Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
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.
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.
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
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
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).
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
Friday, January 15, 2010
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.
Not so fast…
Thursday, January 14, 2010
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.
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.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
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?