe than that. According to a report on the NBA website, the charges were filed in an "information," which is a document that normally signals some kind of plea deal is in the works.

First, Plaxico Burress shoots himself and gets a couple of years, now Arenas pulls four guns out of his locker in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate and will probably do some time. When are these guys going to learn?

The sad thing is, in Burress' case, his gun was unregistered and in this case, Arenas didn't have license. Had they taken care of those things, neither player would be in nearly as much trouble.

Teem Finland

Another tough break on Thursday night for Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne (no pun intended).

The "Finnish Flash" was playing in just his third game back for the Ducks after missing 17 games with a broken hand, when a point shot took a deflection in the slot and wound up smacking him right in the face, breaking his jaw. Selanne underwent surgery on Tuesday and the team says he's expected to miss 2-6 weeks.

If you're counting, Finland's first game at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver is about four and a half weeks from today (Feb. 17 vs. Belarus). That injury casts some doubt on whether or not Selanne will play in his fifth Olympic tournament for his country.

I be he suits up - it would be a huge loss for Finland if he didn't!

In other news: Selanne has been to the Olympics four times already...that's impressive! You know who's probably not impressed by that though? Jere Lehtinen.

David vs. Goliath

NHL.com pointed out this week that St. Louis Blues forward David Backes, who will suit up for Team USA at the Vancouver games, seems to be trying to ruffle some Team Canada feathers before the tournament even starts.
In the past two weeks, Backes has fought Canadian forwards Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry and Rick Nash (click for videos of each tilt).

When he was asked about that statistic, Backes did the right thing and claimed it was all just a big coincidence. Atta boy.

Not so fast…

Remember Caster Semenya?

The now 19-year-old South African track star is back in the news after what was no doubt a very difficult summer that eventually had people questioning her gender.

Semenya got people talking when she made huge improvements in her 800m (including the world’s top time of ’09) and 1500m race times and then had her privacy grossly breached when the story became front-page news around the world.

On Wednesday, Semenya’s coach told the Associated Press that she would be returning to the international stage this year; turns out, he may have spoken out of turn.

Michael Seme said Semenya would start out at local events as a training exercise before going international and had this to say about the on-going gender test investigation by the International Association of Athletics Federation: “They are through with all those things.”

Not so, according to the IAAF, who say the inquiry isn’t over yet and there’s not even a time frame for this thing to be resolved yet.

As for Semenya’s lawyers, they say negotiations are still underway, though they’re optimistic that there will be a positive ending to the story.

Living the Dream

If you’re like me, when you think of Spain you think of skiing, snowboarding, the two man bobsleigh and hockey. Oh, just me?

I’m kidding – but seriously, the city of Barcelona is actually hoping to bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games…which will then actually be held in Barcelona, where the average temperature in February lurks around the 10-degree mark.

If they do win, they’ll be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter games – though Munich might beat them to it if they win their bid for 2018.

Oh, the exciting world of Olympic bidding!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Hey Big Spender!

In a league where the reigning champions boast a payroll of over $200-million, it's funny to see a story like this: The MLB's Florida Marlins are being forced to spend more money.

What?!

According to ESPN, the team has reached an agreement with the players' union to increase spending because there are concerns their payroll is so small that it could be in violation of baseball's revenue sharing provisions.

In the Major Leagues, each club is supposed to use what it gets from revenue sharing to improve the team in some way, but the union has noticed a few teams, including Florida, not doing that in recent years.

The irony in all of this is that the Marlins finished six games out of first place in the NL-East last season and had the eighth best winning percentage in the entire league - all with a payroll of $36.8-million. Compare that to last year's New York Mets, who spent $105-million more on players but wound up 17 games back of Florida at the end of the season.

The Marlins have spent an average of $29.7-million on player salaries since the 2007 season and have gone from 26th in win percentage to where they are now, all the while having either the lowest or second-lowest payroll in the league. It's also interesting to note that none of the teams that finished with better win percentages than them last season spent less than $70-million.

Talk about "bang for your buck" eh?

It's so impressive in fact, that the New York Yankees are giving the Marlins strategy a shot for the upcoming season.

Well, not quite, but there were reports back in December that the Bronx Bombers planned to dump about $23-million worth of salary in the offseason.

Kerrzy's Notebook: Haunted Hilton?

The New York Knicks won’t be sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories anytime soon.

Now, I’ve heard (and used) all kinds of excuses in my twenty-some years on this planet, but this is just silly – some members of the Knicks are placing the blame for Monday's 106-88 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a "haunted" hotel.

The New York Daily News says a bunch of players had trouble sleeping for the two nights that the team was staying at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown OKC.

Legend has it that back in the 1930s, a woman jumped to her death from the 10th floor while holding her baby in her hands. Creepy? Yes. True? Maybe.

Steve Lackmeyer of Oklahoma’s NewsOK, along with a fellow by the name of Jack Money, wrote a book on the haunted hotel last year. He says the legend of a housekeeper named Effie who had hotelier W.B. Skirvin’s child and jumped out of a window is hard to confirm – her name doesn’t show up in any news accounts or hotel documents from that time period.

Lackmeyer does say though that guests of the hotel have told hotel employees in the past that “Effie” is a friendly ghost that has “appeared to male guests as they’re going to bed or taking a shower.” No wonder these guys were scared!

Back to the Knicks – Eddy Curry says he only slept for two hours on Sunday night because he couldn’t stop thinking about the ghosts.

"They said it happened on the 10th floor and I'm the only one staying on the 10th floor," Curry told the Daily News. "That's why I spent most of my time in (teammate Nate Robinson’s) room. I definitely believe there are ghosts in that hotel."

Curry didn’t even play on Monday though; was he too scared?

So the Knicks have ghosts, the Wizards have guns…what do you suppose the New Jersey Nets are blaming for their shortfalls?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Coming Clean

Mark McGwire told the world on Monday that he did, in fact, take steroids during his baseball career, including in 1998 when he broke baseball’s home run record – a story that shocked…well, no one.

By now, you’ve probably all heard what he had to say, so here’s a quick summary (if not, watch the video here):

I only took steroids to recover from injuries faster, not for strength (I also took HGH), I had good and bad seasons with and without ‘roids, I regret it, I just wanted to prove I was worth the money I was making…oh, and I’m sorry.

Okay wait – you admit that you took steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, but you dispute the fact that the drugs more than likely helped you notch 70 homers in one season?

I was given a gift to hit home runs,” McGwire, the St. Louis Cardinals new hitting coach, told the MLB Network. “The only reason I took steroids was for health purposes.”

Sorry pal, you can’t admit to juicing and not have the asterisk next to your name in the record books. It just doesn’t work that way. Obviously steroids don’t provide skill and McGwire can hit home runs with or without the stuff. Spare me this “only for health purposes” nonsense though.

Moving on – Jose Canseco wrote a book in 2005 where he spilled the beans on steroid use in the Major Leagues, which included McGwire’s name. He said that when he and McGwire were teammates with the Oakland Athletics from 1986-92, they used to inject each other with steroids in the clubhouse bathroom.

McGwire told Bob Costas that “none of that stuff happened,” adding he’s not going to “stoop down to his level,” something that infuriated Canseco.

Here’s the thing – it probably did happen, and I’ll tell you why.

After McGwire’s admission on Monday, a retired FBI agent told ESPN that even they knew what he was up to – but they knew before everyone else did.

Greg Stejskal says they uncovered the details of McGwire’s doping regimen during an investigation that ran from 1989-1993 and led to more than 70 steroid-related convictions.

So Mark McGwire is admitting that he used steroids while he played alongside Jose Canseco, but he vehemently denies that Canseco injected him with the stuff.

Mark, the newsworthy part of Canseco’s claim isn’t who helped you inject yourself with steroids…it’s that you were using steroids in the first place!

You might be asking yourself, if the FBI knew what he was doing, why wasn’t McGwire charged?

Stejskal says they were hoping to shut down the black market by only targeting suppliers in their investigation, choosing not to go after “low-level” people (like professional athletes).

Anyways, Canseco is mad about being called a liar. He is so mad, that he is challenging his former “Bash Brother” to a polygraph examination on national TV. It’ll be the main event on a card that will also feature a Canseco/Carrot Top MMA fight and a book signing.

Canseco was supposed to appear on CNN’s Larry King Live last night, but abruptly cancelled, telling King “I am having a breakdown. I can’t emotionally do [the show]. I am emotionally drained. I am tired of defending myself.

Will he take King up on a rain check for tonight?

The other question that must be asked is this: Is Cardinals manager Tony La Russa still floating around the idea of using McGwire as a pinch hitter for a playoff run? That would be awesome.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Upon Further Review...

The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Penguins 7-4 in Pittsburgh last Thursday for their first win over the Pens in four games this season, but it wasn't without a dash of controversy.

In the second period of the game, with the score 5-3 for Philly, Simon Gagne appeared to score a shorthanded goal on Penguins goalie Brent Johnson. Upon further review though, it was decided that there was no conclusive evidence that the puck crossed the line and so the goal was waved off.

Here's where things get interesting - in an effort to (presumably) save a bit of cash, Comcast SportsNet decided to just use the FSN Pittsburgh feed of the game. When it came time to review the play, it turns out the war room in Toronto wasn't provided with ALL of the possible replays, including the one angle that shows a clear goal...which FSN Pittsburgh showed once the goal was officially disallowed.


I saw this story on Monday on one of my favourite hockey blogs (Puck Daddy), but figured I had sort of missed the boat in terms of writing on it...there was a bit of an update on Tuesday though:

FSN Pittsburgh, in a move that makes you wonder just how much of an oversight this might have been, has handed out an indefinite suspension to longtime hockey producer Lowell MacDonald Jr. (son of former Penguins forward Lowell MacDonald).

Here's what the company had to say:

"There is nothing more important than the integrity of the game. During last Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a definitive replay of a Flyers goal was not aired prior to the conclusion of the official review and, as a result, a Flyers goal was not awarded. Fortunately, this did not change the outcome of the game. Nonetheless, FSN Pittsburgh's failure to provide video to the league officials in a timely fashion was wholly unacceptable. FSN Pittsburgh has addressed this matter and has taken steps to ensure that such a failure does not occur again."

Maybe it's just me, and maybe it's just because I'm still thinking about the can of worms that the whole Alex Burrows/Stephane Auger situation opened up this week...but the next time you see a goal waved off because of "inconclusive evidence," won't this make you wonder if the war room actually has all of the angles?

What would have happened if the game was tied when Gagne's goal was disallowed and the decision cost Philly the game? Should opposing teams start bringing their own cameras to Mellon Arena?

It's turning out to be a tumultuous start to the New Year for the NHL (and hockey in general if you count the whole KHL thing)...what's next?

Kerrzy's Notebook: Refvenge?

The Vancouver Canucks gave up a late power play goal in a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday night, blowing a chance to move into first (or as it were, a three-way tie for first) in the Northwest division…but were there bigger factors at play?

Alex Burrows says yes.

The 28-year-old Quebec native is making some serious claims in the aftermath of a game that saw him notch a pair of goals, but also pick up third period diving and interference penalties before being assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a 10-minute misconduct with seconds left in the game.

Burrows says referee Stephane Auger, a 10-year vet of the NHL, came up to him before the game and promised to “get him back” for making him look bad the last time he called a Canucks game, which by some strange coincidence, was also against Nashville.

Before we get to Monday’s incident, lets deal with the background:

At the 7:17 mark of a 4-2 Predators win over the Canucks back on December 8th, forward Jerred Smithson was given five for charging and a game misconduct for a hit on Burrows along the boards. Basically, Burrows takes a pass, turns up the ice and is wallpapered by Smithson, who definitely deserved some kind of penalty.

Why would Auger say he made him “look bad” though?

Here’s my best guess: after the initial contact, Burrows appears to look up for a second, decide to play dead for a minute or two and then gets up and skates off on his own accord. That’s what it looks like, anyways.

Back to Monday:

So Burrows alleges that Auger said he was going to “get him back” by making these pre-meditated calls against him at key points in the game. It sounds far-fetched, but there’s video of Auger approaching Burrows before the game and the calls against Burrows are pretty weak. That, of course, proves nothing, but it makes you wonder.










I find whenever I criticize refs, I always get it from certain people who say “they’re only human,” arguing that I can’t expect them to be perfect all the time because of that. Well, if Auger is “only human,” it’s well within the realm of possibility that he could hold a grudge against a player and actually try to pull something like this off.

Is that what happened? I have no idea. If it did…oh boy.

What will be interesting in the next couple of days is seeing what punishments (if any) the league hands out, and to whom. I can tell you this though: if the whole thing was in fact a bit of “refvenge,” Auger will be in a lot of trouble!